Saturday, September 28, 2013

Comics With a Message

I just recently found a comic blog that had the mission statement of choosing Comics that say Something.  Most of their contributions were mainly stolen from gems such as Calvin & Hobbes, Xkcd, Cyanide and Happiness, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, Zen Pencils, and Hyperbole and a Half, most of which were repeated fairly often.  But that's changed recently, much to the appeal of readers who feared the content was beginning to grow stale.  Since then, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

Some of my favorite comics include:

The public fear of getting heavily involved in world affairs, the appeal of Weird peopleMonsterous Discrepancies, how some people see people, and the intangible support of Internet Friends.  If there is a fault, its that sometimes, the reduced text is too small to see, and zooming in on a relevant page isn't as easy at first look, as evidenced in this "flipped" Manga about being alright..

Most of these comics go out of their way to say something, and help spread the word of other cartoonists worldwide.  But there's one particular Argentinian cartoonist who although is largely respected in European and foreign countries, remains as far removed as a household name over here.  I'm talking of course, about Quino.
A bit of idol worship here, but I'm hoping I'll be able to bridge a gap.
Quino is a man who lived his life through the rise and fall of numerous dictators, which can explain his worldview through his comics.  Some novelists relieve their tensions from unwanted leaders through describing Dystopian civilizations.  Quino's actually LIVED it, and can attest to the paradoxical nature of the appeal of dictatorship.  (Not that he's for such things, but can see why people would be drawn and rejected by the concept)

He started out doing stints in advertising for magazines and newspapers before being commissioned to create a comic that would have traits of Blondie and Peanuts, resulting in his most famous creation, Mafalda, which despite its similar setup of precocious children, is NOTHING like Peanuts.  At the height of his popularity, he decided to end his strip for personal reasons that continue to be reflected and speculated on, and returned to doing Political comics again in his imitable style.  In that regard, he's kind of like the Anti-Watterson.
One theory is that Quino didn't want Mafalda to grow up and become an ordinary girl.
But don't be fooled into thinking that Quino is limited to subjective humour that would only be appreciated if you were hip to the current events happening at the time.  His themes are universal, and covers topics such as property...

to authority...

to religion...

to security...

to appreciation of the arts...

and the occasional Dadaism.

So why isn't Quino better known over here?  This can be summed up with three theories:

1. As cartoony as his artwork is, his subject material is quite esoteric, and the humour isn't always consistent.  Likewise, the lettering which can loop and weave across the page requires more than just a simple photoshop job.

2. Abundance of space for single-panel comics, which while allowing the art to breath on its own, could be seen as wasting pages, and could be better put to use by placing numerous comics onto a single page. Likewise, many of his comics are done in pantomime, and even the ones that are heavily verbose can still be understood.
This seemingly simple concept took up the entire lower half of a page.
3. Use of nudity in his pages is a common setback, which has been problematic for other European comics not getting licensed, which is ironic, given that censorship is one of the many themes that he represents and conveys so well.

But probably the main reason is that his comic strip Mafalda has never been shown in any American newspapers, not even in reprints.  People aren't likely to pick up work from a reputed cartoonist without having had prior experience with it.

Dirk Deppey of Journalista! fame often expressed his admiration for Gordo, a Mexican newspaper comic
with interesting Sunday comic designs.  But even his outright promotion for the comic wasn't enough to guarantee annual collections of the favored cult strip.  Sure, there were collections of the old stuff, but they were rare and hard to find, and unless you made a conscious effort to find them, they would easily slip under your radar without ever noticing.  such is the same dilemma faced with Quino.

Mafalda collections were quietly released in 2004, and then never spoken of ever again.  Maybe the cross-promotional approach wasn't strong enough.  Maybe the audience appeal wasn't there.  Maybe Charles Schultz speaking out in favor of the cartoonist on his wiki wasn't enough.  (A stronger comparison would be Sergio Aragones)  One reason that's been brought up is that Mafalda was too Latin-American for an American public, which is ridiculous, given that the majority of audiences worldwide can relate to her, and other foreign works in other countries have made a home here as well.  Then again, Americans don't like Asterix and Tintin, so what do I know?
Another possibility is that the subjects Mafalda brings up tends to make people nervous.  (As they should)  My hope is that by showing some representative samples of the man's editorial work may spur interest on seeing more, and reignite interest where there was previously none.
Hasn't every child thought of this at least once?

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