4 Must-Read, World-Famous Latin Cartoons and Comic Books in Spanish
With the recent success of the Marvel cinematic universe, comic book popularity has shot up dramatically in the last few years. What used to be a niche interest now has a huge influence on mainstream media. What’s more, the art form of cartooning weaves itself into our daily lives through comic strips and editorial cartoons. In Latinoamérica, comic books in Spanish are a great way to pass the time, and we have a couple of internationally-recognized authors who have been supplying us with this art for a long time!
Reading comic books in Spanish familiarizes you with the language and introduces you to the essence of Latin American culture. The authors we’ll explore below write about the culture and lifestyle that define us, while showcasing how some of our humor works. If you want to your foreign language skills while reading and having fun, I recommend you check out these comic books in Spanish.
Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta, a.k.a El Santo, was a professional Mexican Luchador (wrestler) and actor that was well-known all across México. His popularity was so widespread that it managed to reach many other Latin American countries. He rose to popularity as a Luchador by winning match after match through quick reflexes and a quicker mind.
A humble textile factory worker, Rodolfo started training with his brothers at an early age. His trainer put together a team of silver-clad fighters and invited him to join, offering three possible Luchador names: El Ángel, El Diablo, y El Santo (The Angel, The Devil, and The Saint). Out of those three Rodolfo chose to be called El Santo.
His Rise to Fame
El Santo became a cultural icon with the release of the comic series “Santo, El Enmascarado de Plata.” In this comic series, El Santo fought vampires, werewolves, mummies, and all sorts of creepy monsters! His comic series became so famous that it spawned several other Mexican comic book heroes such as Huracán Ramírez and Black Shadow. If you think about it, El Santo was a real life superhero, who then became a work of fiction! Pretty cool right?!
The End of His Career
In Mexican wrestling, two kinds of fighters exist: máscara y cabellera. When a fighter loses, the other contender can attempt to remove the loser’s mask (máscara) or cut their hair (cabellera). Both of these outcomes—the ultimate sign of defeat—are a great source of shame for any Luchador. This gives Mexican wrestling a touch of excitement whenever one fighter tries to dishonor the other by removing their chosen feature. If you lose either of these symbols of honor, the rules say you can never fight again!
El Santo retired without ever losing his mask, giving rise to a legend that said he would never take it off.
If you told me there’s a politically charged Argentinian cartoon about a girl who is not afraid to speak her mind, doesn’t understand adults, and also hates soup, I’d call you crazy. And it’s the crazy genius of the writer, Quino, who made that premise a reality.
Mafalda started as an ad campaign for an appliance company when a job required Quino to create a comic strip that represented a typical middle class family. He was tasked with only two conditions: that the characters must appear using the company’s appliances, and the main character’s name has to start with the letter “M.”
Quino’s inspiration came from two American comic strips, Peanuts and Blondie, which is notable in Mafalda’s character. After creating her, he submitted the comic strip to a local newspaper, which promptly rejected it for doubling as an advertisement. Quino’s friend who initially got him the job at the appliance company then decided to publish the first three strips in his own magazine.
The Comic’s Development
After those first publishings, Mafalda’s comic strip gained popularity through relatable situations and charming characters that remind us to never underestimate a child’s intelligence. It became so famous that in most places in Latin America, if you say “I’m like Mafalda,” it most likely means you hate soup! That, and her love for The Beatles, are two of the many traits that made her the icon she is today. She even has her own statue on Paseo de la Historieta (Comic Book Avenue) in Buenos Aires.
Macanudo by Ricardo Liniers
Liniers is a modern comic artist who published his strip, Macanudo. His minimalist storytelling style flows between feelings of humor and nostalgia. Despite a consistent overlap, he focuses more on the emotional aspects of life rather than the social. His quirky drawings and stretchy characters inhabit a surreal world of introspection. The often sparse dialogue in his strips is perfect for Spanish beginners to practice, so I recommend reading a couple of these!
