cover image The Winter of the Cartoonist

The Winter of the Cartoonist

Paco Roca, trans. from Spanish by Andrea Rosenberg. Fantagraphics, $21.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-68-396324-0

In this elegantly drawn but moribund historical graphic novel from Roca (The House), a quintet of cartoonists working for a large publishing house strike out on their own to create Tio Vivo, “the first magazine in Spain to be founded and directed by its authors.” The story opens in the winter of 1958, when the five have hauled themselves back to their former employer, Bruguera, to return to work after their experiment failed. Roca cuts to the previous year, the change in seasons signaled by a wash of summery tones. He shows how this band of artists evolved from just wanting to keep rights to their work (a perennial cartoonist complaint) to branching out on their own. Their collaboration is nicely composed in cheery urban detail, the tie-wearing cartoonists smoking, gabbing, and nibbling on tapas. But the backdrop of Franco-era oppression is only lightly sketched and the central drama is almost over before it begins—Bruguera, with its 500 employees and million-strong subscribers, crushes the fledgling Tio Vivo with ease. Roca has a gift for conveying personalities and camaraderie, and while this will appeal to independent-minded artists invested in intellectual property issues, there just is not enough at stake in either the characters or the slim story line to sustain the attention of a broader readership. This snappy tale of creativity under pressure aims to inspire but is too thinly plotted to leave an impression. (May)