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The Rise of Comics in Times of Pandemic

Peruvian artist Alvaro Feliu explains the magic behind the world of comics and why the world of superheroes has continued to fascinate artists and fans for decades. For Faber-Castell he created the Famazings, a family with superpowers, who came to life in 2019.

A special tribute to the colourful world of dream characters

The incomparable world of comics has among its first creators Thomas Rowlandon, an English painter and caricaturist who, in 1809, published "The Tours of Doctor Syntax", a very popular serialised adventure. From then on, different publications would appear in other countries, but it was not until 1896 that the word "comic strip" was first recorded when "The Yellow Kid" was published in the New York World newspaper. The newspaper strip was the first to use speech balloons / bubbles showing the characters' dialogue.   

From then on, this type of illustration and genre gained more strength among its followers, maintaining an important aspect in its evolution: the consistency of the character and style even when the cartoonist changed.  It should be noted that the universe of comics is not limited to the well-known superhero genre but extends to other genres such as science fiction, horror, war, romance, teen humour or crime.

The comic book industry has launched various campaigns that seek to promote reading and support family-friendly entertainment. One of them is Free Comic Book Day, an initiative that arose in the United States and has been celebrated there every first Saturday in May since 2002. Year after year, various specialised bookstores and artists join forces to promote reading by giving away a free copy of a comic book to anyone who visits the registered bookstores.  The initiative has been replicated all over the world, presenting local editions on different Saturdays in May, thus helping to promote local talent.

Picking up on this great comic book phenomenon and for pop culture lovers, Faber-Castell launched "The Famazings" in 2019, a family of superheroes who live on Ignivo Island and acquire their amazing powers when the volcano on the island erupts. From then on, the family, made up of Sergeant Robustus_Ben, (father), Zinergy (mother), Shiftress, (daughter) and Airling (son), are part of a secret organisation called Ignivo,  using their powers to help the government fight evil and protect the other inhabitants. 

The Famazings: seen with the eyes of their creator, Alvaro Feliu

It took Peruvian comic artist Alvaro Feliu approximately two years to bring the characters that make up the family to life and then present them at the CCXP COLOGNE convention in Germany. Let's learn more about them in the following interview:

Who or what are the characters inspired by?

The Famazings are inspired by classic superhero families and groups such as the Fantastic Four, the Super Friends and the X-Men. In conceiving them, the idea was that they should have that classic comic book superhero feel.

Are there more characters in the family that we will meet soon? 

This is definitely a world with great possibilities, so there are more characters yet to be met and even a villain in the pipeline.

What was the biggest challenge in developing the characters?

Actually, one of the biggest challenges was how to make these characters, who were based on classic comic book characters, have an identity or originality of their own. So, we decided to do two things: the first was to assign each character a symbolic function within the family that would define their actions. Thus, Ben is the father figure and the rock, that immovable object to which one can always turn for protection.  Zinergy, the mother, is the lighthouse, providing protection with her light. Airling is the winged angel, the Saviour, the rescuer, and Shiftress, as the youngest, is the promise, the future.
The second thing we did was to make the powers not static but changing and evolving according to their emotional state and age, e. g. Shiftress now cannot quite control which animal she becomes. However, as she matures, she will not only be able to control which animal she turns into, but she will also be able to make combinations between different animals and achieve almost mythological transformations.

How did your love for comics come about and what was the first character you created?

Well, I’ve been drawing almost ever since I’ve been walking, always influenced by the cartoons of the time, mostly anime, since American cartoons were not broadcast on TV. In the 80's, it was difficult to get Marvel or DC superhero comics. Those that were available came smuggled and at extremely inflated prices, yet even my parents gave me some, which I treasured like jewels.

The world of comics is an endless universe of superheroes and powers that inspire many fans. How do you think this family of superheroes can have an impact on the fans of this genre?

Well, I think the Famazings make up a winning formula as they are very similar to classic comic book characters but with a twist of originality that is quite unique.

What has it meant for Alvaro Feliu, the artist, to be part of this global launch?

I am proud that, through my work, I can make my country Peru part of a project of global importance. Along with the honour and pleasure of having worked with the Faber Global family, definitely one of the most important moments in my career so far.

Do you identify with any of the characters or superpowers?

Not really. I love all 4 equally and the powers I would like to have are divided between them.

What do you think is the future of the comic world and how has it evolved in recent years?

I think the world of comics is in a process of renewal at the moment, the boom in superhero films has put it over the top.  Yes, it's true that film cycles expire, but nowadays, the situation has made streaming  gain relevance and many comics are becoming series. This audiovisual format is even closer to that of comics, which is why I see it finding a niche that won't need a specific boom to continue to exist.
It should also be taken into account that, with the pandemic, people are consuming a lot of comics of all kinds, both virtually and in real life.
Alvaro Feliu


About Alvaro Feliu

Architect, industrial designer, sculptor, sequential artist. The artist Alvaro Feliu describes his work as "the search for freedom", because for him, freedom comes when passion is unleashed. This occurs in each of his creative processes, in each of his works, whether he is engrossed in illustrating the pages of a comic book, producing an illustration or sculpting, no matter the technique or the tool used, each one provides a different means of expression which moulds itself to each piece produced. As he says: "It's not an easy path, but it's totally worth it".

The differences between Manga, Comic and Anime

a series or sequence of cartoons, with or without text, whose strips are read from left to right. Produced in Europe or America, comics tell the story of superheroes in the case of American comics or of detectives or adventurers in the case of European comics.  Characters are drawn with a fairly anatomical figure compared to the characters depicted in manga, which tend to be distorted. 

being a traditional illustration of Japanese origin, manga is a series of printed cartoons containing stories that can be realistic or fantasy and that are longer in pages than comics. Two of its main characteristics are that the texts are read from right to left and that they are mostly illustrated in black and white. Characters are drawn with deliberately distorted figures, using a series of different visual accessories, for example, big tears for a crying character. 

Anime is a digitally animated cartoon that originates from manga. It is usually presented as a series, less commonly as short films, and movies. Customarily, all episodes begin or end with a music video inspired by the characters. Recognisable features of the characters are the brightly coloured large, oval eyes, while the nose and mouth are small.

Learn about all our superhero powers and the products they inspired here: