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Welcome back to Ltd Edition! In this installment I want to tell you about 3 new pieces that came out a few months ago, thanks to the initiative that was launched in July 2021 by the Centro Cultural Recoleta (and that we enthusiastically endorsed!) to support the publication of graphic novels selected by three independent publishers: Deriva, Hotel de las Ideas and Editorial La Pinta. Support from cultural programs or funds for the promotion of comics are not very common, and it’s unclear if this will happen again, so from this humble corner of the Internet we celebrate the support for publishers and authors to build a bridge and achieve the materialization of new illustrated works.
This resulted in three brilliant books, showing off fresh authorial voices and publishing imprints with their own identities that, by dint of cosmic coincidence (or a biased reader who constantly seeks connections between the material he reads and then reviews) deal with issues of memory and recollections of moments of crisis in Argentina: the military dictatorship in 1976, the socio-political crisis experienced in December 2001, and the quarantine that lasted more than a year, which began in March 2020.
Publishing house Hotel de las Ideas put out Apagón, a comic book by illustrator Carlos Dearmas and writer Martin Tejada working together for the first time. The story focuses on “the night of the blackout“, which occurred between July 20th and 27th of 1976 in Ledesma, Province of Jujuy; that night, the power plant in San Salvador de Jujuy shut off and kidnappings and murders were carried out within the framework of the Argentine military dictatorship.
Dearmas and Tejada build a fantastical story using the fabric of the collective memory of a period and a place marked by trauma and horror, opening a threshold where the laws of time and space disappear. The present and the past converge to revisit old wounds and try to find redemption or poetic justice. It is no coincidence that two local policemen are the protagonists of the story, trying to discover the origin of a mysterious power outage 35 years after that fateful week, while their connection with the events of the tragic blackout comes to light.
Martin Tejada built a script that activates a fantastic act of temporal displacement in the story and at the same time doubles as the structure of the story: inviting the reader to return again and again to revisit the pages where flashlights illuminate and new elements are found that uncover a calculated mechanism, like the gears of a perfectly synchronized clock. This is my first exposure to the work of Carlos Dearmas as an illustrator and I don’t have enough words to describe how wonderful his style and his construction of the pages using black & white to generate the atmosphere of darkness in the story. He has undoubtedly been one of the breakthrough artists of my 2022 and I look forward to seeing what he does next.
For those who want to know more about this graphic novel from the mouths of its creators, you’ll be happy to learn that on Friday, October 21 at 7 pm the official presentation of Apagón will take place at Local Support. The authors will be interviewed by Martin Garabal and there will be a live preview of the soundtrack of the upcoming audiovisual adaptation of the book.
Meanwhile, Editorial La Pinta published El Nuevo Milenio, Rocio Espina‘s first graphic novel that examines, through the lens of the author’s childhood memories, the last months of 2001 in Argentina. This period was marked by the social, political and economic outbreak that resulted in the resignation of then President De la Rúa on December 21; a tumultuous period of economic crisis and popular demonstrations met with state repression that resulted in civilian deaths and a state of total uncertainty.
Between the Y2K paranoia and the baptism of fire of the third millennium forged between the fall of the twin towers in the US and the political and economic collapse of Argentina, Rocío reconstructs everyday scenes of her childhood with her parents and aunt, where reality and the suffocating crisis make themselves known to a small child. And though she does not perfectly understand the problems that are happening, she senses them and feels them: in the looks of the regulars of the café she visits with her father even when they don’t have enough to make ends meet, in the demonstrations in the streets, in the frustration on her grandmother’s face and in the images of violence she witnesses on the television.
The thematic focus is accompanied by a visual approach, in the register of illustration based on photographic images where illustrations of her relatives are amalgamated with photographs and television images, most of them emblematic of the record of that period. Thus, Rocio Espina manages to convey through visuals the intersection between public and private experiences that build the collective memory of one of the worst moments in the recent history of the country.
This interweaving of images and testimonies between childhood experiences and a narrative record of the author as an adult revisiting this time period results in an experimental comic book where she does not limit herself to the use of collage and the transposition of photos to the illustrated page, but manages to encapsulate the feelings and ailments of a nation. El Nuevo Milenio works both for those of us who have lived through that period and for those who want to know a little about those tumultuous months in Argentina from an authorial approach to complement the Wikipedia entry about it.
¿Cuáles Son los Colores de la Mañana? by Beibi Kebab was published by Editorial Deriva and it follows the more experimental approach that characterizes the publishing house. It’s another great Argentine comic debut from 2022. Existential dread and pictorial reflections on the morning routine coexist with the echo of memories of a study trip to Paris, crossed by the interruption of life as we knew it when the mandatory quarantine was declared in March 2020. It also captures the author’s thoughts in the midst of the confinement in their Villa Crespo apartment.
There are works that imply a direct consumption, a unidirectional exploration from their initial postulates to their denouement. This is not one of them (fortunately). This piece features an exploration of a sensory memory about the moment of awakening, the morning ritual that begins the day. This exploration of the state of being in the midst of the early morning construction to get out of bed and become a citizen is abruptly interrupted by the announcement of a new virus and a state of quarantine that will confine most of the inhabitants to the shelter of their homes for several months.
From there, the story and the protagonist’s thoughts unfold: on the one hand, in the invocation of the memories of their time lived in Paris in 2018, the mornings spent there and the evocation of Miranda, a figure who blinds Beibi with beauty and who stands as a figure of platonic love. On the other hand, her post-pandemic return to her studio apartment in Villa Crespo, her new bond with her neighbor Tania and her neighbor’s romance with her long-distance lover Vicencio. These elements serve as the canvas on which a story about a ghostly longing for contact, for emotional bonding, is built. This longing ends pushes the protagonist to get closer to Tania, her only real bond in the confinement of her four walls.
It is very tempting to cling to the author’s background in letters and call her work “plastic literature” or something other than comics, since it embraces new approaches to sequential stories in images. In the midst of her search, Beibi asks herself (and us) “How does color speak to us? in what way does it say what words cannot reach?” I don’t have clear answers, but I am grateful that this and other questions have been raised throughout his pages.
Carlos Dearmas (illustration) and Martin Tejada (script)
64 pages – 23 x 17 cm
published by Hotel de las Ideas
EL NUEVO MILENIO
108 pages – 14 x 21 cm
published by La Pinta
¿CUALES SON LOS COLORES DE LA MAÑANA?
96 pages – 24 x 17 cm
published by Editorial Deriva