A PANORAMA OF BRAZILIAN CCONTEMPORARY COMICS AND COMIX
FLÁVIO MÁRIO DE ALCÂNTARA CALAZANS
PhD from University of Sao Paulo , founder and chairman of the workgroup on comix of the Brazilian Congress of Communication Sciences- INTERCOM, designer of comics-grafic novels.
A brief description of the comics production made in Brazil, which were classified in four groups:
Demonstrate the emergence of an kind of author-researcher which commes from underground comix to the media and to the university.
COMICS, COMIX, BRAZILIAN ARTS, BRAZILIAN MEDIOLOGY.
1. - INTRODUCTION
It objectifies to accomplish a panoramic appraisal of the comics (Cs) production on the spatial circumscription of Brazilian territory and with the chronological delimitation of 90 decade.
This exploratory research will apply the methodology derived from Anthropology, Participant Observation, in which the author is involved and experiences the object as a graphic designer and scripter, added to academic experience of founder and chairman of the comics researches workgroup of the Brazilian Congress of Communication Sciences.
Such study is justified because comics are a kind of expression in which plastic manifestation of arts and literary of the script and dramaturgy, including the cinematographic language resources, pointing out as a cultural production of Brazilian nation and, like this, integral part of the lusophonic universe.
2.- THE PRODUCTION OF COMICS CULTURAL PATRIMONY IN BRAZIL
Comics are presented as a cultural manifestation of a people like the popular folk parties, the dramaturgy, cinema, literature and plastic arts, and so, they can and should be considered as cultural property, part of an artistic patrimony of a nation.
Being a production of conventional signs whose characteristics demand specificity, their study claim for interdisciplinary approaching, because like cinema; they are present as art and industry, media that is object of theories like Semiotics or Midiology and Cultural Anthropology as well, or even while editorial marketable product.
As the some way that in cinematagraphic industry, in CB it can also been realized an author style whose personality gives to his work his own world view, personal message and esthetical subtleness, phenomenon against the large anonym commercial production that aims the fast profit and contributes to the alienation of masses of consumers.
Thanks to this peculiarity it can be found in the Hollywood cinema directors from cartoons that impress a personal style on their works, like Terry Gillian and Tim Burton; the same may be noticed in the comics industry with authors like Frank Miller and Alan Moore, that were preceded by Comix of Contraculture of Robert Crumb and his freedom of expression (facing the famous Comics Code, the ethic code derived from Frederic Wertham's work ''The seduction of the innocent'' that blamed the Comics of encouraging criminality and young deliguency).
A different historical condition makes to arise in Europe a comics of author or of art targeting on a more demanding consumer and of a higher cultural level like the album ''Saga the Xam'' or the work of authors like Druillet, Caza, Moebius, Crepax, Manara, Bourgeon and others.
However, in Brazil the first drawn narratives in sequence with dialogues are published in periodicals with political finality and targeting the adult reader. One of the oldest historic registers is the date of January 30th considered as ''Dia do Quadrinho Nacional'' when it is delivered the prize Ângelo Agostini to the best authors and magazines, this because, in 1869, on the pages of Vida Fluminense Magazine, in Rio de Janeiro city, Ângelo Agostini begins to publish his permanent character of a one page comics, Zé Caipora, a common farmer who visits the Emperor court, followed by other ones as Nhô Quim.
Marked by the politic charge it arises authors whose work is distinguished by the habits critic and regionalism or even an accentuated regionalism being a historical register the following authors were true chroniclers of their epoch: J. Carlos in Rio and his ''Melindrosas''or Belmonte in S. Paulo criticizing Hitler until Henfil denunciating the military dictatorship with his already classic comics , the ''Fradins'', being these less dated and reaching a more atemporal dimension.
This predominance of the adult and politicized aspect doesn't restrict the arising of childish work like the trio ''Reco-reco, Bolão e Azeitona'' of Luiz Sá in the childish magazine ''O Tico- Tico'', by the years 1905-1907.
Until then, the production is markedly authorial and personal it is when in begins to appear a Comics industry and from now on it can realized the arising of patterns which can grouped in four categories: 1-Commercial childish, 2-Regionalist-Humour, 3-Exportation, 4-Authorial.
