José Luis Benício da Fonseca (1936-2021)

Brazilian illustrator JOSÉ LUIZ BENÍCIO DA FONSECA, who worked as Benício, 84, died De­cember 7, 2021 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Born September 14, 1936 in Rio Pardo, in the Brazilian South, he was a nationwide name in the fields of pulp art, pin-up art, movie posters, and advertisements.

After a stint plying piano for a radio show in Porto Alegre when he was only 15, Benício initially dedicated himself to advertising, but it was a chance to study music that took him to Rio de Janeiro, then the capital of Brazil. He went to work for Rio Gráfica Editora, a major player in the Brazilian comic book market. Benício drew covers for DC Com­ics and Marvel superheroes for the Gibi comics magazine. Advertising practice turned him into a master of the gouache technique, and he became a frequent portrait-painter of Hollywood and local radio and movie stars for Filmelândia magazine.

In Rio in the mid-1960s he became the main cover artists for pulp powerhouse Monterrey and forever attached to local creation Brigitte Montfort, a CIA agent starring her own series, ZZ7, created by Mon­terrey’s editor José Alberto Gueiros and reaching 506 episodes that published nearly a quarter of a million copies a month. Most of them were written by Span­ish author Antonio Vera Ramirez (writing as Don Corrigan), and were also published in Spain (with the original Benício’s covers). As usually happens with spy fiction, some episodes were science fiction or featured SF elements. Other Monterrey lines were FBI, Hora H (war fiction), and several western lines, all with Benício’s covers.

In 1968 Benício, without giving up his other jobs, graduated to movie posters. He did posters for José Mojica Marins, the Coffin Joe horror movie direc­tor, and for local parodies of US SF/fantasy films by comedy group Trapalhões. He also painted the poster for Dona Flor and her Two Husbands (1976), based on a magic realist novel by Jorge Amado. He became more famous for posters of pornochanchada, a local genre of soft porn comedy.

In 2010, Benício had a stroke after his wife died of breast cancer. Slightly impaired, he kept working. In 2006, journalist Gonçalo Junior wrote Benício: Um Perfil do Mestre das Pin-Ups (A Profile of the Master of Pin-Ups), expanded in 2011 as E Benício Criou a Mulher…: A Biografia do Mestre das Pin-Ups e dos Cartazes de Cinema (And Benício Cre­ated Woman… The Biography of the Master of Pin-Ups and Cinema Posters). In 2011, Ricardo Antunes edited Sex & Crime: The Book Cover Art of Benício Volume One (title originally in English), followed in 2014 by Volume Two – a great honor, since art books by Brazilian illustrators are quite rare. A documentary film directed by Eduardo & João Calvet was produced in 2010, and in 2012 an exhibit with 68 paintings featured his pulp art at the Murilo La Greca Museum in Parnamirin, Rio Grande do Norte, in Bra­zil’s Northeast.

No other Brazilian artist has ever left such a mark in popular culture. Benício is survived by four children.

Roberto Causo

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