Sunday, 12 December 2010

Sergio Aragonés




No, he isn't some Latin American singer of Salsa songs. Nor does he play right wing for Real Madrid. He is in fact one of America's most renown and acclaimed comic book artists.
Don't think that you know him?
Bet you do but you just don't recognise his name.

Sergio Aragonés came to fame for his creative and humorous artwork on Mad Magazine and, in case I forget, he is also the creator of the internationally acclaimed comic book Groo the Wanderer.

So then, that is the overall profile but, just who is Sergio Aragonés?

Sergio Aragonés was born in Spain in 1937 but left Spain with his parents at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil war. He and his folks settled down in Mexico.

Legend has it that as a child Sergio was left alone at home, whilst his parents were out, with a box of crayons. When they returned they found that their young offspring had covered the walls with his fantastic drawings!

It was 1954 that he made his first commercial sale whilst still at the University of Mexico where he was studying architecture. He couldn't stop his doodling of cartoons though and this passion remained with him throughout his life. Also, whilst still at university he studied pantomime under another comic books legend, the multi talented Alejandro Jodorowsky. Perhaps it was this association that really persuaded him in his heart of hearts to take a career in graphic story telling? Who knows?

It wasn't until 1962 that the twenty five year old Spaniard moved to America. To New York to be precise. Unable to speak a word of English and with only twenty two dollars to his name he made his way toward the Madison Avenue offices of Mad Magazine. There he met another Spanish speaking individual who he thought could speak English but in reality spoke less than Sergio. This individual was Antonio Prohias, the creator of the famed Spy vs Spy strip. Believing Antonio able to speak English and thereby act as a translator unfortunately this wasn't the case and the rest of the crew thought that Cuban born Antonio and Sergio were brothers.

Mad editor Al Feldstein and publisher Bill Gaines loved what they saw and employed Sergio to start what was to become, to this day, one of the more remarkable strips to come out of Mad. Not so much a strip but more the wordless 'marginal' that sat, as the expression suggests, in the margins of the magazine. Sometimes the art even curls around the page. His success was to prove to be phenomenal. He was hired in 1963 and to this day his wacky, off the wall cartoons still decorate one of America's foremost comic magazines.

It was during the late 1970's that Sergio, along with Mark Evanier, created another comic book legend, Groo the Wanderer. At this point Sergio was still pretty useless at speaking fluent English and it was with some difficulty that the two co-created this series. Create it they did however, and although it has gone through a succession of different publishers it too is still being published to this day.


Sergio's art is very cartoonish and is able to convey real human emotion without the use of speech or thought balloons. It has a 'rounded' style and although nothing like, has a similar quality to Asterix the Gaul and the art of Albert Uderzo. It is a potent formula that defies fashion and modern conventions as it doesn't rely upon having to feature street slang or modern terminology but relies purely on its own ability to tell a tale with pictures. Which, when you come to think of it, is how comics began in the first place.

Sergio Aragonés is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the greats of the modern age.



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all words and art are copyright © of C.J. Duffy.

4 comments:

Doug said...

Groo was weird. Kind of funny, though.

. . . said...

I was a huge fan of Groo as a kid, had a nice stack of his comics. I always gravitated toward those kind of characters instead of the superheroes, who I always found irritating. I'm sure that says something about me...

C.J. Duffy said...

Doug>>>Groo was wierd but lovable with it!

C.J. Duffy said...

...>>>Likewise. I too liked more than just the superheroes. I always thought that was being British as we tend to have a fondness for things comical. Maybe not just us after all.