2.1 - COMMERCIAL CHILDISH
It was during the military dictatorship, in the end of the sixties, that the childish comic strips of Maurício de Souza began to arise in São Paulo. He just produced cartoons with his characters for the publicity of canned tomatoes sauce, and these television advertisements brought notoriety and success to ''Turma da Mônica'' comic books that overcome even the Disney work in selling, a current phenomenon until the nineties in the Brazilian market.
These strips and magazines are distinguished by the absence of Brazilian symbols, scenaries or thematics, the characters have a plane profile, they aren't stereotypes, and the common themes of the scripts guarantee a large number off all age readers who read the magazines on the buses, on trains and in the squares in order to pass time and to have fun and their laughs show that Mauricio's staff is right and knows very well the emotional and intellectual level of this readers.
The profit in merchandising of toys, games, childish hygienic products and all kinds of publicity maintains the profits and help the strip comics exportation to several countries.
Do justice to Maurício, he contributes to the comics art with a well authorial work, the vegetarian tyrannosaurus ''Horácio'', drawn just by Maurício, never by his staff, exported to Japan in the shape of colorful pages, reveals the ecological and existential worries of the author, inspired in a History teacher who influenced him a lot in his childhood.
Symptomatically, Maurício doesn't rent Horácio's image for publicity purposes. Horácio has been an object of university researches and master's degree dissertation; with an unquestionable quality and titles whose letters and colors insinuate subliminally the argument of the episode, and it isn't a surprise that Horácio is the one of the least popular Maurício's characters; it's a work that is high above of the repertory and thematics of his reader; it's laudable his persistence in putting Horácio in the magazines and newspapers, passing through it his personal message of ecological sensibility and sad existential solitude.
At the same time, the Abril publishing house, owner of a huge graphic park, acquires the rights of cartoons production, television series or popular sportsmen and produces commercial comics aiming the childish consumer or the one who is narrow minded, has low expectation or has no quality demand, done by anonymous staffs. Magazines in short shape arise this way and cheap, with astronomic printing never exactly revealed, but it is said to be 200 thousands copies. They are titles like He-Man, Xuxa, Os Trapalhões, Seninha, etc.
All of this production oscillates according to the audience ( or sportsmen's success) and has the unpretentious aim of temporary entertainment, having the titles a very short life.
It can't be also omitted the existence of an incommensurable market of pornographical comics which gives job to hundreds of graphic designers working under the pseudonym in dozens of titles with no quality or periodicity and with a irregular distribution, without the name or address of the publishing house.
2.2 - REGIONALIS-HUMOUR
Continuing the local cartoon tradition, in 1972 the underground magazine ''Balão'' arises at the University of São Paulo (USP), with comics talking about problems like to take a ride and other students' tribulations ( it is considered by many people as the first universitarian fanzine).
It's the dictatorship period and the subversive cartoons are fashionable.
The young cartoon makers form the Paulistana Humour School present in the daylies until the nineties, showing problems of the big São Paulo, megalopolis with 17 million of inhabitants, in a humor that is markedly regionalist.
The authors show buildings and public squares monuments (Luis Gê) or one of the rivers that crossed the districts, the Tietê river, with the series ''Piratas do Tietê'' (Laerte) or the bars' night fauna in a design that is proud of Crumb's influence, the Rebordosa (Angeli) all of Balão magazine.
The Paulistana Humour School has the aim of describing São Paulo city and its inhabitants in a good mood way, however without the politic contents of the beginning as cartoons makers.
It can be realized that they preferred a style more ''cartoon'' than ''charge'' with a mood also with no engagement and light, easy, assuming an entertainment role whose appeal is to have the city scenaries to its inhabitants , who are fascinated identifying the shown places or the pictorial news, like an alligator found in Tietê river ( one of main river in São Paulo, crossing almost the whole city), that brought about several comic strips and became a permanent character of the series.
There are no direct critiques to administrative problems or clear politician caricature, everything is general and disengaged, and if an author like Laerte in Balão magazine talked about the problems of talking a ride to go to school, today talks about problems with the doorman, lifts, garbage and neighbors in the series of comic strips about the building in which he lives, called ''Condomínio''.
There are also regional initiatives in other cities and states, however they don't reach a printing above 10 thousand copies and don't have distribution.
The Paulistana Humour School takes advantage of its heavily populated city and with an industrial park which attracts migrants of all over the country in order to print magazines with the same characters of the strips. Proud of their city, these authors despise the initiative of independent publishing in other regions, calling them in a pejorative way as ''fanzines'' giving to the term the sense of poor amateurish , bad printed and ugly, made by adolescents.
