Martadelo y Filémon, by Francisco Ibàñez
Mortadelo y Filemón - 'La Tergiversicina' (1991).

Francisco Ibáñez was one of the great humorists of Spanish comics, known all over the world for his bumbling secret agents 'Mortadelo y Filemon' ('Mort & Phil', 1958-2023). Counting more than 200 titles, his series has become the longest-running Spanish comic series of all time and the most widely translated Spanish comic on the planet. The stories have been adapted into films, an animated TV series and video games. Besides his two signature characters, Ibáñez created many more features since his 1950s debut at Editorial Marco. He was eventually an essential part of the "Second Generation" of the Bruguera school, a group of comic creators that dominated the pages of this publisher's titles from 1957 throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Several enduring creations saw the light in Bruguera magazines like El DDT, Tío Vivo, Din Dan and Pulgarcito. Many of them showed the author's preference for characters that fail desperately in doing their jobs, such as the clumsy bellhop 'El botones Sacarino' (1963-1982), the disastrous workmen 'Pepe Gotera y Otilio' (1966-1970) and of course his unfortunate secret agents. Other characters are pitiful for other reasons, such as the author's personal favorite, 'Rompetechos' (1964-1978, 2003-2009), whose lack of vision constantly gets him in trouble. Adding to Ibáñez's grotesque slapstick humor is his graphic inventiveness, best showcased in his whole-page cartoon feature '13, Rue del Percebe' (1961-1968), presented as a single panel view of an apartment building, of which every window tells the story of another inhabitant. After a short excursion in the mid-1980s at Editorial Grijalbo and its magazine Guai!, Francisco Ibáñez spent the rest of his career at Ediciones B, where he continued to work on 'Mortadelo y Filemon'. Remaining active until well into his 80s, he is estimated to have written and drawn over 50,000 comic pages.

Early life
Francisco Ibáñez Talavera was born in Barcelona in 1936, four months before the start of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Coming from a modest family, his Valencian father was an accountant and his Andalusian mother a housewife. He had three siblings. Already at a young age, he showed a keen interest in drawing. One time, the boy drew a mouse in the corner of a sheet of newspaper, which his father cut out and carried in his wallet for the rest of his life. The neighborhood kiosk provided Francisco with a steady stream of comic books, and after a while, the young draughtsman could draw many of their characters from memory. At age eleven, he copied a Sioux from one of Jesús Blasco's comics and saw it published in the readers' section of the children's magazine Chicos. It was his first paid cartooning job, as it earned him a "cinco duro" coin, worth 5 pesetas. During these formative years, he devoured every comic book available, taking a particular liking towards the adventure serials of Editorial Velenciana ('Roberto Alcázar y Pedrín', 'El Guerrero del Antifaz'), as well as the humor strips in Pulgarcito magazine of publisher Bruguera. Among his main graphic influences is the first generation of Bruguera cartoonists, including Josep Escobar, José Peñarroya, Guillermo Cifré, Carlos Conti, Manuel Vázquez and Jorge. Young Ibáñez was also captivated by the comedy heroes of American cinema, such as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy and Harold Lloyd. Later in life, he also underwent considerable influence from the Belgian comic creator André Franquin and the Italian humorist Benito Jacovitti.

'Haciendo el Indio' (La Risa #54, 1958).

Early career
However, in Franco's Spain, working professionally as a cartoonist was not the most secure career choice. So after his primary education at the Guimerá schools in his hometown, Francisco Ibáñez studied accounting, banking and mercantile expertise. Between 1950 and 1957, he worked as bellhop and then as portfolio and risk assistant with the Banco Español de Crédito. However, he continued to present his cartoons and comic strips to Barcelona publishing houses. At age sixteen, still during his bellhop years, he sold his first humor comic strips to Nicolás, a comic magazine published by Ediciones Cliper. In late 1952, Ibáñez filled two full pages with strips and cartoons starring characters like 'Don Pepe' and 'Don Rufo y Peporro' in the 'Almanaque para 1953' annual of Chicolino magazine, published by Símbolo. In the following year, he also had several strips printed in the 1954 annual of Símbolo's Picolin magazine. By 1953, Ibáñez had joined Josep Toutain's team at the Histograf agency, that syndicated humor comics to newspapers and magazines. Ibáñez contributed a short-lived gag strip starring a zany Native American, 'Haciendo el Indio' (1953), followed by features such as 'El Empleíto' (1953) and 'D. Doroteo y Familia' (1954-1955), appearing in magazines like La Risa and the A Todo Color supplement of newspaper La Prensa.


Editorial Marco
Between 1954 and 1957, Francisco Ibáñez was a more regular contributor to La Risa and its publishing house Editorial Marco. Besides turning 'Haciendo el Indio' into a full-page strip, he introduced new creations, such as the fakir 'Ali Oli – El Fakirito', the stingy Scotsman 'Don Usura', the thief 'Gacotín', and 'Kokolo' (1955-1957), a little African man who assists a bald explorer. Some of his strips were signed "F. Ibáñez", others were made under the pen name "Pif". Possibly, Pif was a pen name shared by several cartoonists; A. Pueyo is also believed to have used it. In La Risa, Ibáñez also succeeded Editorial Marco house cartoonists like Emilio Boix and J. Ripoll as illustrator of the editorial sections written by editor Carlos Bech. Both 'Reportajes Extraordinarios' ("Extraordinary Reports") and 'Reportajes de Todo el Mundo' ("Reports from Around the World") offered fictional humorous news of which Bech was the "reporter" and Ibáñez the "photographer". With his powerful imagination and sense for the surreal and bizarre, Ibáñez quickly gave these sections his personal touch.

