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El còmic de gènere espanyol: de l'escola Bruguera a Manuel Benet i Sergio Bleda





Genre and comic

Genres have been constructed as a convention associated with the human impulse to label and list. In a way, the genre is a necessary adjective that should have been diluted when reaching times where hybridisation is an intrinsic part of new narratives where intermediariness and transmedia are the norm. However, the classical genres continue to exist as a narrative architecture to which creation clings with unusual fondness. Humour, adventure, science fiction, history and terror are still there,  beyond discouragement, and are a necessary part of popular imagery. As a great exponent of the modern popular culture, the comic has not only been alien to the genres: it has contributed to make them evolve and change, even reaching their own genres in a relationship that sometimes seems indissoluble. It is not difficult to find arguments that link the comic to the genre, that even dare to include it in the description of a way that eludes its definition with vehemence. Although there is no doubt that genres have been part of the evolution of comics, the current form of comics was born linked to the humour and satire of authors such as William Hogarth or Rodolphe Töpffer, and the rise of comics as a mass medium in the American press and comic-book is necessarily linked to adventure and a genre born in cartoons, superheroes.

A relationship that in Spain has been even more profound during the 20th century: after the Civil War, comics had two great schools: humour and adventure, promoted by masterful generations of authors who gave rise to an authorial conception of the genre that would arrive in the last quarter of a century, consolidating a way of understanding comics that transcends time and forms.
Editorial Bruguera (autor José Peñarroya), il·lustració per a la portada de Tio Vivo, núm. 17, Museu del Còmic i la Il·lustració

Bruguera School

Although the comics take their name from the famous publication published by Buigas, Estivill and Viñas since 1917, there were many publishers who tried to compete with this pioneer of humour, but the Bruguera publishing house, born from the embers of El gato negro (Spanish for The Black Cat) soon stood out. A battle between titans that would focus on headlines such as TBO and Pulgarcito, where authors such as Opisso, Méndez Álvarez, Tínez or Donaz in the first one, and Mestres, Arturo Moreno or Urdá in the second one (although many combined works in both) established a way of understanding comics that would have a dramatic stop in the civil war. After the war, it took years for comics to recover, but the comic genre continued to be present on the newsstands despite strict economic and political restrictions, paving the way for a whole new generation of authors to take over from the late 1940s. From Bruguera, authors such as Escobar, Vázquez, Peñarroya, Jorge, Cifré, Conti and Nadal entered a golden age of comic strips, which avoided the harsh censorship in order to bear witness to the social reality of the country from a satirical perspective.

The adventure genre

In the terrible scenario of the Spanish post-war period, adventure comic books provided a window into exotic worlds and impossible adventures. Authors such as Manuel Gago, Miguel and Pedro Quesada, Eduardo Vañó, José Ortiz, Luis Bermejo and Ambrós created their own universes where readers could escape from the harsh everyday reality. Destinations far in time and space that filled the pages of the so-called "cinema of the poor" for decades, until in the 1960s the classic booklet was left aside, forcing authors to seek work in other markets. Through agencies such as Bardon Art or Selecciones Ilustradas, dozens of artists began to publish their works in British, Nordic or American publishing houses, in a silent invasion where authorship was almost always obviated or denied. However ,this could not prevent artistic quality from prevailing and creating unforgettable imageries: the adventures of characters such as Phantom, Commando, Steel Claw or Vampirella, to name but a few, were continued or created by Spanish authors with unquestionable success.
Publicació El DDT (autor Cifré), pàgina interior, Amapolo Nevera, Museu del Còmic i la Il·lustració

Manuel Benet

Manuel Benet Blanes (Valencia, 1946) is one of the best exponents of the hidden work of agency cartoonists. Author of solid formation and with a style inspired by the classics, he began very young to work for the publications of Editorial Valenciana, although very soon he began to collaborate with agencies like Bardon Press and see how his style was required from countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Italy or Sweden. Benet's drawing is fundamental to such famous series as Tumac (Semic Press, Sweden) or Commando (DC Thomson &Co Ltd, Scotland), where he stands out for his vigorous narrative and his striking and attractive covers. For several years he was responsible for the famous Striker strip in The Sun newspaper and he even took charge of episodes of one of the most famous characters in British comics, Judge Dredd, for the mythical 2000 A.D. Although he has never disassociated himself from comics, in recent years he has stood out as a painter, with multiple exhibitions throughout Spain that have earned him important awards.

