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] With the Wind in Their



By Carles Santamaria*

Comics have crossed the threshold of the 21st century with overwhelming force. After decades of struggling to achieve cultural recognition, cartoons have made a definitive leap to our libraries’ shelves, where they have situated themselves in their own right. Spanish society has begun to change its traditional underestimation of comics as a sub-product of mass culture. The spectrum of comics may range from engaging fictional stories to splendid journalistic reports of the world’s situation, and disturbing works of exuberant plasticity. I can’t think of a better way to learn about the Holocaust than reading Art Spiegelman’s Maus. How else could we understand Iran’s situation after the arrival of Ayatollahs but by following Marjane Satrapi’s thrilling graphic narrative Persépolis? How else could we discover hermetic North Korea but by reading Pyongyang by Guy Delisle? How else could we enjoy the thrilling adventure of a mythical woman artist from the 20s and 30s but by reading Ángel de la Calle’s graphic novel Modotti? Is there any better way to enjoy fine arts than by looking at the albums Fuegos, El señor Spartaco or Cartas de una época remota by Lorenzo Mattotti? Who else but Miguelanxo Prado could implicate us in such wacky situations that, in the end, seem so familiar? How else could we understand the failure of the American Dream but by reading Clyde Fans by Seth? How exciting is the medieval imagery depicted by Luis Durán in his Atravesado por la flecha. How amazing is the vision of a world oppressed under the Fascist boot provided by Alan Moore and David Lloyd in V for Vendetta. How thrilling are the adventures of Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltés, not to mention the skillfulness evidenced in Totentanz, by Dino Battaglia, an author who was once described as the Albert Durer of comics, or the restrained passion in Jiro Taniguchi’s mangas. How

harsh and disquieting are Alberto Breccia’s graphics in Mort Cinder, and how remarkable is the superhero’s peaceful introspection in Superman For All Seasons, by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. The film industry has been adapting comics for years –and we are not referring only to the comic-book superheroes that flood the movie theaters every summer with special effects, rambling plots and sweetsmelling pop corn. Interesting productions made by directors such as David Cronenberg (A History of Violence), Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition), Robert Rodríguez and Frank Miller (Sin City) or the Wachowski brothers (V for Vendetta) have been adapted from the comic pages for the sake of an amazed audience and the blatant ignorance of most movie critics. Nevertheless, we must not forget the long-lived series so popular among many generations that have become a mass phenomenon, i.e., Astérix, XIII or Mortadelo y Filemón. These comics’ merchandising licenses generate bestselling products.

A Sequential Art Comics have a language of their own that enables them to have a clear personality, although they are evidently related to cinema, literature and painting. It was Will Eisner, one of the most interesting American authors and one of the brightest theorists on the subject of comics, who first described cartoons as a sequential art. “In its most basic definition,” Eisner explains, “comics deploy a series of repeated images and recognizable symbols. When these elements are used over and over again expressing similar ideas, they become a language, or rather, a literary form. And it is this disciplined application which creates the grammar of sequential art.”1 Romàn Gubern and Luis Gasca confirm “the rich complexity of comics’ semiotic system, which constitutes a DOSSIER · ARTECONTEXTO · 11

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