comic art by Landru

Juan Carlos Colombres was an Argentinean 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 "Landru", 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

Colombres was born in Buenos Aires in 1923 into an aristocratic family from Tucumán. Already as a kid, 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'. Colombres went to study Architecture, however, before finding his true calling in journalism and cartooning. His 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 satirical 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 high-powered figures in government. A popular target was President Juan Perón (1946-1955), who he drew with a giant pear as a head (because the Spanish word for pear, "pera", resembles the president's last name). It was the final convulsion of the once so biting magazine, which went down as a result of growing press censorship, and the departure of several key contributors to Guillermo Divito's new humor magazine Rico Tipo.

Tio Vicenta

Colombres also made his appearance in Rico Tipo, as well as Dante Quinterno's comics magazine Patoruzú. He furthermore 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 had its fair share of censorship to deal with, 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 alltogether in 1966, because Landrú portrayed new military dictator Juan Carlos Onganía (1966-1970) like his nickname, "The Walrus". The magazine returned as Tío Landrú from 1967 to 1969, and again under its original name from 1977 to 1979.

Tio LandruTia Vicenta

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 has furthermore appeared in the Argentine edition of Playboy magazine, the Bahía Blanca daily La Nueva Provincia and the Rosario daily La Capital.

In his comic strips, cartoons and illustrated columns, Landrú cleverly satirized the customs, speech and overall thinking of the Argentinean 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 Argentinean 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. Among his 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

In 1959 Landrú was one of the Latin-American artists invited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to make a tour through the USA. He met Walt Disney at his studios, and visited many of the country's larger newspaper offices. Besides being a cartoonist, he was a composer as well, 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 created as a parody of the popular Doo-wop ensembles. A tragedy occurred in 1994, when Landrú was shot in his hand during an attack, preventing him to draw for several months. He had to undergo several surgeries to recover.

Cartoon by Landru

Colombres was awarded and praised on several occasions during his career. He earned a gold medal from the Argentine 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.

In 2014 he published the book '¡El que no se ríe es un maleducado!', which compiled most of his main works. In his final years he was mainly overseeing his Landrú Foundation, a non-profit organization to preserve his artistic legacy. Juan Carlos Colombres passed away in Buenos Aires on 6 July 2017, 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

www.landru.org
www.tiavicenta.com

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