Spanish comic strip artist Francisco Ibanez dies aged 87

MADRID (Reuters) - Francisco Ibanez, Spain's best-known comic artist of the late 20th century and who was famous for the children's strip "Mortadelo and Filemon", has died, his publisher said on Saturday. He was 87.

"It is with great sadness that Penguin Random House Group Editorial announces that this morning the great cartoonist Francisco Ibanez has died in Barcelona," the publisher said in a statement.

Ibanez grew up in Barcelona where he started drawing on the corner of his father's newspaper, having found no other paper to work on at his family home.

In 1943, at the age of seven, he was paid five pesetas for his first cartoon in the comic Chicos, but on the advice of his father he studied accounting and worked for a bank after leaving college.

Much to his father's annoyance he quit the bank to work in comics and in 1958 "Mortadelo and Filemon", featuring two secret agents who work for the TIA, a parody of the CIA, was born.

The strip became hugely successful and the characters were used for animated cartoons and films, and have been translated into nine languages, the publisher said.

"We bid farewell to the most important figure in Spanish comics," Penguin tweeted. "He leaves us the enormous legacy of his lucidity, sense of humour and more than 50,000 pages with memorable characters that have made a large number of readers happy."

Ibanez was also known for 13 rue del percebe, a satirical comic about neighbours in a block of flats.

Arturo Perez-Reverte, a Spanish writer best-known for his Alatriste novels, tweeted: "With the death of Ibanez, almost all of us who were children in Spain are in mourning."

Married to Remedios Solera, the couple had two daughters. When they were children, they liked to read comic strips by Ibanez's rivals.

(Reporting by Graham Keeley; Editing by David Holmes)