The Bruguera School is a term coined by the Spanish author and intellectual Terenci Moix (1942-2003) in reference to the group of comic book artists that worked for the Barcelonan publishing house Bruguera (1940-1982) from the middle of the 40s until the beginning of the 60s during the last century.  The most important of the magazines in which they published were Pulgarcito, DDT and, later, Tío Vivo.

The series and characters that these artists created departed from the adventure and infantile humor comic books, so in vogue during the period, opting for a more Costumbrista humor that, without abandoning the youth label, was also enjoyed by adults. This provided a breath of fresh air for an afflicted post-war Spain. Some of the authors were retaliated against during the dictatorship (1939-1975) of General Franco for their participation in the republican faction during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). From that point it was not uncommon that a certain bitterness existed behind the humor of their stories, the majority one page in length. In similar fashion, good fortune proved elusive to a majority of the characters.

The relevance of the Bruguera School is owed to various reasons. On one side, this is a collection of works that in general terms, despite sharing certain stylistic traits imposed by the publishing house, proves to be a great aesthetic departure. Moreover, these series gave a perfect snapshot of the Spanish society of the era, above all urban society.  Thanks to them, Bruguera achieved outstanding success, giving rise to an editorial empire that would dominate the world of the Spanish comic book until well into the 1970s. These circumstances explain the later influence these authors and their works have exercised over not only later comic book authors, but also the collective imagination of Spain.

An overview of certain characters will serve to illustrate the testimonial quality contained within some of these stories.  The series of Josep Escobar (1908-1994) are exemplary in this aspect.  Carpanta is an excellent record of the Spanish post-war: it narrates the misadventures of a hungry vagabond who, in spite of his craftiness, never manages to satisfy his voracious appetite. For its part, in Petra, criada para todo, both the social classes, represented by Petra and her lady, Doña Patro, and the rural and urban worlds they come from are set against each other. The portrait of the declining aristocrat and the relationship between master and slave had already appeared a earlier on in Pascual, criado leal by Ángel Nadal (1930).

Many series illustrate some central aspects of the Spanish socioeconomic reality during the dictatorship. The difficult labor relations in a country where labor unions were forbidden found their reflection in Don Pío by José Peñarroya (1910-1975), whose protagonist is an office worker who attempts, unsuccessfully, to get his boss to give him a raise in wage. An even less fortunate employee is Celedonio, the secretary in Apolino Taruguez, hombre de negocios, by Carlos Conti (1916-1975). Celedonio has to put up with the bad humor, inconsideration, and even the physical violence of his boss.  The censorship imposed by the military regime explains the type of irrelevant news stories that a boss would have covered by yet another employee, El Repórter Tribulete, a work by Guillermo Cifré (1922-1962). As a final example, multiple stories take on the economic difficulties of the time and their impact on the family. Such is the case with, among others, La familia Cebolleta, by Manuel Vázquez (1930-1995); La familia Pepe, by Juan García Iranzo (1918-1998); or Los señores de Alarcón y el holgazán de Pepón, by Roberto Segura (1927-2008).

Although some of these authors continued publishing in Editorial Bruguera, starting in the 1960s, the created works, with a few honorable exceptions, lacked the freshness and the critical feeling of the first works.  This second batch of series includes works like Pepe Gotera y Otilio, by Francisco Ibáñez, or Superlópez, by Jan. In some cases, there appeared series based on parodies of popular characters from literature and film. Such is the case with Anacleto, agente secreto, by Manuel Vázquez (James Bond), or Sir Tim O´Theo (Sherlock Holmes), by Joan Rafart, better known as Raf.

— José Enrique Navarro

See also: Carpanta; Cifré; Conti, Carlos; El repórter Tribulete; Escobar Saliente, José; Historietas; Mortadelo y Filemón; Peñarroya Peñarroya, José; Pulgarcito; Segura, Antonio; Zipi y Zape

Further Reading

  • Alary, Viviane. 2009. “The Spanish Tebeo.” European Comic Art 2.2: 254-276.
  • Barrero, Manuel. 2003. “The Evolution of Children’s Comics in Spain.” International Journal of Comic Art 5.2: 28-49.
  • Moix, Terenci. 2007. Historia social del cómic. Barcelona: Bruguera. Originally published as Los cómics, arte para el consumo y formas pop (Barcelona: Llibres de Sinera, 1968).
  • Pilcher, Tim and Brad Brooks. 2005. “Spain.” In The Essential Guide to World Comics, 192-195. London: Collins and Brown.