Argentinian cartoonist Liniers’s internationally syndicated daily comic is collected for the first time in English in Macanudo: Welcome to Elsewhere (Fantagraphics, Aug.).
What drew you to creating a newspaper strip?
I loved daily strips since I was a little kid. My father wanted me to learn English, and the way he went about it was to say, “Whatever you read in English I will buy for you, and whatever you read in Spanish you have to buy with your allowance.” So he would buy me Mad magazine and Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side. He thought he was pushing me into being an English-speaking lawyer, without realizing the comics were doing their work for me to make a living drawing penguins and elves.
Henrietta, the book-loving little girl featured often in Macanudo, feels so personal, what was her inspiration?
When I was a kid I was very shy, and the one place I was happy and comfortable was when I was in my home, with my books, reading in the bed. She reads because I used to read, she’s shy because I was shy. When I was a kid, the worst thing my mother could tell me when we were in the car going somewhere was, “You know, they have kids your age there.” I would go, “Oh no! That’s terrifying!”
How do you create a strip that is entertaining to both adults and children?
I didn’t want to do a little-kid strip like Peanuts, or a way-out comic like The Far Side, but be even more cryptic. Since I was starting drawing comics in Argentina, I could get away with way more. In America, there’s different newspapers in different regions, and these guys are offended if you do this, and those guys are confused if you do that—but in Argentina I could just offend and confuse everyone.
You also write and draw picture books. How does that compare?
I don’t underestimate kids as a reader. I know how I was as a little kid; I wanted to be surprised, whether it was Star Wars or a cheesy horror Vincent Price movie. I’m not interested in teaching kids absolutely anything. I couldn’t care less if they eat their vegetables or hit their siblings. What I do want to happen is that at the end, when they close the book, they go, “I want to read another one.” My latest for kids is called Wildflowers, and it’s about how we play when we’re kids. Let’s go here! Let’s hide over there! Oh no! I’m dead! Arrgh!
What do you enjoy drawing the most?
I can draw the cat in Macanudo faster than my signature. When I published the sixth volume of the strip in Argentina, we printed 5,000 books with blank covers and I sat down and started doing that cat in red and black. When I got to 300, I thought, This is so cool! This is avant garde! Every book is a piece of art! When I was at 3,000, I was crying. Then we did an extra thousand.