Chilean Comic Strips

Funny, educative or satirical, comic books have been a way of artistic expression that has been present throughout the history of our country.

Memoria Chilena
Memoria Chilena

For more than 100 years, comics and graphic magazines have been a reflection of the Chilean society, its culture and idiosyncrasy. This art has had the ability of acting as a critical agent of society, as a funny escape from the routine and as a artistic expression in itself.

The beginning of the history of comic strips in Chile goes back to 1906, when for the first time the Zig-zag magazine released the story of a German character that arrives in our country by commands of his government. Created by the artist Lustig, the professor Fritz Von Pilsener with his dog Dudelsackpfeifergeselle, constantly dealt with different problems and situations caused by his little knowledge of the language and local Chilean culture; the name of this comic book was “Un alemán en Chile” (A German in Chile).

From this point on, comic strips became more and more common in national newspapers and magazines; at first, most of them were from a foreign origin and translated to Spanish, but as decades passed by the national product became more usual. At the beginning of 1930 it was common to find these publications in every newspapers; strongly influenced by the historical moment of the country and the economical crisis, most of the strips relied on the political satire. At the end of the decade Chilean characters started to daily appear in the press, marking the beginning of the Golden Age for the Chilean comic.

During the 40s, the firsts national magazines completely dedicated to publish comic strips were released; such as “Pobre Diablo” or “Okey”; providing national artists the space to afterwards become important representatives of this art. One of the magazines that became very popular and existed until 2006, was “Barrabases”, created by Guido Vallejos. This story was focused on a football team formed by children, that through funny dialogues, addressed different important characters of the country, football teams and events happening in the world.

Other comic books that were born during this period and that are also considered the most popular and successful both at an international and national level were “Pepe Antártico” and “Condorito”. The first one was created by Percy, and was all about Pepe, a little man that was known for his Casanova attitude towards women and for always trying to take advantage of situations. It was published for the first time in the newspaper “La Ultima Hora” and then in “El Mercurio” and even today it is possible to read about his adventures in “La Cuarta”. It was so successful that this comic strips has been translated to German, English, Finnish and French, among other languages.

The story of “Condorito” was first released on August 1949, with much simpler drawings than the one we are used to read. The protagonist is a humanized condor known for his wit, slyness and funny attitude; a sort of parody of the common Chilean people. In the company of the whole universe of Pelotillehue and a number of characters, this comic book created by Pepo has became without a doubt the most popular graphic character of our country. Distributed to the USA, Italy and Japan; Condorito is considered one of the most relevant comic strips in Latin America, together with Mafalda.

In 1960 the themes started to change and some comic strips that deal with different topics started to appear, such as “Rocket”, “El Jinete Fantasma” or the popular “Mampato”. This last one narrated the story of a boy that traveled through time and space discovering new worlds and characters, among them “Ogú” a prehistoric man that joins his adventures. In comparison with the other comic books, “Mampato” had an educational purpose and was directed to children and young people.

The Golden Age of comic books stopped in the 70’s, due to political and economical events; decade where many magazines were cancelled. In 1980 an underground movement of comic strips was created, where different universities in the country started publishing works without any cost, but never in a massive way. The newspapers, on the other hand, published international comic strips such as “Garfield”, “Calvin and Hobbes” or “Peanuts”, together with other well known national works such as “Condorito” and “Pepe Antartico”.

From 1990 on, hispanic comic books have not reached an international level of success, due to idiosyncratic differences between Latin American countries and European countries. National products started to be distributed in specialized stores and, in the last years, magazines such as “El Brujo” or “Chancho Cero” were launched, together with different graphic novel projects.

Some artist have decided to spread their work through the possibilities that internet gives, whether by means of social networks or other platforms, creating webcomics and fanzines. Today, different comics have reached a certain degree of importance at a national level, such as “Chilotito” and “Anotación Negativa”, together with artists such as Gabriel Rodriguez, who was awarded for his work “Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland”.

Little by little national comic strips have evolved in different ways; in their themes, ways of distribution and their artistic style. Step by step this art has found its space in the artistic circles of the Chilean culture.