The author's genre comic

The comic was based during the first decades of the 20th century in the classical genres, but from the 1960s onwards the authorial claim and artistic and cultural recognition of the ninth art favoured a different view of the genres. In the France of the 1960s and 1970s, science fiction was at the heart of a profound renewal of comics that focused on authorship to break away from the labels of the past and address an adult audience. A revolution that will spread all over the world: if in the 1970s the American publisher Warren renews terror and science fiction based on the quality of an incredible generation of Spanish authors, in the 1980s it will see how the genres are appropriated by the alternative comic, influencing decisively to change apparently immovable genres such as superheroes. Moments of creative euphoria that will clash in the 1990s with systemic changes in comics that, in our country, will translate into a very complex situation for the comic book author that did not stop a young generation of authors, taking advantage of a new look at the genre to claim their space in a difficult situation. Small independent publishers such as Camaleón Ediciones or lines focused on young authorship such as Laberinto, from Editorial Planeta, gave rise to a group of authors who broke all the written rules of the genre with shameless brilliance and quality.
Manuel Benet, Commando #5351: V For Vitoria

Sergio Bleda

Sergio Bleda Villada (Albacete, 1974) is one of the great exponents of that generation of young authors who, in the 1990s, committed themselves to a renewed vision of the genre. Self-taught, he began very early to publish the daily strip Los Saurios (1991) in the local press, and just a few years later he was in charge of several series in the erotic magazine Kiss Comix, establishing a rapid graphic evolution that would lead him to publish the series Vampire Dance (1995) in the Laberinto line. This series would become one of the great successes of this publishing initiative, opening the doors for other series such as Inés 1994 or publication in other countries with series such as Bloody Winter (2004), Wednesday Conspiracy (2005) or Dolls Killer (2008).  Author of elegant watercolours and dynamic narrative learned from authors such as Alfonso Font or Regis Loisel, his very personal and recognisable style has also been reflected in his career as an illustrator, where he has stood out especially in erotic illustration (compiled in works such as Cinco relatos apasionados or Il Faudra me Passer Sur le Corps). Bleda has also stood out in his defence of the profession and in his sharp sense of humour and ability for short stories (a sample of this can be found in the Esto Vende compilation).
The exhibition “Commando DDT contra los vampiros” is the central theme of the 9th Comic Days of Valencia organised by Asovalcom. This exhibition (Spanish for DDT Commando against vampires) presents a journey through the history of the Spanish genre of comics, focusing on three different areas that go through the success of the comic book of the Bruguera school during the 1950s and 1960s, the invisible authorship of the adventure comics of agencies during the 1970s and 1980s, represented by the Valencian cartoonist Manuel Benet to conclude in the rise of the genre of comics that appeared in the 1990s, shown through the work El baile del vampiro (Spanish for The Vampire’s Dance), by Sergio Bleda.

Bruguera School

A wide range of comics and originals by authors from the Bruguera School, from the glossy covers of DDT to the first page of Mort & Phil drawn by Ibáñez. A journey where the art of Conti, Cifré, Escobar, Peñarroya, Nadal, Vázquez and Ibáñez can be enjoyed.

 Manuel Benet, the studio comic

The studio comic created from Spain has been a substantial part of popular culture in other countries, from the USA to the Nordic countries. The Valencian Manuel Benet is an exponent of this silent success, responsible for the war series Commando, very popular in the United Kingdom and which is still published punctually, and a large sample of his originals can be appreciated in the exhibition.

 Sergio Bleda, El Baile del Vampiro

During the 1980s and 1990s, the comic genre was revived from the author's perspective, with works that, without abandoning the canon, delved into other expressive paths. One of the authors who has best known how to approach the genre from his own personality is Sergio Bleda, whose originals of his most famous work, El baile del vampiro, can be seen.
Sergio Bleda, Il·lustració per a la portada El Baile del Vampiro nº 10