How I spent my summer vacation – part 1

The usual crack you hear as a cartoonist is, “Isn’t every day a vacation for you?”

The answer is, of course, yes. And now on with the post…

So let’s start off with this: my wife is very smart. She’s got a doctorate and all that. (Whereas I have a weeny 4-year degree, in art no less.) And she got a Fulbright to teach in Paraguay for three months this past summer. I went down to visit her for two weeks. (I’m just going to stick to the cartooning aspects of the trip so I’ll skip over the heart-breaking loneliness of the other 10 weeks at home.)

I’ll get to cartooning-related adventures in Paraguay in another post. Right now it’s on to Buenos Aries, Argentina. We took a short trip there just a few days after I arrived. It was unfortunately rainy and, even more unfortunately, I had holes in both my sneakers and my shoes. (I wore plastic bags on my feet the whole time there.) We stayed in a swanky mod hotel (where the wok-shaped sink could soak you fast if you turned on the water too hard) and had great food at very inexpensive prices.

Walking around the hip area surrounding our hotel, I noticed a lot of stenciled graffiti, much of it cartoon-related.

(The graffiti below is not cartooning-related, but is indeed silly.)

On a cab ride back to our hotel (a cab ride so cheap it would make a hardened New Yorker weep) we glanced a comic shop. We were able to triangulate our position and find it on foot the next day. Walking in you would have thought it was any hole-in-the-wall nerd haven in the US. Marvel and DC stuff was everywhere (although translated into Spanish). My wife, who fortunately speaks Spanish (told you she was smart), asked the owner if he had any specifically Argentinian comics. She explained that we were Americans and that I was a cartoonist. (Odd. He had never heard of me.) He spoke a bit of English and had even been to Comic-Con years ago. He pulled out a box and started recommending books. One was “El Eternauta” a collection of a science fiction comic strip from the 50’s that mirrors a lot of the country’s history. It’s even taught in schools.

Other books I bought there just cuz they looked cool – a Dickenesque prequel to Peter Pan and a fun-looking Medieval tale with a rhino knight.

We had a game plan of walking across the city towards the much trendier shopping section. It didn’t seem to be our cup of tea but it was a goal.

In our travels we stumbled upon an English-language bookstore. There wasn’t much in the way of comics but I did pick up a collection of Mafalda comic strips. Mafalda was created by a cartoonist who went by the name Quino (he was also an editorial cartoonist). Reading it you can tell that it was heavily influenced by Peanuts in both its art style and subject matter (little kids talking about weighty matters). It started in the 60’s, ended in the 70’s and still runs in many South American newspapers.

We got to trendyland and it was actually a quite cool open-air mall. Oh yeah, and it had bookstores. A few had teeny humor sections so I almost skipped one of the last ones. Glad I didn’t – it was the mother load. There was so much stuff (from comic strips to comics history to crime comics) that I’m surprised I got out of there with only one book.

I bought the first collection of Macanudo which is just so charming and funny (my wife reads it to me) and the Mutts-like retro style art is really wonderful. (While searching for this book cover on the web I found that the cartoonist, Liniers, has a blog. It’s in Spanish, but still.)

Next installment (or two): I teach kids and teachers, hang out with Paraguayan cartoonists and become a media darling for a day.

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7 Responses to “How I spent my summer vacation – part 1”

  1. chuch Says:

    WAIT!? You went into a comic shop and didn’t get me a Spanish HULK?! What is wrong with you? How selfish…

  2. mark heath Says:

    I’d leave a longer comment, but, of course, I’m on vacation.

  3. KOVALESKI Says:

    Chuch- I don’t believe he was actually a Spanish Hulk; just a Hulk that has had his grunts translated into Spanish.

    Mark- Right on, my brother. (Emoticon of cartoonist secret handshake.)

  4. James Says:

    Interestingly, I stumbled across the Spanish Mafalda strip about 15 years ago in Quebec City where it was a regular feature in the French language newspaper, Le Soleil.

  5. KOVALESKI Says:

    I guess it’s the international language of small-kids-talking-like-adults.

  6. alex Says:

    We have a whole Mafalda collection here at the Library – it’s still quite popular, although it’s getting dog-eared…

  7. KOVALESKI Says:

    Are they in English or Spanish?

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