Back to Baldo

Posted by on April 7th, 2010 at 7:22 PM

Last week, we noticed, all of us gathered here before the glowing computer screen, that suddenly, unaccountably, the drawing in Baldo was more realistic than usual. And so we asked, as is our wont (one of our wonts), what’s going on here?

Nothing profound, maybe; maybe just something ordinarily human. Here’s the rest of that week (click to enlarge):

Baldo’s great aunt Carmen lives with the teenager and his widowed father, Sergio, and it seems Carmen has a little flirting thing going on with Gregorio, a factotum at the local supermarket. And by the end of the week, Gregorio has asked Carmen out on a date. The spasm of realistic rendering was deployed, I’m guessing, to signal that something a little more serious than the usual teenage hilarities was transpiring. It’s happened before.

The strip is chiefly a humor strip with daily stand-alone gags, but it often shifts to continuities, sometimes to publicize issues in Latino communities. Once Baldo’s father was diagnosed with diabetes, an ailment more common among Latinos than among other races or ethnicities; the strip reminded Latino readers to get tested. Lottery scams and immigration have been featured, too—and drunken driving. Baldo’s mother was killed when her minivan was run into by a drunken driver. It happened before the debut of the strip. She appeared briefly only in a framed photograph, drawn realistically for the occasion.

My guess is that Carlos Castellanos draws more realistically to signal that something out-of-the-ordinary antics is about to ensue. Castellanos freelances to magazines and book publishers and ad agencies in addition to drawing Baldo. You can see his work at CarlosCastellanos.com. During a recent interview at david-wasting-paper.blogspot.com, Castellanos said he grew up reading Mad and Marvel comics. “My absolute favorite,” he said, “was the black-and-white issues of The Savage Sword of Conan drawn by John Buscema and inked by Alfredo Alcala. Those were amazing! I never really read comic strips until Bloom County came along.”

As an artist, he confessed to an intense dislike for drawing bicycles. Asked if there are rituals he performs before starting to draw, he said: “Get a signed contract and a deposit.”

And he can draw pretty girls, too—not just ancient aunts.

The strip is written by Hector Cantu, a journalist, who conjured up Baldo and the rest of the teenage Latino environs of the strip soon after joining the Dallas Morning News in 1998. He got together with Castellanos by some as-yet undisclosed route, and the strip was launched in April 2000 by Universal Press, which also distributes the only other Latino-oriented comic strip, La Cucaracha by Lalo Alcaraz.

Cantu has worked in several journalistic settings, but at present, he’s editorial director at Heritage Auction Galleries, where, he says, he’s able to “personally inspect” (i.e., drool over) the original art of his favorite artists.

Cantu and Castellanos have fun with cartooning, as we can tell from the Sunday strip that concludes this tirade: they’re playing with the ingredients of the medium here—if we didn’t have the convention of speech balloons, we’d have no gag here— and when that happens, it’s usually good for a few laughs.

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