Vagabond des Limbes, by Julio Ribera
Le Vagabond des Limbes

Julio Ribera was a Spanish comics artist, who has spent most of his career working for the French market. While his early work was published in Spanish magazines like Nicolás, El Coyote, Florita and Yumbo, Ribera has worked on a great many French comics magazines from 1954 until the 1990s. He has also drawn many newspaper comics for Opéra Mundi and France-Soir. The artist is however best known for his many collaborations with scriptwriter Christian Godard, with whom he most notably created the sci-fi saga 'Le Vagabond des Limbes' (1975-2003), but also the erotic 'Le Grand Manque' (1988-1993) and the crime noir 'Le Grand Scandale' (1994-1997). On his own, Ribera has made the erotic horror parody 'Dracurella' (1973-1979) and his autobiographical series 'Montserrat' (2003-2006). He worked in both a realistic and a caricatural drawing style, but he used a mix for his most popular works.

Dracurella, art by Julio Ribera
Dracurella

Julio Ribera Trucó was born in Barcelona in 1927. Growing up during the Spanish Civil War left a lasting impression on the boy. The death of his sister Montserrat added to the trauma. His father fought on the side of the liberals, while selling French cars to earn a living. Julio earned his first money by drumming in a jazz band and making illustrations in cooperation with the artist Pedro Alférez, who owned the publishing house Éxito. Among his main influences were American artists like Alex Raymond, Hal Foster, Milton Caniff and Will Eisner, but also the Disney school. Later in life, he also expressed his admiration for his Pilote colleagues Jean Giraud, Robert Gigi, Alexis, Jean-Claude Mézières and Philippe Druillet, as well as his fellow press illustrators Jacques Pecnard and Charles Popineau.

He also made his first comics in his native Spain, both realistic and humorous. He signed these works with J. Ribera or with pseudonyms like Jules McSide and Bop. He was the artist of adventure comic book series like 'El Vagabundo' (1947) and 'Robín y el Murciélago' (1948) for Publicaciones Ibero-Americanas. The latter was a direct rip-off of Bob Kane and Bill Finger's 'Batman'. He also began an association with the children's magazines of Germán Plaza's Editorial Clíper. For the newly launched magazine Nicolás he created strips like 'Don Cejas' (1948), 'Penicilino Pi' (1948), 'Lope Carota' (1948) and 'Mínímo' (1949). Among his best-remembered work for this publisher were his contributions to the girls' magazine Florita, for which he drew the series 'Rosy' (1950-1954) and 'Pirulina' (1953-1954). Both were continued by Jordi Buxadé after Ribera's emigration. He was also present in Yumbo with his first fantasy comic, 'Pepin y Sulfato' (1953), in El Coyote with 'Gus Miley, Piloto del Tiempo' (1950, scripts by Vallmajor) and 'Juan Tormenta' (1951) and in El Gorrion with humorous work and cartoons (1953). Both 'Rosy' and 'Pepin y Sulfato' were additionally published in France, in Mireille and Pierrot, respectively.

Rosy by Julio Ribera

Ribera however also contributed to other publishers than Cliper. For Hispano Americana de Ediciones S.A. he illustrated a series of four humorous comic books about a bellboy, called 'El Botones' (1953). He first delved into realistic science fiction with 'Platillos Volantes' (15 volumes, 1954), a comic book series about flying saucers for Exclusivas Gráficas Ricart. In Bruguera's Pulgarcito, he drew 'Liborio' (1949) and 'Vaguete' (1949), while 'Miky Pecas' (1951) ran in Santiago Vives' Pocholo. 'Rex Kenton' (1951, scripts by Vallmajor) appeared in Alcotán, 'Ted Powers' (1953) and 'Capitán Rido' (1953, scripts by José Mallorquí) in Futuro's Aventurero and 'Duke' (1951) in Detector, a magazine which also printed American comics. Feeling a need for more freedom and financial opportunities, Julio Ribéra and his wife fled from the censorship of Franco's Spain and settled in France in the second half of 1954. The young couple first lived in the Parisian suburbs with another Spanish expat, Francisco Batet, but quickly moved to the city with Manfred Sommer and his wife. Ribera's first work in his new country was the western comic 'Pistol Jim' in Zorro, a magazine published by Chapelle.