The word Macanudo is Argentinian slang for “something amazing.” The main character of the comic is Enriqueta, an introverted girl with a big mind and a love for books. In one of his strips, Enriqueta explains how Mafalda was the first book she ever owned! Lots of readers actually compare the two, saying Enriqueta is a modern version of Mafalda. The author wasn’t too excited about this comparison and stated that if he had known his reader would compare them, he would’ve made Enriqueta a boy instead. The comic started 18 years ago and after ten books it’s still going strong!
A Bizarre World
The comic strip takes place through “sketches” of different characters in different situations. You’ll see yo-yo throwing elves who cause mischief and leave candies under the pillows of good politicians. Additional characters include cats, monsters, robots, and a mysterious man dressed in black. They all portray different aspects of our daily lives, giving the comic a lighthearted existential tone.
Condorito is a Spanish comic about an irreverent bird who’s (almost) always one step ahead of authorities, enemies, and even friends. His quick wit and lack of shame make for an interesting character better suited for teenagers and adults.
I remember every time I went to the supermarket with my mom as a kid, I’d take a Condorito magazine and read it while she bought veggies, then put it back when we went to the cash register. Maybe some of Condorito’s mischief rubbed off on me!
Condorito is a Chilean comic strip that started in 1949 as a response to the poor depiction of Chile in Disney’s South American-focused film “Saludos Amigos.” When you put his character into the context of a response to a mischaracterization from a first world country, it makes sense for him to be a rebellious icon with little regard for any and all kinds of authority.
Condorito derives from the word Cóndor, which is Chile’s national bird. Spanning several issues and around ten books, this comic is in hair salons, supermarkets, and comic book stores all across Latinoamérica.
Two Famous Catchphrases
Most of Condorito’s punchlines end one of two ways: with a ¡PLOP! or Exijo una explicación!
¡PLOP! is an onomatopoeic (sound) representation of a character falling to the ground in response to another character’s remarks. Think of it as the 1960’s version of a facepalm. The other catchphrase, ¡Exijo una explicación! means “I demand an explanation!” and was a result of things not going the way Condorito or his friends expected them to.
At first glance, Gaturro looks a lot like a famous lasagna-loving cat you may know (of course you remember Garfield). But don’t be fooled! Gaturro is an energetic, distracted, hopeless romantic. His cat-like personality is evident, since he acts differently depending on whom he’s with. Gaturro spends his days hanging out by the roof or going to school. He’s also constantly trying to get the attention of Agatha, a pretty cat he’s in love with, but she seldom pays attention to him.
Since it’s first date of publishing in 1993, Gaturro has put out an astounding amount of media over the years. It has over 30 issues, several graphic novels, a feature film, and even middle school textbooks! Much like The Minions, Gaturro merchandise was everywhere for a while. You could find him in gift cards, balloons, calendars, pencil cases… the list goes on. It seems that he is more of a marketing campaign than a comic!
Gaturro’s author, Cristian Dzwonik, has been at the center of several plagiarism accusations. In fact, angry fans began compiling a “black book” of his alleged plagiarized strips. The controversy caused some publications and news outlets to ban Cristian from their networks. Is it possible that after publishing such a high quantity of content, overlap with other franchises is natural? Some believe that the similarities between Gaturro and other comics are a mere coincidence. I encourage you to read the black book and decide for yourself!
Latin American Creativity
I hope you have a fun time reading through these comic books in Spanish! It’s nice to think how these characters were part of so many childhoods, and their overwhelmingly positive messages and reception can teach you a lot about different aspects of Latin American culture. If you want to know more about our culture, what better way than to read a couple of strips every now and then? You’ll also get a good laugh in the process! Another way to connect with us and learn about our culture is to sign up for a free Spanish class with a native Spanish-speaking teacher. We look forward to bringing your Spanish lessons to life!
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