In the world of fantasy and science fiction art, few names are as iconic as Spanish painter Manuel Pérez Clemente, better known as Sanjulián. Renowned for his captivating Warren Magazine comic book covers and fantasy paintings, Sanjulián has left an indelible mark on the world of illustration. He occupies a special place in the confines of The Longbox of Darkness since his art graced the cover of the first Vampirella comic I happened upon, issue 23.
Often considered a successor to Frank Frazetta (whose style Sanjulián was constantly being asked to imitate), he developed his own style throughout the 1970s and remains one of LOD’s favorite-ever horror cover artists.
This post will look at five of his early Vampirella covers. They represent his first work in the United States. But before we get to that, a bit of a history lesson is in order…
Born in 1941 in Barcelona, Spain, Sanjulián demonstrated an early childhood passion for art, often drawing and painting. He went on to study at the prestigious Sant Jordi School of Fine Arts in Barcelona, honing his skills and laying the foundation for a successful career in illustration. In the late 1960s, Sanjulián joined the famous Selecciones Ilustradas (SI) agency, working alongside other talented Spanish artists such as Esteban Maroto and José Beá.
During this time, Sanjulián began making a name for himself, creating stunning cover art for comic book publishers, including Warren Publishing and Dell Comics. His evocative and atmospheric illustrations graced the covers of popular titles such as Vampirella, Creepy, and Eerie, earning him a dedicated following of fans and admirers.
Style and Influence
Sanjulián’s artwork is characterized by a distinctive blend of realism and fantasy, capturing the imagination of readers with his intricate, lifelike depictions of otherworldly creatures and landscapes. His mastery of light and shadow and keen attention to detail lend an unmistakable depth and atmosphere to his illustrations. Perfect for horror, no?
Five Fantastical Vampirella Covers
Sanjulián’s first cover for Vampirella shows what could possibly be the Angel of Death holding Vampi in his arms. Apparently, the original version depicted a normal woman, but Jim Warren asked that it be changed to feature Vampirella. This cover remains one of Sanjilian’s most memorable works.
The Pharoah’s Daughter
This is one of Sanjulián’s fantasy paintings submitted to Warren Publishing without Vampirella in mind. It inspired the tale “The Silver Thief and the Pharoah’s Daughter” and is an example of Warren creators using cover art as inspiration for generating stories.
The Wedding Gift
This is a rather special cover, as it inspired the great horror comic book artist Mike Ploog to conceive the story “The Wedding Gift,” a classic in its own right. The painting is reminiscent of King Kong if the beloved ape was crossed with a cyclopean horror. Warren asked Sanjulián to make his covers more colorful, as he usually preferred dark, earthy colors in most of his works.
This cover is stunning, but the horror is in the details. Note the Queen’s footstool, her brutish manservant, and her undead bodyguard. Ghoulish!
Vampirella Versus Dracula
This is one of the most iconic Vampirella covers, featuring her first encounter with the Lord of Vampires himself, Dracula. The story this cover represents is written by Archie Goodwin, and would be his last for the magazine.
*It should be noted that in addition to his work in fantasy and science fiction, Sanjulián has demonstrated remarkable versatility, creating captivating covers for various genres, from mystery to romance. Regardless of the subject, his ability to evoke emotion and tell a story through his art remains unparalleled.
*This does not mark the end of The Longbox of Darkness’ coverage of the art of Sanjulián. Expect future posts where we’ll explore some of his later offerings.
To wrap up, it’s probably more than safe to say that Sanjulián is one of the greatest fantasy illustrators of all time. His influence can be seen in the work of countless artists following in his footsteps. By pushing the boundaries of what could be achieved in cover art, he has inspired generations of illustrators to pursue their own creative visions. His artistic legacy continues to thrive, as his timeless illustrations still captivate us. However, for the Longbox of Darkness, Sanulián will forever be associated with Vampirella, and that first cover that burned itself into my brain, never to be forgotten.