Recognizing Comics as Brazilian National Popular Culture: CETPA and the Debates over Comics Professional Identities (1961-1964)

Ivan Lima Gomes

Comics have been well established as a social practice in Brazil since the 1930s, as Brazilian newspaper supplements regularly published North American syndicated comics during the decade. The following years saw the first activities of major publishers like Editora Brasil America Limitada [Brazil America Limited Publisher], EBAL, and the beginning of a comic book culture in Brazil. During the 1940s and 1950s, discussions about the multiple significances of comics and their limitations for the education of young readers caught the attention of many educators, politicians, journalists, and intellectuals. During the 1950s, comic books starring characters such as Superman, Batman, and Zorro led EBAL’s sales, reaching 150,000 copies; during that same period, the press published more than 30 different comic book titles (Junior 2004, 284-291). Many important names in Brazilian press, politics, and culture, such as Samuel Wainer, Edmar Morel, Gilberto Freyre, Roberto Marinho, and Carlos Lacerda, were involved in the debates about comics. Despite the political interests of each of these men (Junior 2004), their engagement with comics controversies demon-

I.L. Gomes (H)

Universidade Estadual de Goias, Anapolis, GO, Brazil

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016 81

C. Brienza, P. Johnston (eds.), Cultures of Comics Work,

Palgrave Studies in Comics and Graphic Novels,

DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-55090-3_6

strates that comics art was not well-regarded in Brazil. Not only it was considered a kind of pernicious and lowbrow literature that should be controlled, as the US comics industry had been with the Comics Code (Hajdu 2009), it was also considered a foreign contribution to the acculturation of Brazilian readers.

Wanting to be included in local comics publishing activities, rising names in the production of Brazilian comic books started to argue in favor of a market reserve for local artists and against the immoral and imperialist North American comics. At first, it was just a curious strategy assumed by comics artists who had read those same comics as children and were culturally and aesthetically shaped by them. However, this soon evolved into more concrete action. Supported by newspapers like the reformist Ultima Hora [Last Hour], unions of comics artists soon emerged in the states of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Guanabara,1 and Rio Grande do Sul. In the latter, governor Leonel Brizola’s popularity (after he gained his leadership in a constitutional defense movement against a military coup that tried to avoid the succession of Joao Goulart as president of Brazil) led to the creation of a cooperative of comics artists that would effectively expound the propositions which had been building up since the movement started.

The Rio Grande do Sul government heavily supported the beginning of the activities of CETPA. Its name an acronym for Cooperativa Editora e de Trabalho de Porto Alegre [Porto Alegre Publishing and Work Cooperative], CETPA worked as a Brazilian comics union, dealing with the production and distribution of comics at local and national levels. Although it published several formats like comic strips, comic books, and educational comics, CETPA did not foresee the series of adversities that it would have to face in order to maintain itself in the Brazilian comics world. Political pressures from Brizola’s opposition were a serious part in CETPA’s market failure, but internal quarrels also played an important role in it, notably the tensions around the definitions and orientations of comics.

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