comic art by Watson Portela
Robô Gigante

Watson Portela was one of the main authors of the Brazilian comics industry during the 1980s. The versatile artist has drawn comics in many genres, from science fiction and adventure over erotic to humor and superhero comics, for a variety of publishers. His best known creation is the cyberpunk adverture serial 'Paralelas', although he is also known for his manga-inspired comics for Grafipar and his children's work for Abril. Portela is influenced by the American comic book artists C.C Beck and Mike Allred as well as Europeans like Moebius, Jean-Claude Mézières, Yves Chaland and Michel Blanc-Dumont. While signing most of his work as simply "Watson", he has also published under the names Barroso and Helga.


Paralelas

Portela was born in Camaragibe, near Recife, in the state of Pernambuco in 1950. An avid doodler since his early childhood, his artwork first appeared in the local press during the early 1970s. This included the western comic 'O Águia' (1971) in cooperation with his brother, the journalist Wilde Portela, as well as covers and illustrations for Junior, the children's supplement of the local paper Diário de Pernambuco. By 1972 he was a regular contributor to this paper, which he supplied with cartoons and comic stories about historical subjects. He spent most of the 1970s working as a commercial artist and also as a typist, however. Early comics efforts like three terror stories for Editorial Taika and the historical comics 'O Caçador de Esmeraldas' and 'Vida de Napoleão' for Adolfo Aizen's publishing label Ebal have remained unpublished. Portela designed the cover art of the album 'Até a Amazônia?' by the Brazilian folk ensemble Quinteto Violado in 1978.


Comic story from Supernatural (Ed. Vecchi)

In that same year he moved to Rio de Janeiro, where he began a collaboration with the publishing house Vecchi. He became a regular contributor to their digest-sized comics magazine Spektro. The magazine published horror, mystery and supernatural stories from American companies like Gold Key and Charlton, but also featured locally produced stories about occult subjects by authors like Flavio Colin, Julio Shimamoto, Jayme Cortez and Eugenio Colonnese. Portela was present with the first installments of his best-known series 'Paralelas'. This surrealistic cyberpunk comic already showcased his expressive drawing style and talent for drawing beautiful women, landscapes and action scenes, obviously inspired by Moebius and the comics magazine Heavy Metal. Other work for Vecchi was the western comic 'Chet' (1979), another co-production with his brother, which appeared in Histórias do Faroeste. The series was a rip-off of the Italian comic book 'Tex' created by Gian Luigi Bonelli and Aurelio Galleppini; and even used a modified anagram of the Italian original as its title (Tex > Xet > Chet).


He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

By 1980 the artist moved to Curitiba, where his association with the publishing house Grafipar and its editor Claudio Seto began. He produced both science fiction and erotic stories under the pen name Barroso. For a couple of years, Portela, Mozart Couto and Rodval Matias dominated the publisher's adult-oriented publications with creations inspired by Japanese, European and US comics productions. Portela's 'A Saga de Xanadu' (1982) ran in Almanaque Xanadu and was designed in a manga style. The same goes for 'Robô Gigante' (1982), which sailed on the popularity of the giant robots which dominated youth culture in the 1980s. 'Super-Gay' was a naughty parody on the American superheroes by Marvel and DC Comics, which appeared in a one-shot book in 1982. The sci-fi oriented 'Voô Livre' on the other hand was another reference to Moebius, while the dramatic western 'Rex' was based on DC's 'Jonah Hex' (created by John Albano and Tony De Zuñiga).

In 1982, Portela also illustrated three issues of the western series 'Colt .45' for the publisher RGE, which were subsequently published in France. He produced independent stories for the five issues of the magazine Inter Quadrinhos by the publisher Ondas from his hometown Recife in 1983, and then headed for São Paulo to begin an association with Press Editorial. In 1984-1985 he produced stories like 'O Cão do Inferno', 'O Machado' and 'O Alienígena', and in the following year his first solo albums, 'Paralelas' (1986) and 'Entidade Zero' (1986) were published.

