July 17, 2015
From 1941 to 1985, Mexican-American artist GUS ARRIOLA’s (1917–2008) comic strip Gordo delighted and bemused readers. The strip’s Sunday splash pages, which married Winsor McCay-esque surrealism to a jazzy color palette, were particularly ambitious. Gordo is also notable because it was one of the few daily, mainstream narrative media that focused on Mexico and Mexicans; although it began as a strip focused on a fat, lazy protagonist, it offered a positive view of Mexican culture. (For a Mexican-American kid with little access to Mexican culture, Gordo was like an angel perched on my shoulder, balancing out the devilish Speedy Gonzales on the other.) In an American pop-culture sea of stereotypes featuring raping bandit Mexicans (in case you’re wondering where idiot Donald Trump gets his ideas), dirty, pre-civilization Latinas/os, and the rest, Gordo provided a brimming visual cauldron of subterranean semiotic insurrection, surreptitiously introducing readers to Mexicans and Spanish-language culture with a light touch, and a rigorous and disruptive — postmodernist, even — compositional eye. Old-school hands in the comics trade like Mort Walker and Charles M. Schulz envied Arriola’s eye and pen; Schulz touted Arriola’s strip as the “the most beautifully drawn strip in the history of the business.”
READ MORE about members of the New Gods Generation (1914-23).