Comic Book Curious

Is It Possible To Write Comics In Latin America?

September 1, 2021

Many comic book writers in Latin America must constantly ask questions of themselves. Pursuing your dreams of becoming a professional in this area of the world usually requires a lot of effort and dedication, but is it possible?

When it comes to superheroes and comics, obviously several great comic book publishers come to mind; DC comics, Marvel comics, Dark Horse, Vertigo, Image Comics, etc., but, for those of us in this part of the world, working with these large publishers is unlikely, that is why we have ventured to find alternatives for our dreams. Before I discuss that, a little history:

When was the comic born in Latin America?

It is incredible, but the comic was born in Latin America at the same time that it began to become a success in the United Kingdom; on this side of the map it also became a successful product, due to the appeal of fairly cheap entertainment that at the same time generated very good earnings, which caused the birth of comics within many Latin American countries. As was the case in Chile with its legendary comic, Federico Von Pilsener (1906) which tells the adventures of a robust German man named Fritz Von Pilsener and his pet, a dachshund Dudelsackpfeifergeselle.

A drawing of Federico Von Pilsener with his dog

This man is commissioned by the government of the German empire to travel to Chile in order to know and study the customs of its savage inhabitants. The cartoon’s story is centered around all the setbacks that Mr. Fritz has due to his problem in understanding the language, local customs, and vices. The strip was created by Lustig, pseudonym of Pedro Subercaseaux who is considered the first Chilean comic character.

In 1947, the famous “King of the lip” Memín Pinguín came from Mexico; one of the comics that had the most influence on its readers. In fact even today the terrifying consequences are still seen, since it was always a comic strip dedicated to addressing issues of international racist stereotypes around people of dark color in that Memín Pinguín and his mother are the only Afro-Mexican characters in the publication. The story was created during the segregation era in America.

The cover to an issue of Memin Pinguin

Credit: Yolanda Vargas Dulché

Yolanda Vargas Dulché (de la Parra) was the Mexican author of the comic and stood out at that time for her brilliant work and it can be said that it was her work shown in Memín Pinguín that led her to be called "Queen of the Comics”, a title that she still retains today. She wrote 60 stories, most of which appeared in the magazine Lágrimas, Risas y Amor, later being adapted for television and cinema.

A cartoon image of a turtle character, a popular character in Latin America

Credit: René Ríos Boettiger

Years later came the arrival of what was considered the most popular comic throughout Latin America, Condorito, published on August 6 in 1949, created by the cartoonist René Ríos Boettiger, Pepo. This comic managed to get out of the short stories in the newspapers to have its own individual format, which caused its popularity to spread throughout Latin America, today there are very few people who have not read, or at least heard of the title. This humorous comic gave us many smiles with the mishaps of the main character and was a great influence for all of Latin America. It is common to see aircraft in the sky, and even UFOs, with various messages hanging with recurring jokes from the Condorito comic.

In the 60s, little Mafalda arrived from Argentina, full of an innocent rebellion and with her fluffy hair, causing gray hairs for more than one adult. Here she leaves everyday comics aside a bit, focusing on stronger and more critical themes of Latino society. Developed by the graphic humorist Quino and published from 1964 to 1973, he managed to create one of the most transparent characters in the history of the comic. Mafalda lives in worry about the disasters and trivialities to which adults give so much weight. So much so that the legacy of this little girl is still valid today and all that rebellion that she always expressed, has become a necessity for everyone in these times.

A cartoon little girl shaking her fist

Credit: Quino

Life is beautiful, the trouble is that many confuse cute with easy.
- Mafalda
As always; As soon as you put your feet on the ground, the fun ends.
– Mafalda

The cover to an issue of Kaliman

Credit: Rafael Cutberto Navarro and Modesto Vázquez González

In the 1970s Latin comics were heavily influenced by all the action seen in American books. This gives birth to Kalimán, a superhero comic from Mexico featuring a character whose objective was to protect all his people. It began as a radio show and later made its way into the comics. Kalimán and his faithful companion Solín, descended from the pharaohs and are ready to fight danger. The book ran from 1963 to 1991.


A comic strip featuring the Yellow Kid

Credit: Richard F. Outcault

The Yellow Kid by Richard F. Outcault, was the title that gave life to the world of comics in Latin America. It started as a powerful strategy to increase newspaper sales, but later with the arrival of genres such as horror, comedy, and of course romance, motivated Latin countries to create their own comics.

Its beginnings were with black and white drawings, in newspapers and mostly paying homage to the American comic books. But little by little, great writers and artists began to emerge who built a legacy that continues to be remembered to this day. The industry began to grow among audiences of all ages, mainly due to its graphic narratives that showed daily social life, entertaining action, the humor that differed from each country where the comic was published and vivid adventures that created many great stories.

But ... Can you write comics nowadays?

Totally, thanks to the digital age and online courses, every day more independent authors are immersed in the incredible world of comics. While there are plenty of superheroes and powerful villains, comics have transcended and nowadays numerous novels, famous books, biographies of super rock stars, or simply political and social issues have been adapted into the medium. In short, to become a comic artist you just have to focus and be persistent.

Some references:

The University of Palermo, in Buenos Aires Argentina, has the Faculty of Design and Communication: Comics Design, which has given opportunities to many new artists. Right now it is possible to take 50% of the one year degree program online.

The exterior of the University Of Palermo

Palermo is # 1 in Design among Argentine Universities, top 100 in the world for the 7th consecutive year and ranked first among private universities in Latin America.

The power of contests:

For quite some time now, contests for comic and manga writers have been growing, becoming another route to achieve the success of being seen by large numbers of passionate comics fans. There is also great potential for economic benefit through prizes across the various genres and categories in competition

On the internet you can find several pages dedicated to the promotion of these aforementioned contests. Many of the organizers live in Spain, which is a country that supports Latin culture and talent not only in comic contests, but also in other branches of art.

What do I need to create a comic?

  • Have an idea, a story to tell.
  • Define what you want to do: is it only to create the story of the comic? Which is known as taking the silent images and giving it a voice through the texts. Creating dialogue for the drawings or if you have the talent and confidence to draw it yourself.
  • Choose an ideal title for your comic. As in most mediums, the title in comics is important, but it is best to keep it short.
  • Do not forget the "bubbles", each text must have one of them, with the beak pointing to whoever is speaking.
  • Color, it is extremely important that each character has their defined colors, because normally in comics these characters always wear the same color of clothes.
  • YOUR SIGNATURE! Remember to sign your comic, to protect copyright.
  • Say goodbye to negativity and limitations.

Whether you are from Latin America or elsewhere in the world, you must get rid of negativity, limitations and that fear of wanting to try it. If writing comics makes you happy, then dedicate yourself to doing it, and create the best comic stories you can.

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