For more than 100 years, comics and graphic magazines have been a reflection of the Chilean society, its culture and idiosyncrasy. This art has had the ability of acting as a critical agent of society, as a funny escape from the routine and as a artistic expression in itself.

The beginning of the history of comic strips in Chile goes back to 1906, when for the first time the Zig-zag magazine released the story of a German character that arrives in our country by commands of his government. Created by the artists Lustig, the professor Fritz Von Pilsener with his dog Dudelsackpfeifergeselle, constantly dealt with different problems and situations caused by his little knowledge of the language and local Chilean culture; the name of this comic book was “Un alemán en Chile” (A German in Chile).

From this point on, comic strips became more and more common in national newspapers and magazines; at first, most of them were from a foreign origin and translated to Spanish, but as decades passed by the national product became more usual. At the beginning of 1930 it was common to find these publications in every newspapers; strongly influenced by the historical moment of the country and the economical crisis, most of the strips relied on the political satire. At the end of the decade Chilean characters started to daily appear in the press, marking the beginning of the Golden Age for the Chilean comic.

During the 40s, the firsts national magazines completely dedicated to publish comic strips were released; such as “Pobre Diablo” or “Okey”; providing national artists the space to afterwards become important representatives of this art. One of the magazines that became very popular and existed until 2006, was “Barrabases”, created by Guido Vallejos. This story was focused on a football team formed by children, that through funny dialogues, addressed different important characters of the country, football teams and events happening in the world.

Other comic books that were born during this period and that are also considered the most popular and successful both at an international and national level were “Pepe Antártico” and “Condorito”. The first one was created by Percy, and was all about Pepe, a little man that was known for his Casanova attitude towards women and for always trying to take advantage of situations. It was published for the first time in the newspaper “La Ultima Hora” and then in “El Mercurio” and even today it is possible to read about his adventures in “La Cuarta”. It was so successful that this comic strips has been translated to German, English, Finnish and French, among other languages.

The story of “Condorito” was first released on August 1949, with much simpler drawings than the one we are used to read. The protagonist is a humanized condor known for his wit, slyness and funny attitude; a sort of parody of the common Chilean people. In the company of the whole universe of Pelotillehue and a number of characters, this comic book created by Pepo has became without a doubt the most popular graphic character of our country. Distributed to the USA, Italy and Japan; Condorito is considered one of the most relevant comic strips in Latin America, together with Mafalda.

In 1960 the themes started to change and some comic strips that deal with different topics started to appear, such as “Rocket”, “El Jinete Fantasma” or the popular “Mampato”. This last one narrated the story of a boy that traveled through time and space discovering new worlds and characters, among them “Ogú” a prehistoric man that joins his adventures. In comparison with the other comic books, “Mampato” had an educational purpose and was directed to children and young people.

The Golden Age of comic books stopped in the 70’s, due to political and economical events; decade where many magazines were cancelled. In 1980 an underground movement of comic strips was created, where different universities in the country started publishing works without any cost, but never in a massive way. The newspapers, on the other hand, published international comic strips such as “Garfield”, “Calvin and Hobbes” or “Peanuts”, together with other well known national works such as “Condorito” and “Pepe Antartico”.

From 1990 on, hispanic comic books have not reached an international level of success, due to idiosyncratic differences between Latin American countries and European countries. National products started to be distributed in specialized stores and, in the last years, magazines such as “El Brujo” or “Chancho Cero” were launched, together with different graphic novel projects.

Some artist have decided to spread their work through the possibilities that internet gives, whether by means of social networks or other platforms, creating webcomics and fanzines. Today, different comics have reached a certain degree of importance at a national level, such as “Chilotito” and “Anotación Negativa”, together with artists such as Gabriel Rodriguez, who was awarded for his work “Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland”.

Little by little national comic strips have evolved in different ways; in their themes, ways of distribution and their artistic style. Step by step this art has found its space in the artistic circles of the Chilean culture.

This post is also available in Spanish