We’d like to wish a happy birthday to Mexican cartoonist and animator Gustavo “Gus” Arriola, creator of beautiful, experimental, charming (am I running out of superlatives yet?) comic strip Gordo, published for an impressive some-forty-odd years (between 1941 and 1985, to be exact). Arriola was born on July 17th, 1917 and died in 2008, when he was 90 years old.
Gordo was designed to be a Mexican version of Li’l Abner, but Arriola quickly realized that his strip was relying on stereotypes of Mexican culture as seen through American eyes. He strove to make it truer to his mother culture, making Gordo (the main character – his real name being Perfecto Salazar Lopez, with his nickname more or less translating to « Fatso ») “an accidental ambassador” for Mexican mores.
The strip featured a lot of animals, and its plotlines often pivoted around concerns about the environment. It also regularly included recipes. For instance, Gordo’s beans and cheese recipe from a strip in 1948 got the comic strip into 60 extra newspapers. And, significantly, Gordo also had gorgeous, inventive art!
Aside from being a music aficionado, Gus Arriola was also a great connaisseur of art. R.C. Harvey, the editor/writer of “Accidental Ambassador Gordo: The Comics Strip Art of Gus Arriola” mentions Arriola’s love for jazz: “[he] finally [settled] in Carmel, where he met his life-long friend and fellow cartoonist, Eldon Dedini, and they both became fixtures at Doc’s Lab, where Hank Ketcham and other habitués of the place met weekly to admire jazz and tell stories.” Read the rest of his lovely article here.
In 1999, Arriola was interviewed by John Province for Hogan’s Alley no. 6 – it’s well worth a read if you’ve got some spare quality time! You can read the interview here.
Want to see more? Head over to the Fabulous Fifites blog, where many scans of Sundays strips are available for perusal. (Ger Apeldoorn, the blog’s author, did a monumental job of scanning newspaper strips for our enjoyment.)