The Art of Guerra

After the hustle and bustle of New York, Miguel Guerra seeks peace, quiet and superheroes in Valencia.

 miguel with comics and bat shirt

Miguel Guerra’s children go to the same school that his aunt went to, the Colegio Público Cervantes; which doesn’t sound so surprising, except for the fact that Miguel, who was born in Madrid, but spent most of his life in Canada and New York, only moved to Valencia in 2012.

It’s true that he did visit Valencia once before, to visit his grandparents’ graves, but he is only now beginning to discover his roots, and that of his two children.

His early years were spent in stork-infested Alacalá de Henares, where his US Air Force father, from Illinois, was stationed, and met Miguel’s mother, a meeting that had a lot to do with Miguel being born there, and living there until he was eight, although one year was spent at Cambridge in England while his father, by then out of the air force, obtained a Masters in electrical engineering.

suzy diasAfter leaving the Air Force Miguel’s father moved to Canada, where he joined the National Research Council, but while his parents were settling down, Miguel was beginning a personal quest that would lead him back to the country of his birth, accompanied by two children and his Portuguese-Canadian wife and creative partner, Suzy Dias.

Together, Miguel and Suzy have created, a web site that showcases their shared passion; comics.

Miguel had been reading comics ever since he can remember, and in Alcalá had the advantage of being able to read both Spanish and American ones.

But before that he worked with tombstones, apprenticed to a Canadian artist who had developed a way of sandblasting black granite and painting lasting tailor-made pictures onto tombstones, an artistic outlet which, after a while became a little depressing, especially after working on a picture of Mickey Mouse for the grave of a one year old boy.

So Miguel spent a couple of years on Film Studies in Toronto before deciding that what he really wanted to do was create comics, although the film studies did help to learn how to tell stories using storyboarding techniques, which involved selecting the exactly right frame from thousands of possibilities.

Like the majority of would-be comic artists, success in this world meant being contracted by one of the big two: Marvel or DC Comics; and Miguel spent some time in that queue, while at the same time dedicating most of his free time to reading everything he could get his hands on related to mythology, steeping himself in ancient cultures and exploring the messages behind the myths, pondering the reasons for their survival over millenia.

A chance meeting with a Japanese acquaintance, who wondered why he wasn’t creating his own comics instead of selling his talent to the big two, set him off on the path that would lead to 7 robots, while a work opportunity for his wife as a writer, editor and Project Manager for Bloomberg L.P. in New York City determined their move to the Big Apple in 2002, while the dust was still settling from the Twin Towers attack.

Life in New York City was certainly exciting, but when they began to start a family, the feeling grew that it as not such a great place for children to grow up in.

Miguel’s earnings at that time were coming from translation, being fluent in English and Spanish, and among his clients was Heavy Metal magazine, which had been entertaining the young and not so young of America with a blend of science fiction, fantasy and erotica since 1977.

As well as translating, Miguel and Suzy managed to place some of their stories in Heavy Metal before setting up their own label in 2006, with a name that wqas a tribute to their roots: Iberian Press.

Their first publication was Samurai Elf, about a teenager living in the aftermath of a global war, with themes such as friendship, war, nature, technology and growing up

They work as a team, with Miguel concentrating on plot, whereas Suzy focuses more on lettering and dialogue, and their web site has branched out into graphic novels, scripts, custom toys, more recently Super Kid Heroes – where Miguel creates illustrations of classic superheroes whose faces and features are left unfinished, awaiting the face of any child who wants to leap tall buildings at a single bounce or defend the weak and helpless.

They also produce T Shirts, especially ones developing the theme of bats, after Miguel was surprised to discover how little the iconic Valencian bat was exploited in T shirt design.

He’s also been collaborating with the Australian economist Doctor Steve Keen, one of only twenty worldwide to predict the current crisis, and author of the classic book ‘Debunking Economics’, on a project that is shrouded in mystery (he told me but unfortunately ‘off the record’).

Although comics are fantasy, the real world has a way of filtering through Miguel’s fiction; modern values, the Iraq war or his brother’s diagnosis with cancer all contribute to ensuring that his heroes have a dark side too. As Miguel reflects; in a society where we have to pay for health care, why wouldn’t our super heroes invoice us for their services too?

In fact the villains tend to get more coverage, especially the ‘Invisible Hand’, the world’s first trillionaire, an embodiment of evil trying to achieve world domination through economic means and a metaphor invented by the economist Adam Smith to describe a self-regulating market.

Super corporate heroesFortunately the Invisible Hand hasn’t yet managed to extend his grip to the quiet pedestrain streets around the Plaza de la Virgen, where Miguel and his family can stroll peacefully in the evening after a day at school or challenging evil as a member of Super Corporate Heroes, where fighting crime pays.

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