Holy Argentinian Grial # 1: Las aventuras de Pi-Pió

Posted by on August 2nd, 2010 at 1:00 PM

How do you measure the zeigeist of an era, of a country, of a region when now, more than ever, there seems to exist a global feeling and a worldwide knowledge of comics books, both in its standard-written-in-stone history and its fluent, new and ever-changing past? Discovering Doug Wright or the 1973-1974 period of Peanuts is stuff that’s no longer limited to America. Or even to English-reading countries. All these re-publishing, these discoveries, reformulate and bring back names that perhaps only rang some melancholic bell and that now, after being re-published, have become major natural forces and unavoidable references in comics, more grade A population in the glorious Coconino country. For example, Wright was barely known in American culture, like “Oh, yeah, I remember I once saw these cool vertical canadian cartoons” and the re-publishing of his work turned the lights on. But you already had electricity in the air, in the gutters. Now try to image a place in which those works, and the reading them, or even having the faintest idea of the pre-Seth history of Canadian comics -except for the not yet well-known work of John Stanley during his Little Lulu years and the Nancy Comics- is similar to wanting to go to Oz but having the forecast announce clear skies… forever. No hurricane for you, friend of Nancy.

Redefining as they are (and by “they”, I mean any work that redefines your own history of comics when you discover it: be it You are Here by Baker, be it A Drifting Life by Tatsumi, be it Tony Millonaire’s Billy Hazelnuts books, Morrison’s X-men, be it All Over Coffee by Paul Madonna. Your call.) perhaps someone used to seeing more than thirty books put together in any comic-related store may fail to see the large and motivating importance of the tsunami of knowledge these reprints -or even prints- mean. Not only in Argentina, but to infinity and way closer than beyond. Yes, as you may have noticed, I called them “discoveries”. Allow me that sincere approach. Remember, here in Argentina, those artists and his works are like a new atomic bomb. Well, a mini atomic bomb (Hey, kids, comics! What did you expect of a country in which comics turn yellow in a newspaper stand –if they’re lucky enough to be in one-) Or as pop-Yoda Marcelo Panozzo defined it, the “benevolent atomic bomb”: one that, with its waves and radiation, redefines and mutates our comics perception. One whose blast allows us to see another room in the always-in-motion castle of comics. A blast that can be reduced to the mere fact of Internet-knowing that those books exist: American comic books aren’t easy to get here. And it’s even tougher to buy them. But if the chance of reading about a new artist or the mere knowledge of his work can help redefine the ways of a cartoonist that draws in the lighthouse at the end of the world (which, obviously, is situated in Argentina), what happens when your so-called history of comics must discover a century of commercial and independent comics from a whole other country (E.G.: Argentina)? How does the home of the greatest cartoonists ever –well, that’s just one guy’s opinion- react to seeing new old masters, new old Argentinean masters? How do we compare and interact with the idea of getting to know the history of comics and the present of what now, or till now, is pretty much a true neverland?

Well, with all due respect to Dylan in the movies: do look back. Argentina’s comic history is so vast –as every history of a mass media culture- that the mere idea of listing the “top Argentinean cartoonist” or any Top 5 of comic books is impossible to achieve. Funny? Yeah. Amazing? Sure. Complicated? You have no idea. Believe us, it’s an impossible task. First of all, the truly terrible reason: in lack of preservation politics, some of the first Argentine comics are gone forever. Second, comics are starting –once more- to be published in a regular way, the re-publishing of old material is still an exception in a market that’s an exception in itself. So, what can you do to embrace comics in Argentina while not living in Argentina? How do you step inside the raging fury of the rise and fall of an industry and its zombified present (zombified in the revolutionary way in which Romero approaches his creatures)? How can we even begin to comprehend that the zeigeist we talked about has always been a link between all comic(s) history(s)? That frame by frame idiosyncrasy obviously rules when, underneath, on a super-base, the coincidences keep appearing. What about showing popular works from Argentina that still have not been re-published in order to discover these links, these strange DNA coincidences? Our find-a-Holy-Grial-each-week section is gonna try to do that: to show a comic that is screaming to be discovered to anyone who wants to hear it, re-published, put on a safe and define what humanity was when that thing called comics were printed. Our first call is Las aventuras de Pi-Pió.

García Ferré is truly a major name in Argentinean comics. He is the creator of several characters which are iconic in Argentinian children`s comics, such as the superhero-distilled Hijitus. Although his characters became a legend thanks to TV, the magazine he edited was the stepping stone of several generations. Since the 60s, Anteojito (such is the name of the magazine and one of his characters) has been one of the main influences to a lot of the greatest artists and comics in Argentina. Though Spanish-Argentinean García Ferré’s abilities have always been a topic of discussion, his first and best work is, without a doubt (though also without many fans), a radical masterpiece. A unique absurdist piece born in 1952, Las aventuras de Pi-Pío, which lacks the over the top sensibility and moral of García Ferré’s later work, finds its poetics in its own savage way of being modern without knowing it. Its lyricism seems to flow in its format (one-page), to overcome Ferré’s limitations, but Ferré plays: with language, with the funny animals nonsensical grand scheme (Pi-Pío is a sheriff and a bird that never got completely out of its shell), with the page. Everything seems rough, adorably rough, as if it were written by a kid on sugar (or cocaine) who uses the dictionary as an M-16: Pi-Pío gets captured by the “Meckanichs”, who later in the same page will transform him into a half-bird, half-plane creature (the nightmare of the Metropolis citizen). As soon as he’s captured, one of the guys (the one with a hammer in is hand) goes “Done! Now let’s overturn his free will”, and the other one, answers, “The methamorphosis is anatomically possible”, while measuring Pi-Pió with a extremely huge pipe wrench. Las aventuras de Pi-Pío is an incredible discovery. And not only to you: to everyone who reads it. Its crude way of destroying the common uses of cartooning was never quite celebrated but it should: Las aventuras de Pi-Pió didn`t use the tipical round-leaded way of children cartooning, its shapes seems more rude, like they were masterfully drawn while falling of a cliff.

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