Mihail Strogoff by Erno Zorad
Mikhail Strogoff

Hungarian comic book artist Ernö Zórád was one of the most important and internationally acclaimed creators while his country was under Communist rule. He was mostly active as a book illustrator and with this experience started adapting many literary novels into comic book adaptations.

Ernö Zórád was born in 1911 in Balassagyarmat. He studied for two years at the Royal Institute of Arts and Crafts, but quit afterwards. He was employed by Baron Egon Wallburg as a painter of hunting scenes. It was only after 1945 when he began illustrating periodicals. He started working for Magyar Ifjúsági Lapkiadó, which sparked off a graphic career at the puzzle/comics magazine Füles which would last for four decades. Between 1952 and 1988 he painted images for slide-films based on popular novels such as R.E. Raspe's 'The Adventures of Baron Münchhausen', Jonathan Swift's 'Gulliver's Travels' and Miguel de Cervantes' 'Don Quixote'. For a long while the man had no high opinion about comics. Until 1964 the few comics he made look more like rough sketches, compard with his later works.

John Bird, by Ernö Zorad
John Bird

His first significant comic book work, 'Winnetou', saw Zórád place speech balloons into panels for the first time. This Karl May adaptation was published in the magazine Pajtás. In 1964, Füles published 'Fekete gyémántok' ('Black diamonds', a comic book adaptation of Jókai Mór's novel), which bears all the characteristics of his style. With his detailed and technically accurate drawings, divided in dynamic page compositions Zórád set a high standard for all Hungarian comics artists which followed. By inserting contemporary photographs and illustrations into panels he pioneered photo comics in his country. He originally followed scripts written by Tibor Cs. Horváth, József Hunyady and Péter Kuczka. From 1975 on he did the scriptwork himself.

Zórád's comics were published in many Eastern European countries. His main works are Sándor Petöfi's 'János vitéz' ('Johnny Corncob', 1964), József Hunyady's 'A fekete lovag' (1968), Kenneth Roberts' 'Az északnyugati átjáró' ('Northwest passage', 1972), Kálmán Mikszáth's 'Új Zrínyiász' (1977), Jenö Heltai's 'A 111-es' (1980) and Edmond Rostand's 'Cyrano de Bergerac' (1982).

Erno Zorad self-portraitErno Zorad

In 1980 the artist started making a series of watercolour paintings which depict the intimate atmosphere of Tabán, a district not far from the city Buda (nowadays Budapest), which had been demolished in the 1920s. The polymath artist was also a gifted singer and piano player. Zórád was the only Hungarian comics artist who remained popular and respected throughout his entire career. As early as 1947 he had his first exhibition in Budapest. At the International Caricature Exhibition in Vienna (1955) he received an award. In 2000 he was honored with the Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic (Officer Grade). Late in his career, at the age of 86, he still showed his skill with 'Die Verschwundene Miniatur' (1997), an adaptation of Erich Kästner's eponymous novel. Leaving behind more than 300 comics, he passed away at the age of 93, on 8 April 2008, in Budapest.

Last Days of Pompeii by Erno Zorad
Last Days of Pompeii

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