From the newsstand to the museum: the journey of comics in the last 40 years

Between 1981 and 1990, 30 adult comic titles hit Spanish newsstands, some lasting and others ephemeral, in addition to those that had already appeared during the second half of the 1970s. In 1981, the year of the first edition of the Salón Internacional del Cómic de Barcelona, ​​currently Cómic Barcelona, ​​were about twenty adult comics available at newsstands. Currently there is only one, ‘El Jueves’ (and there are hardly any kiosks left).

Max was at the premiere of the Barcelona event of the cartoon, of which he has “flashes” like the queue he made to get a “little drawing” of Moebius. “I only queued again in Angoulême for Ever Meulen, who I would later become friends with -he adds-; the other artist I would have queued for, Robert Crumb, I once had him sitting next to me signing and I did not dare ask him for a dedication”. Max is also at the 40th edition of Cómic Barcelona, ​​which runs until Sunday, with the albums ‘Fiuuu & Graac’ and ‘Sabotaging Shakespeare’. “In the era of comics, with the monthly series, cartoonists had the closest thing to a salary that we have ever had -He says-. In addition, you learned a lot from comparing yourself with the other authors of the publication, the set made it clear to you where you were artistically”.

Antoni Guiral, curator of the exhibition ’40 years of the Salon, 40 years of comics’, adds another virtue to the magazine format: “It gives projection to young artists, who publish alongside other already recognized ones.”

Very respectable runs

Some comics had very respectable print runs, between 30,000 and 50,000 monthly copies, and, due to the proximity offered by the kiosks, they also reaped a notable social impact; This was the case of the special anthology of ‘El Víbora’ on the coup d’état of 23-F.

But all that is history: in the 90s there was an extinction of adult comics that nor that of the dinosaurs. The causes? The consolidation of the albums, the loss of quality of the magazines, the exhaustion of the ‘boom’, the irruption of the ‘comic book’ format as a vehicle for the series, Guiral lists.

What we have in the 21st century belongs in the field of comics to the graphic novel, a somewhat pretentious label that is neither new nor refers to anything new but with an undoubted commercial hook, so it is welcome. There are no comics or hardly any kiosks, but there is a string of independent publishers dedicated to comics, the publishing giants have their comic labels, in Spain there are about 300 bookstores specialized in comics or with comic departments and there is even a league of ‘ quality best sellers’, with Paco Roca at the helm. “The graphic novel label has helped the medium to shake off any complexes it might still have and to attract readers who weren’t paying attention to it,” says Guiral.

Ultimately, we are talking about comics having conquered the intellectual prestige that for a long time he was denied and that, in effect, he was damned that he needed it. But no one is bitter about a sweet.

revealing episode

In 1984, the Fundació Miró hosted the ‘Tintin in Barcelona’ exhibition, with pieces by countless comic artists and illustrators: a ‘who’s who’ of the then new national and international batch. The exhibition offended a group of intellectuals and artists from the old guard, which released a manifesto with pearls such as: “It is extremely dangerous for the adult recognition of the ninth art that the Miró Foundation chooses, for its first monographic exhibition of comics, a work for children and without sufficient aesthetic range to be the host of an entity with such an illustrious name. Underlying the tantrum was the ease with which Hergé, the creator of Tintin, accommodated himself to the Nazi occupation of Belgium. But to brand one of the most outstanding artistic corpus of the 20th century, from any discipline, as “infantiloid” is ridiculous. Irony: the “illustrious” Miró was also popularly described as “childish”. The aforementioned manifesto clarifies what we are talking about when we talk about complexes and prestige.

On the contrary, at present comic exhibitions in museums are not uncommon and the Generalitat de Catalunya acquires originals as heritage according to its modest possibilities, especially after the Lafuente Archive of Santander, owned by a private individual, exposed it when buying Directly to the authors almost all the existing work of the Barcelona ‘underground’ comic of the 70s.

women and youth

Max was, in 2007, the winner of the first National Comic Award, granted by the Ministry of Culture, with the work ‘Acts, sayings, occurrences and wanderings of Bardín el Superrealista’. “The constitution of the prize was the official recognition, at last, that comics are an art that lives up to the rest”, says Max. We had to wait until 2018 for an author to win it, Ana Penyas with ‘We are all fine’. And in 2019 there was also a female triumph: Cristina Durán Costell, Miguel Ángel Giner Bou and Laura Ballester Beneyto with ‘El día 3’.

Related news

Although there were pioneers in the Franco regime, mostly in the orbit of sentimental comics, and already from rebellious positions in the 60s and 70s, the emergence of female authors has occurred this century in the graphic novel and graphic humor. However, No woman has yet won the Barcelona Comic Award for Best Spanish Work. Of course, the posters of the last three editions are by other artists, Carla Berrocal (2022), Raquel Riba Rossy (2021) and Belén Ortega (2020).

With the consumption of manga among children, adolescents and young people skyrocketing, Guiral considers it urgent to “generational renewal” of the comic book audience. Who believes that it has already begun and that it will go further, not in vain the editorial commitment to children’s and youth comics is increasingly serious.

What to see at Comic Barcelona?

In total, some 50,000 square meters spread over various pavilions at Fira Montjuïc where more exhibitors than ever will be located.

-180 editorial and bookstore positions

-Spaces for merchandising

-Exhibition for the 40 years of the salon and the Spanish comic,

-Exhibit dedicated to the recently deceased cartoonist Miguel Gallardo

-Children’s area (Comic Kids),

-Area for professionals (Comic Pro)

-Section with a schedule of movies and series (Comic Vision)

-Cosplay contests

-Area dedicated to fantasy and role-playing games

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