These authors are the most known names of the brazilian comics, after Maurício de Souza. The only option to the reader whose equality demand and complexity are above the Maurício de Souza childish strips is to read these newspaper comic strips and the magazines without periodicity which reprint them sporadically.
This is the basic table of options of the common reader in Brazil. Nevertheless, the nineties brought an innovation, the ''exportation designers''.
2.3 - EXPORTATION
Brazil is distinguished by the importation of newspaper comic strips ( and has Maurício de Souza the merit of having created his own distributor and broken the north American monopoly) as well the super-heroes magazines for pre adolescents of male sex, with cuts in the text and art to adapt them to the ''little shape'' of lower expense.
Occasionally, some authors get success abroad, who're going to be approached in the next category, because their work are authorial; it should be observed a phenomenon of this decade in particular.
A generation of brazilian designers learnt to draw imitating Batman and Captain America.
A local agency (Art Comics) manage to bring scripts to be drawn here, however it did this in order to the designer just imitates the designer style whose work was fashionable in the publishing house.
These designers go through the ''experience'' in having their latin names adulterated in order to the few readers that would read them don't feel offended in seeing ''cucarachas'' draws and so some brazilians have the opportunity of having their draws Spublished in Brazil, hidden under pseudonym and unrealized, with neither incentive nor distinction in the super heroes comic books of Abril publishing house. So, Deodato Borges Filho becomes a Mike Deodato, Benedito Nascimento in Joe Bennet, Rogerio Cruz in Roger Cruz and other ones, in a kind of procedure that deceives the north american reader who sees only familiar names and doesn't know that the material was drawn in Brazil...
Following severely the scripts with no space to develop an own style they receive instructions to copy this or that american designer, changing the style-model according to the editor's necessity in a commercial comics.
According to Wizard magazine, number 6, of january of 1997, page 27, these ones have a sad role in the comics industry. A note that is worth to be transcripted of the section the ten biggest deceptions of 1996:
''Brazilian designers aren't steps...what we saw was a succession of able brazilian artists covering american designer's vacations or serving as steps in possible time problems of publishing houses in U.S.A . This situation needs to be inverted and quickly! Or our graphic designers will be known just as workforce''.
These americanized designers contribute a little for comics originally brazilian.
This is the exportation comics which is reason of pride of brazilian in the nineties...
2.4 - AUTHORIAL
It's necessary reaffirm that brazilian comics presents authorials characteristics since its beginning in 1869, a production in series a commercial form quite recent in historic terms, a way of industrial production that goes back to the sixties-seventies of military dictatorship, set up in the eighties and the designers ambitions in exporting their work in the patterns described earlier can be considered one of its consequences.
The cultural production like musical, literary, folk manifestations or Comics arises as unconscious and free manifestation even in adverse places, due to psychological pulsations that will not be analyzed here; however, this human necessity of expressing is a constant whose result is the cultural patrimony of each people.
A factor that itself is a proof of the authorials characteristics of brazilian comics is the international recognition of several authors, and an occasional sample shows this recent history:
. Jô de Oliveira : Adapts the graphic language of the xylographs that illustrate the northeastern ''cordel'' literature popular books, and 1973 publishes at Linus magazine (Italy) ''cangaceiros'' and folk sagas that involve the already mythical ''Lampião'' receiving several awards and being published in album in Brazil.
. Sergio Macedo : was born in Minas Gerais, migrates to São Caetano do Sul (big São Paulo) in 1970. Yet in 1972 publishes by Grilo Magazine his album ''Karma de Gaargot'' to in 1971 emigrates to França where publishes in magazine like Metal Hulant e Linus, after in the American Heavy Metal, seldom published in Brazil, develops a personal view of the indian mysticism that mixtures with science fiction in a personalized live colors style in aerograph.
. Cybthia e Ofeliano : from Rio de Janeiro, publish the adventure series ''Leão Negro'' in comic strips in ''Jornal do Brasil'' and in 1990 in colored album by Meribérica Publishing House of Portugal, and in 1996 are published in Brazilian Heavy Metal.
European design elements are mixed harmoniously with resources of japonese Mangá and of the Role Playing Games.