Le Barrage by Julio Ribera
Le Barrage (Bayard, 9 September 1956)

Within no time, Ribera was working for a wide range of French comics magazines of the time. He made short stories and illustrations for such magazines as Contes du gai Pierrot, Lisette, Pierrot, À Tout Cœur, Fillette, Bonjour Bonheur, Spirou, L'Intrépide, Hurrah!, La Semaine de Suzette and Vaillant. In 1956 his fruitful collaboration with the magazines of La Bonne Presse took off. He created several series for Bayard, varying from adventure serials like 'Le Barrage' (1956, script by J. Petit Duc) and 'Tony Sextant Chevalier de l'Espace' (1957-1961, scripts by Jean Acquaviva) to the funny animal strip 'Lolo et Mandoline' (1959-1960, written by Acquaviva under the pen name Pierre Mérou).

Lolo et Mandoline by Julio Ribera
Lolo et Mandoline

For Bernadette he mainly made comic stories of an educational nature. Between 1962 and 1966 he illustrated several historical short stories for Coeurs Vaillants and its follow-up J2 Jeunes (published by Fleurus), while also contributing to Amis-Coop in 1964. In a 1971 interview with Henri Filippini, Ribera expressed his gratitude to the editors of this last monthly, as they gave him full artistic freedom. It gave the artist the possibility to experiment and settle upon his definitive drawing style.

Les Mystères de New York
Les Mystères de New York

Through his compatriot José Laffond he was introduced to the Opéra Mundi agency, for which he drew comic strip adaptations of novels like André Armandy's 'Les Épaves Dorées' (132 strips, 1962-1963), Georges Ohnet's 'La Dame en Gris' (114 strips, 1963), Pierre Decourcelle's 'Les Mystères de New York' (225 strips, 1963), Georges Ohnet's 'Le Droit de l'Enfant' (141 strips, 1964) and Margaret Kennedy's 'La Nymphe au Cœur Fidèle' (107 strips, 1965). He also drew the detective strip 'Mystère Minute' (1963), starring the investigations of inspector Fauvel, and installments of the series 'Reines Tragiques' ('Wou-Tso-Tien', 'Frédégonde contre Brunehaut'). The Opéra Mundi serials appeared in such newspapers as L'Aurore, Le Parisien Libéré, L'Echo du Centre, Presse-Océan, La Montagne and La Liberté Dimanche.

Capitaine Tempête  by Julio Ribera
Capitaine Tempête

By 1965 Ribera got the opportunity to work directly for France-Soir, a paper which not only offered a better pay rate, but also had a circulation of a million copies! First of all, he made an adaptation of the TV serial about 'Belphégor' (1965), the phantom of the Louvre. It was followed by a serial based on Louis Malle's film 'Viva Maria' (75 strips, 1965). He furthermore contributed to the paper's true story serials 'Le Crime Ne Paie Pas' ('Les Bandits de Mexico', 'Les Empoisonneurs de Marseille') and 'Les Amours Célèbres' by Paul Gordeaux and Robert Mallat. His most extensive work for the paper were his adaptations of Richard-Bessière's 'Capitaine Tempête' adventure novels in 650 strips between 1968 and 1970.

Dracurella, art by Julio Ribera
Dracurella

From 1965 onwards, Ribera illustrated a variety of short stories and editorial pages based on current affairs for Pilote magazine. He had his first claim to fame with 'Dracurella', a light erotic parody of the horror genre, for which he provided both script and artwork. The series was collected in book format by Dargaud in 1976 and 1979, with a third installment published by M.C. Productions in 1987. While working for Pilote, he met Christian Godard, who would become his scriptwriter on many of his future comics projects. The first and best-known of these was 'Le Vagabond des Limbes' (1975-2003), a somewhat psychedelic space opera set in an alternate universe.

