Humberto Ramos: Remembering Carlos Meglia

Humberto Ramos: Remembering Carlos

Carlos Meglia died. That is a sad and cold fact that I can't do anything about, and it doesn't matter how hard I try to do otherwise – I will never see Carlos again. My friend is gone; the artist is here no more. But there is one thing I can do, and this is, telling you about the guy I met so many years ago, almost like a coincidence.

When I was just a kid trying to break into comics, I used to read a fanzine here in Mexico called El Gallito Ingles. In that mag, many artists from my country filled the pages with their amazing art, but there was one who stood out among the others, but the last name sounded nothing like a regular Mexican one. So I started to find out about him. Let me tell you, that was a bit difficult because at that time there was no internet at all, but I found out he was an Argentinean artist and this magazine got the rights to publish his book in Mexico, something like what Heavy Metal does.

So from that point I became a hardcore fan of his work, and I tried to put my hands in everything he had published up to that day. That was how I was introduced to such characters like Irish Coffee, Cybersix, Big Bang and my personal favorite, The Book Of Gabriel, a story about one archangel who lost his immortality and his journey to gain forgiveness from the sin he committed.

In the meantime, my career lifted up from Milestone media to DC comics, to Marvel and finally to WS Productions and the blockbuster imprint Cliffhanger. I was working in the Crimson story arc when my editor, Scott Dunbier, told me we had a chance to do a one-shot issue featuring our characters, and we were able to do a story aside from the regular storyline. And he told me the great news: "You can ask anybody you want to to do this one-shot." I didn't think twice; there was no doubt who was the one I wanted to call.

But I wasn't sure the artist I was thinking of would like to take the assignment. At that point, I knew Carlos was the "big cheese" in Europe, and the chances to have him on board were close to none. So, with that in my mind, I called Lucas Marangon (Dark Horse), another great Argentinean artist (damn, those Argentineans are not only good at soccer) who lives in Mexico, and he happened to have a telephone number to Carlos' studio in Argentina, so he passed the info and i made the call.

I didn't know what to say or how to introduce myself when I first heard his voice. I wasn't sure what to expect, so I tried my best to recite my resume as glorious as I could just to make him feel that I was serious when I talked. I was sure he had no idea who I was. There was no way he could know this kid from Mexico – no way. He just let me talk, and when I finished my speech, he just said, in his glorious Argentinean accent, "You are the guy from Impulse, aren't you?" Let me tell you, I was shocked the guy actually knew my work. He started telling me how he liked my work too (I couldn't believe that either), and with no further questions, he agreed to do the book, Crimson: Blood in the Moon.

And from that day, I started growing a personal relationship with one of my biggest idols. His humble being, his dark humor, his intelligence, his knowledge of pretty much everything you can think of. He could speak with the same clearness about international politics or UFOs, soccer or economics, mysticism or philosophy. That guy can talk about anything for an entire night and still keep you asking for more – one more story, one more idea.

Carlos Meglia is a big influence to me and many of the artists that I know. When that Crimson book came out, suddenly a lot of my fellow artists starting asking me how I met him. And I realized that a lot – and I mean a lot of the USA creators – knew his work already. That was great to know, with people asking me about him and telling me things about his career I didn't know at that point.

Then something got clear in my head: Huge talent knows no frontiers, no borders or language barriers. Carlos Meglia was big already; he still is and he will be for long. He started a USA career illustrating books like Spyboy, Star Wars, Tarzan-Superman (Dark Horse), Monster World, Wildcats, Crimson, Out There (Wildstorm), Elektra (Marvel), Superman Infinite City (DC Comics). God, he made me regain the joy of the weekly visit to the local comic book store, waiting for his new story. I was honored to work shoulder-to-shoulder with him, like in the Superman/Tarzan: Sons of the Jungle (Dark Horse) series where I drew the covers as a prologue to the amazing art. Something you may not know is that Carlos was a comic book encyclopedia, and he worshipped the earlier Tarzan comic strips that Burne Hogarth and Hal Foster drew. One of Carlos' dreams was to draw the Tarzan books in graphics novels. I hate thinking we will never have the privilege to see those come to life.

It was always a blast being with Carlos. When you'd hang around with him, you turned into an instant celebrity. I remember being with him in the Fantabaires comic book festival (Argentina's Comic-Con) and being introduced to such artists like Ariel Olivetti or Eduardo Rizzo. Everybody knew him – and beyond that everybody liked him. That's a good way to synthesize who Carlos was: He was the guy everybody wanted to be with. You wanted to be the closet you could to him, to be the one who hears his jokes first, the one who laughs with him, the one he talks to.

But Carlos' call wasn't to go all the way in the superhero universe. He wanted more and he looked for it. He also moved from his native Argentina to sunny Barcelona in Spain. Soleil – the hip and trendy publisher in France – raised the hand and hired him. With them, he created the beautiful pages of Canari, two books that showed the master of his style. Those books are poetry, really. The work he built with Crisse, will remain forever like two of the most beautifully painted BDs (bandee desinnee) that I I've seen.

There in Barcelona, Carlos invited me to his place and again, just by being with him, I turned into a celebrity. Now he Introduced me to the legendary Juan Gimenez, one of the architects of the cult movie Heavy Metal, and again Carlos gave me the chance to add a new friend in my heart, the unique Gimenez.

That's the guy Carlos was. He didn't care at all about his greatness. He was aware of it, so he played with it like the Peter Pan he was – never with pride, always with joy. Carlos never cared about protocol. I didn't remember him being a fluid English speaker, but he never cared about it, and to my knowledge nobody else did. Ask Mike Kennedy, his companion in the superhero adventure, or Mike Kunkel (Hero Bear) – we always found joy speaking "Spanglish," and the guys always seem to understand him beyond the words.

That's the guy that I met because of a comic book. That's the friend I found thanks to this amazing craft I do. Today, as I remembered him, I found myself not crying, but smiling for the gift I got by crossing my path with his. Thank you, comic books, for letting me be the luckiest of all the fans. Thank you, comic books, for letting me know such a wonderful person.Thank you, comic books, for letting us enjoy Carlos' mastermind. And thank you Carlos for letting me call you friend.

Carlos died last August 14th. His last printed work is Red Song, a story about some kids who turn themselves into a monster-hero. That's the way I want to think of Carlos, a kid in an adult body who is my hero.

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