In 1990 the belgian agency ''Commu'' recruits designers of several states to publish albums in Europe about ''paulistas bandeirantes'' who crosses the line of Tordesilhas Treaty, indian legends, sexual adventures in Carnival, futuristic fantasies about Rio de Janeiro and Amazon Forest, etc. Consecrated authors in explicit Sex comic books in the industrial park of Rio de Janeiro are edited in personal and authorial albums as :
. Watson Portela, Júlio Brás, Mozar Couto, Flávio Colin, and the master of terror style, Júlio Shimamoto; and to this list other ones are added, like the authors of regional comics of Maturi magazine, who affirm to get a printing of 10 thousand copies and to have more than 10 years of experience (though the ''paulistana humour school'' members nicknamed this regional resistence movement as ''fanzine'') as:
. Márcio José, Adrovando Claro de Oliveira and others, besides Deodato Borges Filho (Paraíba) Cesar Lobo (Rio de Janeiro, Rodval Matias (São Paulo), and many others.
. Antonio Amaral, from Piauí, publishes the album Hipocampo (with the support of Onix Jeans and Cultural Foundation of Piauí) in 1994. Like ''Henfil'', his design is economic and fast, creating a esthetic pattern of unique abstraction, breaking with the plastic tradition figurative and realistic of the comics, his text utilizes the scientific terminology of physics, medicine, arts and literature that too skillfully mixes with indian folklore (jabutí, jacaré) local fauna and flora, social critique and visual and verbal poetry creating an authorial and personal universe which is an odd fact in the brazilian comics history, an exemplary vanguard work (As I affirm in the preface I did for this album), Amaral made the design that opens the Brazilian Heavy Metal compilation.
. Ivan Carlo de Oliveira, under the pseudonym Gian Danton, publishes by Fantagraph publishing house from USA, scripts designed by Benedito Nascimento (who today signs Joe Bennet) in 1995. He is one of the representatives of the new trend coming out in the author comics in Brazil, combining his practice as a consecrated artist and being recognized abroad with a universitarian reflection that reaches a master degree thesis, articles in Congresses. Ivan had a published script in the Brazilian Heavy Metal Album in 1996.
The called ''fanzines'' are presented today as the unique space used as a vehicle for the constant authorial comics, thanks to the continued efforts of its authors spread by the huge territory of Brazil, being contacted through letters, e-mails, and telephone calls hardly ever knowing each other, maintaining a hidden production chain that shows a resistence movement which gives distribution to this production (ignored by publishing houses till now, that don't have the military dictatorship anymore with censure and torture to justify its ausence of incentive or investiment). The growing number of authors with accumulated experiences resulted in a real spontaneous underground movement- but organized-of production and resistence, distributed by mail and documented by the informative news IQI (Informativo de Quadrinhos Independentes) by Edgard Guimarães.
In the ''fanzines'' movement there are initiatives whose persistence became symbolic as a national cultural resistence like the super-heroine Velta of Emir Ribeiro (Paraíba) or the magazine that I publish since 1979 in Santos,shore of São Paulo, ''Barata'', mentioned in the book ''O que é fanzine'', de Henrique Magalhães (pages 27 and 59) and in the Almanaque de Fanzines (pages 39,55 and 67).
Several ''fanzine'' authors also publish professionally, many in publishing houses of pornographic comics that sometimes risk an authorial album, being some examples in São Paulo
. Laudo Ferreira Júnior, publishes in several ''fanzines'' and in 1987 edits an independent album Balada para o Futuro, followed by other, Hugo Terrara. He publishes professionally erotic comics and in 1995 adapts the film ''À meia-noite levarei sua alma'' by ''Coffin Joe'' (Zé do Caixão) to the comics. This album sells 60 thousand copies in fifteen days, having its second printing more than 60 thousand also out of print.
''Zé do Caixão'' (José Mojica Marins) begins to write exclusive scripts for Laudo. The first one is published in the Brazilian Heavy Metal compilation in 1996 and a Laudo's coloured comics starts to be edited in erotic magazine HQ Brazil and other ones coloured by Zé do Caixão in the magazine Horror Show in 1997. Laudo receives critique awards and has his work recognized next to the success of the television programs presented by ''Zé do Caixão'', adored by fan clubs in USA.
. Lourenço Mutarelli Júnior, from the underground comics , publishes several albums as : ''Transubstanciação''(1991), ''Desgraçados'' (1993) , ''Eu te amo Lucimar''(1994), ''Confluência da forquilha''(1997) and participates of the album Brazilian Heavy Metal (1996). Lourenço argues to suffer from mental illness, the Panic Syndrome(a common neurological disturb in big cities like São Paulo with about 17 million people). Some affirm to be a marketing stroke that assures him the media covering with the curiosity of being therapy art, even dedicating his album to the medicines taken like Lorax and Prozac (which gives him the status of Prozac Art).
