Joaquín Salvador Lavado had an extensive and acclaimed career that led him to receive distinctions such as the Official Order of the Legion of Honor in France and the Prince of Asturias Award in Spain. "When I think that I'm going to open the newspaper and my drawings won't be there, it gives me more anguish and I keep drawing. It's like that stationmaster who retires, but comes back every day to see if the trains run on time" ,
Quino died. In other words, an important part of Argentine culture died. The guy who reinvented graphic humor and synthesized the ideas of a generation. The one who politically educated enormous layers of the country his cartoons. The one who, worried that his line would not deviate his path, traced his own drawings to keep his Mafalda identical to herself. The one who, already with vision problems and feeling that he did not have much more to say, put the pencils aside, in an exercise of dignity. The one who came back when he felt it necessary. The one who when they used his name or his character to support ideas with which he did not agree, protested and planted a position. The one who lent his figure to support any initiative that he contributed to the universe of comics or graphic humor. He was 88 years old and had a work done.
Quino was born as Joaquin Salvador Lavado on July 17, 1932, in Mendoza, that province so fertile in graphic artists and at the same time so used to pushing them to work in other lands. Quino was not the exception, his most famous exponent.
He began studying at the provincial School of Fine Arts when he was just 12 or 13 years old and dropped out at 17. His first job searches were unsuccessful. At the end he settled in Buenos Aires after doing the colimba and there his luck began to change.
Quino published his first page of humor in the weekly Esto Es and that opened the doors to other spaces for him, including the popular magazines Leoplán, TV Guía and Vea y Lea, among many others. His first leap was when he published in the fundamentals Rico Tipo and Tía Vicenta, he already began to emerge as a particular talent. these spaces came the compilation of his first book, Mundo Quino. But if there is something similar to consecration in graphic humor, it came to him with Mafalda.
Mafalda and the modernization of Argentine graphic humor
With Mafalda Quino, she modernized Argentine graphic humor, in the same way that Charles Schulz had done a couple of years before with Peanuts in the United States. In fact, the North American strip had been a great source of inspiration for the Mendoza in his first attempts with the character. This is noticeable in the earliest passages, although it takes off later. In both countries, both impose the formula that was for several decades the prototypical structure of the joke: three or four vignettes with a humorous ending, a stable gallery of characters, a preponderance of children reflecting as adults (or better than these).
In Argentina there are multiple other exponents that derive this scheme, such as Batu, by Tute. And although that is another story, in the country the formal rupture came the hand of Miguel Rep, who blurred the structure and changed the "joke" for a possible range of moods. The allusions are not accidental. Rep was a personal friend of Quino, who accompanied him when the one Página / 12 exhibited at the National Museum of Fine Arts. De Tute said he was the brightest of his generation.
Mafalda was not as immediate a success as it seems a distance. If you think about its advertising origin (a ruse of an electrical appliance brand) or the materiality of its first publications, hardly anyone could think that Quino was going to change Argentine graphic humor. Those opening strips were published on the front page surrounded by the most colorful notices: funerals, advertisements and horoscope. The page that sheltered her was not the most prestigious in the newspaper. But the girl and her parents, first, the girl and her group of friends later, a brilliant reflection of the progressive Argentine middle class of the mid-1960s, gained acceptance and popularity.
The big leap was in 1965, when the character was barely a year old. Quino had left Primera Plana due to differences with his managers and his colleague Brascó got him space in the newspaper El mundo, at that time one of the most widely circulated. It was an unstoppable phenomenon. In 1966 his first book compilation came out, by Editorial Jorge Álvarez, and the strip continued until 1973. The following compilations would come the hand of Ediciones de la Flor.
The relationship that Quino maintained with the publishing house then headed by Daniel Divinsky and his fellow countryman Kuki Miller says a lot about his ideas. Not only were his books essential for the consolidation and growth of the label, but the three forged an unbeatable friendship. When the couple had to go into exile in Venezuela, Quino continued to publish with them. Friends in common took and brought the material one country to another.
Quino could have opted for any other label (offers were never lacking), for a less cumbersome editorial dynamic or one that held fewer unpleasant "surprises", but he was faithful at all costs. They always repaid that friendship. Miller, for example, highlighted Quino's gentle character, even though he could sometimes be inscrutable to others. "Because we are Mendoza we understand each other," he used to repeat an accomplice and with a smile. Divinsky always spoke of him as "Quinito", with an unspeakable tenderness. If De la Flor was essential to preserve in the reader's imaginary the work of graphic humorists the 1960s onwards, Quino was indispensable for De la Flor itself to exist.
The curious thing about the whole Mafalda phenomenon - which became international, had animated series and is synonymous with Argentine graphic humor in the world - is that for the author himself it was not his most representative work. He maintained that he had "barely" drawn that strip for nine or ten years, but instead he had made pages and vignettes all his life. It was true. Furthermore, in those loose pages, with unnamed characters, the Mendoza displayed his artistic concerns (the joke of Picasso's “Guernica” “reordered” is exemplary in this sense) and allowed him to go thoroughly with his reading of power relations, of domination and class that inhabit society. If the situation in Mafalda has an enormous weight (that of "So ... what they taught me at school ...", the day after the military coup, for example), in its pages there is time for reflection and a more elaborate poetics.
Quino gave everything. If there is any consolation about his departure, it is that he was also rewarded as much as possible. He received countless awards and tributes, and his appearance alone drew applause. Umberto Eco observed in a prologue to the first Italian edition of Mafalda that his work was fundamental to understanding Argentina. He was right. Quino died. Luckily he left a legacy to learn to draw us.