The Latin American Comics Archive, hosted by the Modern Language Resource Center at Carnegie Mellon, is a curated exhibit of comic strips and comic books created in Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico between the 1920s and the present. The exhibit does not intend to be comprehensive, but rather to highlight one or more examples of comics published during those decades by both commercial and independent publishers.
Spanish-language comic books have had a long tradition in popular culture. In places like Mexico, at the height of the Golden Era of comics in the mid-1970s, more than 70 million comic books –including superhero, horror, science fiction, and romance, among others-- were sold every month, and it is estimated that each comic book was read by 3 to 5 people. But after a decades-long crisis faced by the industry, it was all but dismantled at the end of the 20th century. Fortunately, comics slowly seem to be reclaiming their place in popular culture in Spanish-speaking world at the same time as they encounter new respectability in educational and academic circles worldwide.
The online exhibit starts with a strip from “Mojicón,” an adaptation of Walter Berndt’s “Smitty” created by Adolfo Samper in Colombia and published between 1924 and 1930 in the pages of the independent newspaper Mundo al Día. This strip is commonly credited as the first work of the genre by a Colombian author. On the other end of the specter, the exhibit offers examples such as the didactic comic La Deuda, and the graphic novels Virus tropical and Los perdidos, all of which were created in the 21st century with the aid of digital tools, and first published electronically, or simultaneously next to their print versions. In between, visitors can find classic and representative examples such as Oesterheld and Solano López’s El Eternauta, Rius’ Los Agachados, Quino’s Mafalda, and Clément’s Operación Bolívar, or examples of the hugely popular superhero comic Kalimán. By bringing them together, it is the purpose of this online exhibit to give visitors the opportunity to see some rare and other more accessible examples of Spanish-language comics published at different points of history.
Most of the comics featured in the exhibit were scanned, coded in CBML and uploaded for academic purposes thanks to a Mellon Digital Humanities seed grant from the Dietrich College at Carnegie Mellon University. In some cases, the authors generously donated their own digital files. For other comics that were hard to find in paper and digital form, existing scans were downloaded from the web. Permissions to use them for academic purposes were generously granted by authors and/or publishers.