Thanks to SkrawlLord Gustaffo Vargas for sending another dive into South American comic culture. This time it’s a profile of his favourite Argentinian writer, Carlos Trillo.
Carlos Trillo was a very prolific writer, mastering all kinds of writing, humour, drama, documentary, crime, fantasy, scifi, etcs.
The first time I discovered his work was with Marco Mono, a comic drawn by Enrique Breccia that intrigued me a lot, when I saw it I might have been 11 years old, it was of my dad. I didn’t get it, it’s quite sarcastic, with dark humor and talks about politics and the intrinsic of human nature and behaviour. It’s a brilliant book, basically a collection of short stories. I found my copy some years after when I was 16, read it, understood it and left me marvelled by Trillo’s mastery of telling a story and Breccia’s fantastic inks.
**it’s humour even played by breaking the fourth wall in a way. There’s a story where you can see that Marco Mono, the main character dies and then you see Trillo and Breccia saying, shit man, I think that was too much, we shouldn’t kill our heroes, they are a symbol to follow, a necessary allegory, what brings us purpose…they are… they are…the one’s that will bring food on the plate!!! — and they revive him
***In the picture below the guy writing non-stopping on his typing machine is Trillo himself, and in the 5th panel, the horizontal one, –the main character is going to enter a very dangerous castle– and you see Alberto Breccia on the far left saying: hijo mio! (my son!), it’s a veery cheeky and smart comic.
During those times I was able to find some copies of Scorpio, an anthology Argentinian comic that lasted all the 80’s decade, there were several and very interesting artists and writers there, but the one that caught my eye was by the same brough Marco Mono, Trillo and Breccia, this time the story was Alvar Mayor.
Alvar Mayor is a story that takes place in post conquest in early colonial cities in the deepest parts of South America, they mention Peru and the Incas a lot. Alvar Mayor is a man of adventure, a ranger-tracer that is looking for the next adventure to try to rescue somebody, to try to find an incan hidden treasure or just to run away his own past/ghosts. Similar to Marco Mono it’s 8-10 pages short stories.
There were no comic libraries in those times 80s-90s, so the best way to find this comics was to go in some streets in Lima Center and go deep into the informal tables set up in the street or small shops that would sell second hand magazines. You’d have to dig up through loads and loads of magazines and if you were lucky you might find something interesting. It feel really good go ‘hunting’ for comics and when you found something good it felt like a cold beer after a long walk. beautiful.
In those searches I also found Las Puertitas del Señor Lopez (The doors of Mr Lopez) by Trillo and Horacio Altuna. The same, short stories of 8-10 pages, I think most of Las puertitas, Marco Mono and Alvar Mayor would appear in different publications & magazines (there were numerous different types in ARgentina) and later if they were lucky they would be collected in one edition.
Las Puertitas tells the story of Lopez, a burocrat middle age man who is trapped in his world, undermined by his wife, co-workers and absolutely anybody near him. He escapes all the time when he goes to the bathroom, every time he opens a door the bathroom is a doorway to a different world, it can be any world, western, noir, sci fi, etc where he can be what he is not in real life: brave, adventorus, seductive, courageous, creative, oppinionated, etcs. It’s a fantastic book.
I lost a bit of track of Trillo and of comics in general for some years until in the late 2000’s, I went to Argentina for some days and bought comics like a madman, I discovered and rediscovered loads and loads of comics. There’s a very important magazine that was big in the 70s-80s and gas back on during that time called FIERRO, a very interesting anthology magazine with very different Argentinian talent. I bought all I could find, around 10 copies (to my shame I sold my copies when leaving Peru thinking I was never going to be able to hold a place to save my comics!) and in one of them I found a newer story written by Trillo and Lucas Varela: El Codigo Guastavino.
***FIERRO was an anthology magazine, one of the most important ones in Argentina. Its name wa a bit of a pun on Heavy Metal. Fierro is a synonym of Hierro (Iron) in Spanish. Also the mythical and most famous series of poems about the Argentinian Gaucho world is a gaucho named Martin Fierro, hence the extra purpose on FIERRO.
I had no idea what the story was about, but to my luck I found (now in a library, new era In Peru with comics in book shops and libraries!!) And I saw El Codigo Guastavino in book format, I bought it immediately. It was Trillo but also featured this new artist to me that looked very interesting, with a very graphic style and a mastery to construct different characters. Guastavino is a story that is like the rabbit’s hole. Starts funny and not very significant, funny and a bit odd, but all the time Trillo was playing tricks on you, making you think you were just to be entertained, but the truth is that it’s an essential book that shows you the horrors of bad politics and militarised governments, it’s an open critic to the Dictatorship they had in the 70s and to all the Argentinians that still think that it was a good rule with honest values.
The story is about Guastavino, a middle age bureaucrat that has a very boring work, son of a general that played an important part during the Dictatorship years and who is in love with a old vintage porcelain dog. He’s obsessed with the doll and will make very silly and irresponsible things in order to get her, in his imagination (madness) the doll talks to him and also loves him back.
There was a very dramatic letter he wrote on FIERRO magazine where it was first published before it was collected in single book. Where he said to the public that this was a story about the horrors that happened in the past and that needed to be addressed and criticised, that it was a horrible thing that happend and that still to many Argentinians praised very wrongly this hard times, he finished the letter saying: No te vamos a extrañar una mierda Guastavino. (We’re not going to miss you one shit Guastavino). Which said loads about what Trillo was trying to say and to leave as a legacy with this story.