Other artists from ''fanzines'' also get the recognition of their works'quality and are dedicated to the universitarian research about comics, as well, Edgar Franco, from Minas Gerais, architect, post graduated in Arts by UNICAMP, whose work is to create a language of the comics poetry and has been presenting his researches about ''fanzines''in many congresses, joining the authorial practice to the theorical reflection .
He also published in Brazilian Heavy Metal.
Gazy Andraus, from São Vicente (SP) but borned in Minas Gerais, attending Master degree in Arts in UNESP accomplishes an authorial comics as a purpose similar to the comics party . He presents his researches at the Work Group and in other Congresses, also present in Brazilian Heavy Metal having contacts with Middle East authors.
All of them are occasional examples of authors who theorize about the structure and signs of the comics from an authorial living perspective and as a researcher and critic.
Personally, I can't permit myself to omit my reflection based on a very similar experimentation, a spontaneous Participant Observation of this historical times and its processes.
I edit vanguard comics of several authors besides my own in a cooperative system in the fanzine magazine ''Barata'' since 1979..
After having organized The First Exposition of Comics in Santos (SP) in 1985, I was elected executive director of ''Associação dos Quadrinhistas e Caricaturistas de São Paulo'' in 1986, where I wrote the ''Cartilha de Direito Autoral da HQ''. I was member of the jury of the ''I Bienal de Quadrinhos do Rio de Janeiro'' (1991), I published about 200 fanzines, besides the independent publication of alternative albums: ''Guerra das Idéias'' (1987), ''Guerra dos Golfinhos'' (1991) also publicated in chapters in the Magazine ''Porrada Special'' and the Grafic Novel ''Absurdo'' (under hypnosis in 1992). I participate of the Brazilian Heavy Metal compilation (1996) and I'm the founder and Chairman of the workgroup on comics of the Brazilian Congress of Communication Sciences since 1995.
I have observed this picture of brazilian comics and I feel this growing tendency of authors who start adolescents in fanzines and after being universitarians (artists, journalists, architects, cinematrographes, publicitaries, etc.) begin to theorize and to reflect about the comics object with an advantage over the anterior generations only academics, because they add to their argument the practical living in production, in fanzines, magazines or albuns in Brazil and abroad.
3 - FINAL CONSIDERATIONS
It can be realized that this essay doesn't intend to be an exhausting description but a brief panorama of the nineties and of the historical situation of which is consequence, the brazilian problematic and the peculiarity that authors developed in order to origin the cultural production that are the comics.
The Comics suffer from the same problem as literature, both impressed in paper support, fighting to survive in a country that has a continental territorial dimension with an analphabetism problem doesn't assumed by authorities, high demographic density of industrial park of Rio de Janeiro - São Paulo, mass migration with a cultural, rural-urban, etc.
This semi-alphabetized and sub employed population listen to the radio, watch television, don't buy comics when they can buy food instead, and the publishing houses were used to having less disadvantages with the dictatorship's censure publishing american material, what created a culture of rejection to the local production that was added to the colonial provincial spirit of valuing what is foreign, being laudable Maurício de Souza phenomenon, who is an exception to confirm the rule.
Municipal authors whose space for publishing is more and more reduced take advantage of the newspaper's cartoons and charges in order to make public a local provincial strip like the Paulistana Humour School other ones accept to design super heroes covering american vacation or designing commercial comics based on sportists or T.V. programs, or even exposing themselves as a morbid curiosity to the midia labeling their work as art-therapy (Prozacart) drawing explicit Sex.
However, hundreds of fanzines act like a cultural resitence in an alternative movement that even have distributers acting by mail and from this universe arise authors with an authentical authorial work, being many of them universitarians who attend the post-graduation and participate of Congresses, accomplishing when they sum up the theory to the practice.
From all the universe of brazilian comics about 70 professional authors and fanzine's participate of the Brazilian Heavy Metal compilation, giving a brazilian production panorama of the late nineties.
Future researches could better detailed this brazilian comics horizon, identifying the authorial style patterns and the international influence nets of these ones and of other authors.
4 - BIBLIOGRAPHY
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