Jovem Radical cover by Watson PortelaCrisis on Infinite Earths

Portela was present in the youth titles of Editorial Abril from 1987. He drew for the celebrity comic book based on Brazilian television presenter, actor and singer Gugu Liberato (Revista do Gugu, 1988-1990), and for the children's comic based on Brazilian comedy group 'Os Trapalhões. He also drew the adventures of 'As Gatinhas' for the two issues of the girls' comic book Jovem Radical (1988) and provided artwork for licensed properties like 'He-Man' (from the Mattel toy-line). In Heróis da TV he was one of the authors for comic stories based on Japanese live-action heroes like 'Jaspion', 'Spielvan' and 'Changeman' in license of Toei Company and Toho Co.. Other authors involved in these productions were writers Marcelo Cassaro and Alexandre Nagado and the artist Arthur Garcia. Watson Portela furthermore provided cover art to Brazilian editions of DC/Marvel comic books like 'Crisis on Infinite Earths', 'Captain America', 'The New Teen Titans' and 'Superman'. He drew the backgrounds for a Brazilian graphic novel starring Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge, 'Patrulha Do Universo' (1991), which had character art by Eli M. Leon (characters) and inking work by Antônio de Lima.

Spielvan by Watson Portela
Spielvan

With Primaggio Mantovi he provided the artwork for the 'War-Man' project (1988) of the Pão de Açucar group, which consisted of posters and comics for a freely distributed magazine. In 1989 he contributed science fiction stories to Pau-Brasil magazine of Editora Vidente. The same publisher also released a four-issue mini-series of Portela's cyberpunk series 'Paralelas'. With Gustavo Machado he drew the comic book 'Didi Volta para o Futuro' (Abril Jóvem, 1991), which was largely a children's comic take on the film trilogy 'Back To The Future' (1985-1990). Both personal and economical reasons forced him to largely retire from the comics industry during the 1990s, doing only contributions to fanzines in Recife. During this period, Portela did provide the 27th installment of the drawing course 'Curso Prático de Desenho' by Editora Escala (1998), which dealt with manga art..

El Último Vôo Livre (2005)
El Último Vôo Livre (2005)

He briefly returned to the forefront on 2001 with the critically acclaimed albums 'Paralelas II' and 'A Ultima Missão' at Ópera Grafica; the latter being a collaboration with Eugenio Colonnese. He was also present in the Brazilian edition of Playboy magazine with illustrations. He left the mainstream media once again and launched his own Fanzine Paralelas (2003), in which he published both new and old material. In the period 2004-2008 he produced independent material for the alternative label MRD, such as the series 'Ecos da Vida' and new collections like 'O Último Voo Livre' and 'Entidade Zero 1/2 do Fim'. He was however largely absent from the market during the 2000s, but from 2010 he started presenting new material to publishing houses in cooperation with his agent and son Rafeal Portela. In 2011 it was announced that Portela would be drawing 'Cabeça Oca e os Elfos de Terra Ronca', the first graphic novel based on Christie Queiroz's cartoon character 'Cabeça Oca'. The book was released in December 2014. Devir Livraria released a book collection of Portela's trademark work 'Paralelas' in 2015.

Watson Portela is widely considered as one of the grandmasters of Brazilian comics. In 1986 the São Paulo Association of Comic Artists and Cartoonists awarded him their Ângelo Agostini Prize in 1986 for his contributions to the national comics industry. He was also recognized by his publisher Abril, who awarded him their annual Prêmio Abril de Jornalismo in 1988. He received the 2015 Troféu HQ Mix in the category Grandmaster from the Association of Cartoonists of Brazil (ACB) and the Institute of Graphic Arts of Brazil (IMAG).

Cabeça Oca e os Elfos de Terra Ronca (Promo, 2011)
Cabeça Oca e os Elfos de Terra Ronca (Promo, 2011)

watsonparalelasportela.blogspot.com

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