GRAPHIC NOVELS

The Winter of the Cartoonist

Fantagraphics. May 2020. 128p. ISBN 9781683963240. $21.99. Rated: Teen+. hist
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In the 1950s, Editorial Bruguera was one of the largest and most powerful publishing houses in Spain, owing in no small part to the work of their talented, wildly popular cartoonists. In Spring 1957, a group of five artists, tired of being underpaid, overworked, forced to make changes at the whims of their editors, and denied ownership of their original art, broke away to start their own magazine. While they saw themselves as creating history, their former employers saw them as setting a bad precedent and set out to crush them. Roca (The House) leads off this absorbing history with the cartoonists, out of money and desperate for work, returning to Editorial Bruguera just before Christmas 1958. As an opening scene, it’s incredibly disorienting. But Roca moves back and forth in time, from one chapter to the next, juxtaposing the origins of the cartoonists’ rebellion against its sad end, successfully deepening the tragedy, especially as a character who appears absolutely despicable at first is revealed to be deeply sympathetic by the final scene.
VERDICT While structurally challenging, Roca’s massively appealing illustration and masterly sense of narrative make this true story exceptionally compelling.

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