comic art by Landru
Cartoon by Juan Carlos Colombres.

Juan Carlos Colombres was an Argentinian caricaturist, satirical cartoonist and humorist, who contributed to many of the country's leading magazines, including his own Tía Vicenta. His daring political work prompted him to assume the pen name "Landrú", because a colleague felt he resembled the notorious French serial killer Henri-Desiré Landru. His signature was often accompanied with a drawing of a smiling cat. With his ironic humor, he is part of the same generation of humorists as Quino, Lorenzo Amengual, Guillermo Mordillo, Miguel Brascó, Copi, Lang, Oski and Hermenegildo Sábat.

Diogenes el Curandero by Landru
'Diogenes El Curandero'. Translation: "I came to have plastic surgery to change my face." - "And what kind of face do you want to have?" - "This one." 

Early life 
Juan Carlos Colombres was born in 1923 in Buenos Aires into an aristocratic family from Tucumán. From a young age on, he knew how to use humor to express himself. He developed his sense for absurdism by reading the Italian magazine Bertoldo, and the Spanish magazine La Codorníz. At the age 16, he created 'Génesis Novísimo' (1939), an illustrated alternative to the 'Book of Genesis'. However, Colombres went to study Architecture, before finding his true calling in journalism and cartooning.

Cartoons for Don Fulgencio & Cascabel
Colombres' first works as a commentator and cartoonist were published in November 1945 in Don Fulgencio, a magazine edited by Lino Palacio. His first political drawings, often of an absurd nature, appeared in the political satire magazine Cascabel during its final year in 1946-1947. His work for Cascabel further included strips with the character 'Diogenes el Curandero' ("Diogenes the Healer") and surreal jokes with influences from Oski and Saul Steinberg. Initially signing with "JC.Colombres" or "J.C.", he settled on Landrú in 1947. The nickname sheltered him from getting into trouble for spoofing prolific politicians. A popular target was President Juan Perón (1946-1955). Colombres once drew his head as a giant pear, since the Spanish word "pera" sounds similar to "Pérón". Ridiculing heads of state as a pear is a long tradition in cartooning, given that 19th-century cartoonist Honoré Daumier did the same in 1829, mocking French king Louis XVI. However, growing press censorship under Perón's regime and several key contributors of Cascadel leaving in favor of Guillermo Divito's new humor magazine Rico Tipo, eventually meant the end of the magazine in 1947. 

Tio Vicenta
Cover illustrations for Tia Vicenta magazine. 

Tía Vicenta and other magazines
Colombres also made his appearance in Rico Tipo, as well as Dante Quinterno's comic magazine Patoruzú. He wrote and drew for magazines like Aquí Está, Vea y Lea, Leoplan, Pobre Diabolo, Avivato, El Gráfico and Mundo Argentino. In 1957, he and cartoonist Oski launched the political-satirical magazine Tía Vicenta. The magazine initially appeared with an average print-run of 50,000 copies a week, but this rose from 200,000 to 450,000 per issue when it became a Sunday supplement to the daily newspaper El Mundo in 1960. Besides Landrú's absurd and surreal humor, Quino, Faruk, Caloi, Copi, Conrado Nalé Roxlo, Hermenegildo Sábat, María Elena Walsh and co-founder Oski also contributed work. The magazine coped with its fair share of censorship, as it didn't shy away from addressing sensitive topics during a period of military dictatorship in Argentina. One of these was the prohibition of any mention of or reference to to exiled populist leader Juan Perón. A government decree shut down the publication altogether in 1966, because Landrú portrayed new military dictator Juan Carlos Onganía (1966-1970) as a walrus, in reference to his nickname. The magazine returned as Tío Landrú from 1967 to 1969, and again under its original name from 1977 to 1979.

Tio LandruTia Vicenta
Cover illustrations for Tio Landru and Tía Vicenta. 

Work in the 1970s
In the early 1970s, Landrú regularly published in the magazine Gente, in which he ridiculed the "nouveau riche". He also made his appearance in Mercado and Satiricón, and got a regular spot in the political section of Argentina's largest daily, Clarín, which lasted from 1972 to 2007. He also wrote and illustrated a weekly column in Clarín's 'Ollas y Sartenes' culinary section. His work also appeared in the Argentinian edition of Playboy magazine, the Bahía Blanca daily La Nueva Provincia and the Rosario daily La Capital.

Cartoon by Colmobres. Translation: "Yes, my lady. This prison is very old and this is all that's left of it." 

In his comic strips, cartoons and illustrated columns, Landrú cleverly satirized the customs, speech and overall thinking of the Argentinian society. His mockery was ironic and subtle, and aimed at all social levels. His artwork was simple and effective, and often peppered with visual metaphors, like his depictions of Perón as a pear and Onganía as a walrus. His recurring characters represented archetypes of Argentinian society. The lower class and unethical businessman 'El Señor Cateura' wanted to rise to a higher social and cultural level, while 'Rogelio el Hombre que Razonava Demasiando' ("Rogelio, The Man Who Thought Too Much") represented the paranoid fears of the bourgeoisie. 'María Belén and Alejandra' were two typical girls from the Barrio Norte district of Buenos Aires. Landrú got the idea for these characters when he overheard his daughter talking with friends in their own language. María Belén even had her own magazine in 1966-1967, as well as a regular radio broadcast about fashion and popular music on Radio Belgrano.

Tía Vicenta accidentally visits María Belén's magazine (30 October 1966).

Among Colombres' other characters were the antiquated 'Tía Vicenta' ("Auntie Vicenta") and 'Tía Cora' ("Auntie Cora"), the self-righteous "pillar of society" 'El Señor Porcel' (who was based on the cartoonist's father), the anti-Peronist investigator 'El Detective Cuculiu', 'Rudy, el Playboy' and 'Fofoli, Un Niño Abominable' ("Fofoli, An Abominable Child"). Landrú's subtle and sometimes archaic texts revealed the author's clever powers of observation.

El Senor Porcel by Landru
'El Señor Porcel'. 

Other activities
In 1959 Landrú was one of the Latin-American artists invited by the Argentinean Ministry of Foreign Affairs to make a tour through the USA. He met Walt Disney at his studio, and visited many of the country's larger newspaper offices. Apart from being a cartoonist, he was also a composer, and had an orchestra for a television program based on his characters from Tía Vicenta magazine. In 1958 he founded Jacinto W. y sus Tururú Serenaders, a musical group parodying popular doowop ensembles. 

Cartoon by Landru
Cartoon by Juan Colombres. 

Colombres earned a gold medal from the Argentinian Illustrators' Association as early as 1948, and a Clarín Award in 1954. In 1968, he was recognized in the United States with the Moors-Cabot Award from Columbia University in New York. He received a Diploma of Merit during the 1982 Konex Awards (an award for cultural personalities in Argentina) for his long career as a cartoonist. He was appointed a full member of the National Academy of Journalism in 1992. 

Final years and death
In 1994 Colombres was shot in his hand, which made him unable to draw for several months. It took several surgeries before he recovered. In 2014 he published the book '¡El Que No Se Rie Es Un Maleducado!', which compiled most of his main works. In his final years the veteran mainly oversaw his non-profit organization, the Landrú Foundation, to preserve his artistic legacy. Juan Carlos Colombres passed away on 6 July 2017 in Buenos Aires, at the age of 94. With a career spanning more than 60 years, his work reflects the political and social history of Argentina during the second half of the 20th century.

Juan Carlos Colombres
Juan Carlos Colombres.

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