Le Vagabond des Limbes
Le Vagabond des Limbes 2 - L'Empire des Soleils Noirs

The main star is Axl Munshine, a former conciliator for planets at war, who is banished from his galaxy for breaking the commandment of "not crossing the threshold of sleep". The "Vagabond of Limbo" roams the universe in search of Chimeer, a woman who has appeared to him in a dream. He is accompanied on his travels by Musky, the heir of the Prince of the Eternauts, who at first appears to be a boy, but later turns out to be a woman. The series was one of the most original in its genre, and the authors constantly play with comics conventions and the evolution of their characters. Graphically, it is a mix of the semi-realistic Spanish sci-fi school of Carlos Gimenez and Alfonso Font, and the more classically oriented French one of Paul Gillon and Raymond Poïvet.

Le Vagabond des Limbes
Le Vagabond des Limbes 12 - Les loups de Khom

The series was originally published directly in album format by Hachette, but later episodes were pre-published in Circus (1975-1976), Tintin (1977), Pilote (1978-1984) and Pilote & Charlie (1986-1987). Dargaud took over the album series in 1978 from the fourth story on. Albums 16 through 21 were however published by Le Vaisseau d'Argent, Godard and Ribera's own publishing label established in 1988. By 1992 the firm was dissolved and the series returned to Dargaud, who published the 31st and final album in 2003. A concluding installment called 'L'Engrenage' was announced, and allegedly also created, but has not appeared during Ribera's lifetime. Dargaud had dropped the series, and the authors couldn't find another publisher to release it. From 1988 onwards, Ribera has received assistance for the backgrounds from Claude Plumail and Benoît du Peloux, while Claudine Pinet and Jean-Jacques Chagnaud have provided most of series' coloring. Godard has furthermore scripted two spin-off stories of the saga. 'Une Enfance Éternelle' was drawn by Carlos Giménez and published by Le Vaisseau d'Argent in 1990. 'Les 13 Transgressions' appeared in the same year, was written in cooperation with Laurent-Frédéric Bollée and drawn by Al Coutelis.

Le Grand Manque
Le Grand Manque

Ribera and Godard have furthermore participated in two volumes of the Larousse collection 'L'Histoire de France en Bandes Dessinées' (1976-1977). In 1985 and 1986 Ribera also illustrated the first two albums of Godard's fantasy series 'Chroniques du temps de la vallée des Ghlomes' in Charlie Mensuel. The third and fourth installments were drawn by Florenci Clavé. Their erotic series 'Le Grand Manque' was serialized in L'Écho des Savanes and published in book format by Le Vaisseau d'Argent (1988) and Soleil (1993). Their next project was 'Le Grand Scandale' (Dargaud, 1994-1997), a series about a lanky comics artist who uses his talent to lend style to his cheerless life, but ends up in a political scandal. Their book 'Je suis un monstre' appeared in Glénat's collection Grafica in 1994. In 1995 Soleil released 'Le Fils de l'Orfèvre', the first and only album in their series 'La Jeunesse d'un inconnu célèbre'.

Le Grand Scandale by Julio Ribera
Le Grand Scandale

In the final stages of his career, Julio Ribera published three autobiographical comic books about his early years under Franco's fascist regime. They were published in the Grand Angle collection of the publishing house Bamboo. The first book, 'Montserrat - Souvenirs de la guerre civile' (2003), dealt with the Civil War and his late sister Montserrat. 'Jeunesse bafouée - Une dictature au fil des jours' (2005) chronicles the first years of Ribera's artistic career, and the third book, 'Paris Liberté - Le parfum de l'espoir' (2006) is about his move to France. A single volume compilation was released under the title 'Mon crayon et moi' in 2011.

Between 2009 and 2014 Éditions Regards published 'Capitaine Temête', 'Viva Maria' and 'Les Vagabonds', book publications of Ribera's early newspaper strips. The artist passed away in Cognin, France, on 27 May 2018. He was 91 years old.

Montserrat by Julio Ribera
Montserrat

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