Rius: El Supermacho
Mexican cartoonist Rius, the pseudonym for Eduardo del Río García, is a real pioneer in the world of comics. He is unmentioned in all the important comics literature of North America, even though he was doing what Larry Gonick and Scott McCloud did long before they started writing cartoon guides and comics histories.
Rius got started in 1963 with “Los Supermachos,” a monthly comic about a little town called Saint Scribbles. The inhabitants mock various injustices in Mexico. Later, in “Los Agachados” (The Stooped), he did the same thing. The comics were recently reprinted in Mexico.
In the ’60s and ’70s, he wrote a number of novel-length comics about the virtues of communism. He wrote about “Marx for Beginners” (published in Spanish and English) as well as comics about Cuba, Che, and Lenin. He mixed high contrast photos with caricatures and commentary. Later, Larry Gonick would use the same technique to write similar books relating to the sciences.
In the ’80s, he continued to write, although he abandoned his communist leanings for more moderate positions, admitting that communism hadn’t worked. He wrote several novel-length comic books critical of the Catholic church, including “Would Christ Be a Catholic?” and “A Manual for the Perfect Atheist.” Additionally, he wrote comic histories and political commentaries in comic form. Recently, he wrote “Love in the Time of AIDS” and “Osama Uncle Sam,” criticizing US foreign policy.
Of interest to comics scholars is his 1983 book “The Life of Boxes,” which described the art of comics before Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics.” McCloud’s book follows the exact same format as the book by Rius. I would like to know whether or not McCloud credits Rius in the book (if anybody knows, please tell me!), although it could be a case of Leibniz and Newton simultaneously documenting calculus. Perhaps McCloud was unaware of Rius given that he is Latin American.
Even for all his mid-life political craziness, Rius is a master cartoonist. His fictional characters are lively and colorful while his storytelling flows. His nonfiction is concise and opinionated. He is definitely worth more attention in the US-dominated world of comics.