Graphic Battles: Contests over History and Politics in Non-state Comic Books, 1970–2000

Friday, January 8, 2016: 3:30 PM
International Ballroom A (Atlanta Marriott Marquis)
Melanie Huska, Tulane University
Mexico is one of the world’s largest producers and consumers of comic books. According to a 1977 Ministry of Public Education (SEP) report, thirty-six million Mexicans read comics; another SEP report estimated the value of comic books distributed in Mexico that same year to be worth three hundred million pesos. They form part of the quotidian visual landscape of modern Mexico. First appearing in 1934, comic books experienced a boom in the mid-1930s and have remained enormously popular ever since. As a cheap form of entertainment, they offered the advantages of a visual and textual format accessible to the nation’s vast semi-literate population. Based on its study of the popularity of comics, in the early 1980s the SEP borrowed the medium to impress a shared notion of Mexican identity upon the population with two series about Mexican history, Episodios Mexicanos and México: Historia de un Pueblo. This paper examines comic books about Mexican history and politics produced and published by non-state actors, including commercial publishers, political parties, and artists critical of the one-party state. In particular titles analyzed include, “Pueblos Prehispanicos. Conquista, Colonia” by artist and political science professor, Miguel Ángel Gallo; “Reseña de los Documentos Básicos del Partido del Trabajo” by the Labor Party (PT); “Decena Trágica,” part of the series Biografías Selectas, published by Editorial Argumentos will be analyzed. This paper argues that comic books served as a significant site of contest over the signification of mexicanidad, from the 1970s to 2000, and reflect competing perspectives on the opening of civil society and neoliberal turn that preceded the ruling party’s loss in 2000.
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