On History: Where's Gordo?

By | Tuesday, November 24, 2015 Leave a Comment
I only discovered Gordo a couple of years ago. It actually debuted on this day back in 1941, and was written and drawn exclusively by Gus Arriola until his retirement in 1985. Arriola used the strip to introduce many U.S. citizens to Mexican culture (Arriola, while born in Arizona, is of Mexican descent) and did it with such finesse that Charles Schulz once described Gordo as "probably the most beautifully drawn strip in the history of the business."

Let me share a few examples so you can judge Schulz's comment for your self...
I've seen a lot of people point to that one about a visual interpretation of jazz as a favorite and inventive use of the medium, but I find the sequence about Pepito getting a black eye absolutely brilliant! The storytelling going on there works astoundingly well, especially when you consider that A) it's wordless, B) there are two radical shifts in the visual point of view within nine panels, and C) the first half is entirely interpretive with nothing identifiably drawn until panel 6. To pulls that off takes, I think, a phenomenal amount of talent!

Arriola isn't one of those cartoonists who people only recognized after his death either. He was well known and respected, both by peers and by readers, from very early in the strip's run. In R.C. Harvey's biography of Arriola, he quotes high praise coming from, besides Schulz, Mort (Beetle Bailey) Walker, Hank (Dennis the Meance) Ketcham, Paul (Mad) Coker, and Eldon (Playboy) Dedini. Arriola won the National Cartoonists Society Humor Comic Strip Award in both 1957 and 1965, and is credited, as I said earlier, with introducing a wide swath of the U.S. to Mexican words and customs.

There have only been a handful of books collecting his strips, despite having worked on them for just shy of a half century, and none of them, I believe, have been in print for the past 25 years. It's really a shame since the work is so amazingly brilliant. In this "Golden Age of Reprints" we have going on now, it's almost shocking that no one has started collecting these strips in a handsome package yet. If they do, I'll certainly be first in line to get a copy!
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