Making Comics as Artisans: Comic Book Production in Colombia
Fernando Suarez and Enrique Uribe-Jongbloed Introduction
There is a common saying that goes, “Colombia is well known for all products that start with the letter C.” Sadly, comics are not among the products that come to mind directly after that statement. This chapter presents Colombia’s (non-existent) comics industry, and the works of those who, on the fringes of the economy, have striven to continue with their trade. We want to start by stressing the perspective from which we draw this incomplete picture of the Colombian comics world: we have been at both the academic and creative ends of comics. We grew up in a country filled with comics in the shape of small magazines, mainly American in origin and mostly translated into Spanish. We grew up reading Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse, some Marvel and DC Superhero comics, the occasional Tintin and Asterix, but very few Latin American comics, with Condorito and Kaliman the most notable.
The only truly Colombian comics we were exposed to came in the form of one-page featurettes within the Sunday supplement Los Monos [The Monkeys]
F. Suarez (H)
Universidad de La Sabana, Chia, Cundinamarca, Colombia E. Uribe-Jongbloed
Universidad del Norte, Barranquilla, Atlantico, Colombia
© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016 51
C. Brienza, P. Johnston (eds.), Cultures of Comics Work,
Palgrave Studies in Comics and Graphic Novels,
during the 1980s, although at least one made it into comic form. In the 1990s, we experienced the slow disappearance of comics from all shelves. By the end of the 1990s, when the magazine ACME went out of circulation, almost all comics had vanished from newspaper stands, kiosks, and supermarkets. Book and hobby stores were the only places to acquire comics and graphic novels, but at high prices and seldom translated into Spanish.
The history of Colombian comics and comic strips from the early 1940s until the 1990s has been aptly summarized by Rabanal (2001) and Rincon (2014), but more recent work has been only briefly discussed by the latter. In 2014, at the conference/convention Los Monos de Oro [The Golden Monkeys] in Bogota, Rincon summarized the Colombian history of sequential art as stopping shortly after ACME disappeared in the late nineties.
Yet our own experience and research tells a different story. It is, thanks to more recent and cheaper printing technology, the case that more comics have started to appear. They may no longer bear the positive cultural recognition other comics seemed to have enjoyed, but in terms of number and genres, comics have moved from a highly stylized and considerably larger market to a niche, artisanal product with a more concentrated market. In fact, we will argue that it is only in the last several years that comics have actually been developed, because, with the exception of Tukano in the late eighties, there have been many comic strips and other sequential art, but no comics to speak of until recently.