[This is a cross-regional post on comic books and cultural interchange, in two parts, brought to you by GV Latin America and GV Portuguese.]
Volume I: Invisible stories
What lies beneath the greater interest within the Brazilian comicdom for comic books written in Spanish? While the country is surrounded by Spanish speaking neighbors, it is strange that their artwork goes largely unknown in Brazil.
The Brazilian market in the 1980-1990s looked quite different. Foreign material in the local language, other than US comics, used to be available through magazines such as Animal and Heavy Metal. There were not many specialized stores outside of major cities then. Monica's Gang, a famous comic strip turned into comic series did great among children and is republished in various languages now, including one in Spanish – Monica y su pandilla [es].
A few underground national comics in Portuguese were easier to find at that time, and names like Angeli, Glauco and Laerte [pt] come to mind. Funny enough, at some point they worked on a comic strip called Los 3 Amigos, in which they adopted Portuñol as the main language.
Currently, the comics market in Brazil has gained scale in terms of variety. Online strips fostered a whole new scenario for artists like Andre Dahmer, the creator of Malvados [pt].
Emerging markets, yet invisible to one another
Shaken by major changes in the comicdom, brought on by the internet and greater access to content from all over the world, Brazil is also experiencing a moment of greater exchange from a variety of cultures.
The reasons why Latin American cultural products, in this case, comic books, are not known in Brazil is not a new concern. Such questions have been asked before by people like artist Gabriel Bá, in a blog post in 2010 [pt]:
Qual será o problema do Brasil com o resto da América Latina? Será que é a língua? Por que só queremos saber dos Quadrinhos Norte Americanos, Europeus e Japoneses? Porque nos encanta tanto as culturas mais distantes, enquanto há tanto a ser descoberto logo aqui ao lado? Será que é só com a gente, ou do outro lado acontece a mesma coisa?
What is the problem with Brazil when it comes to Latin America? Is it the language? Why do we only want to hear about comic books that come from North America, Europe or Japan? Why are we so amazed by so distant cultures while there is so much to be uncovered right by our side? Is it just us, or does it go both ways?
And Paulo Floro, in a 2011 post for O Grito [pt], a pop culture site wrote:
[Danilo] Beyruth, um dos quadrinhistas presentes na Fierro [es, mas o comentário refere-se à edição brasileira], esteve na Argentina recentemente. “Achei curioso eles terem um mercado de quadrinhos tão rico e tão desconhecido da gente. Um é completamente invisível do outro”. O oposto também acontece. “Eles não conhecem Laerte, Henfil, do mesmo modo que não conhecemos os autores deles”.
Quino and Maitena enjoyed some success in Brazil, but what about other authors?
Danilo Beyruth, one of the [Brazilian] artists published in the Fierro magazine [es, though the comment refers to the Brazilian edition], has been to Argentina recently. [He said:] “I found it curious that they have such a rich comic book market and yet it remains unknown to us. Completely invisible to one another”. The opposite also occurs. “They don´t know artists like Laerte, Henfil, the same way we don´t know their authors”.
Garota Sequencial [pt], blogger and comic book editor, is also intrigued by the awkward feeling of knowing so little about Brazil's neighbours: “the richness of Latin America's comic book materials are barely known in Brazil”. She comments:
(…) são raros os casos de quadrinistas argentinos que chegam ao Brasil – e também de outros países do continente.
(…) comic books produced by artists from Argentina seldom get to the Brazilian market – and it also takes place with other countries within the continent.
And adds a mea culpa:
Se há algo pelo qual me recrimino é o total desconhecimento sobre a produção quadrinística dos outros países da América Latina.
If there is one thing I blame myself for is my total unawareness of comic books from other Latin American countries.
To Garota Sequencial, the unawareness issue goes both ways:
E isso é meio que recíproco: na entrevista que linkei (…), Liniers diz que Angeli é quase desconhecido na Argentina – O ANGELI!
This is reciprocal: I've put a link to an interview [pt] (…) in which Liniers states that Angeli is almost unknown in Argentina – THE ANGELI!
There are two great business factors that create trouble for indie publishers: “a bad distribution chain for sales and high end prices for customers”. As an ending, she adds:
Agora que as fronteiras não são mais tão impossíveis de serem atravessadas, considero importante que voltemos os olhos para o que ainda não conseguimos enxergar, seja por leniência (no meu caso) ou simples inadvertência.
Now that frontiers are not so impossible to be crossed anymore, I deem it important for us to focus on what we still cannot see, either for being lenient (which is my case) or simply because it went on inadvertently.
As stated by Gabriel Bá in a review [pt] of the year 2012:
O bom trabalho precisa de tempo pra amadurecer, o autor precisa de tempo pra ter o que falar. Não precisa ter pressa. O mundo não vai acabar.
Good work needs time to mature, the artist needs time to have a say. No need to rush. The world is not going to end.
Indeed. And maybe even readers, as audiences, need some time to mature. Maybe we are finally figuring it out.Follow us to the next post, when we´ll meet some Latin American artists and some of the bridges between their worlds. In the meantime, acknowledging that an exhaustive list is an unfeasible task, we would rather ask for your helping hand – what Latin American comic books do you recommend?