In 1955, with Bech as his scriptwriter, Ibàñez continued several features that were previously drawn by Emilio Boix, who had left the country. These included 'Nicrostato Mochales', 'Nicomedes Camueso', 'Bob-Ayna y Pat-Acón' and 'Cartapacio y Seguidilla'. The latter starred two incompetent detectives, a theme that Ibáñez would revisit in his own 'Mortadelo' comic a couple of years later.

'Don Usura'.

Besides La Risa, Ibáñez and his characters also appeared in other Marco titles, like Rin-tin-tin and Hipo, Monito y Fifí. In the latter, he gave life to 'El León Melenas' (1954-1958), a jungle lion dressed in pants and a striped shirt. The character returned in the early 1960s in the pages of La Risa. Other new creations for Hipo, Monito y Fifí were 'Dreson' (1955), 'El Mosquito Pérez' (1954), 'Demetrio, el Gendarme' (1955), 'Fulcio Batracio' (1956), 'Puko' (1956), 'Orejón' (1956) and 'Mike Gorilo' (1959), several of them funny animal features. Since the rights belonged to the publisher, later episodes of 'Kokolo', 'Melenas' and 'Haciendo el Indio' were made by other Marco cartoonists, such as Javier Pont, A. Pueyo, Kito, J. Cebrián and Mas Esparch.

In a 2009 interview with the 'El Rincón de Mortadelón' weblog, Ibáñez described his time at Editorial Marco as a period full of camaraderie and mutual inspiration. Particularly older artists like Emilio Boix had an important influence on his work. Until 1960, Ibáñez remained a loyal contributor to publisher Tomás Marco Debón, even when he had already become a staple at the publishing house Bruguera. Among his final creations for La Risa were the family comic 'La Familia Repollino' (1958), the musketeer parody 'Los Tres Mosquitos' (1958), 'Pie Sucio' (1957) and a pantomime strip about a Mexican, 'Furgensio' (1959-1960).

'Melenas', rare funny animal comic by Ibáñez.

Work for other publishers
Having already achieved an impressive production at age 19, Ibáñez had shaped his style and perfected his skills. This resulted in collaborations with other Barcelonese publishers in the second half of the 1950s. For Ediciones Símbolo, he drew the unlucky adventurer 'Don Eulalio' (1955) in Lilliput magazine, as well as humor pages for Enric Badía Romero's Alex magazine. At Ediciones Generales, Ibáñez was present in Paseo Infantil and El Barbas. In Paseo Infantil, he launched the medieval strip 'El Caballero Buscabollos' (1956), the picaresque character 'Abraham Pérez' (1956) and the anti-hero strongman 'Joe Tranca' (1957). Other new characters were archetypical townspeople, like the naive 'Ludovico Barrigón' (1957), the moody 'Juan Desdichas' (1957), the grumpy 'El tío Tranca' (1957), the cheerful 'Rufo Chocolatín' (1957), the strict 'Pepe Rabieta' (1957) and the stingy 'Pepe Roña' (1957). He additionally succeeded Alfonso Figueras on the 'Loony' feature (1957), and created several gags without recurring characters.

In 1957, Ibáñez had five years of cartooning experience, all the while combining this activity with his work at the bank. That year, he decided to quit his dayjob and become a fulltime comic creator. As it turned out, he could make eight or ten times as much money with his many comic creations. Even though at first he continued to do a couple of features for Editorial Marco, he began an exclusive association with Bruguera, publishing house of the popular comic magazines El DDT and Pulgarcito. Around that time, many of the publisher's major contributors had left to start their own magazine, Tío Vivo. In dire need of new content, Bruguera attracted a new group of comic creators, which became known as the "Second Bruguera Generation" or the "Generation of 57". Besides Ibàñez, this included artists like Enrich, Alfonso Figueras, Gin, Jordi Gosset, Gustavo Martz-Schmidt, Angel Nadal, Raf, Arturo Rojas de la Cámara, Roberto Segura and Tran. The eccentric Manuel Vazquez was an earlier Bruguera contributor, but is also considered part of this generation. To Ibàñez, Vazquez was a mentor, and many of his early creations for the publisher show his influence. Within a couple of years, Ibàñez had established himself as Bruguera's top artist, with many popular features to his name.

First appearance of Mortadelo & Filemón in Pulgarcito #1394 (20 January 1958).

Mortadelo y Filemón: detectives
In late 1957, Ibàñez made his first character proposals to the Bruguera editors. He immediately hit the mark with his concept for a private investigator parody, 'Mortadelo y Filemón, Agencia de Información'. Ibáñez's first creation for Bruguera also proved to be his most enduring, although it took about a decade before the series found its definitive form. The duo's first adventure saw print on 20 January 1958, in issue #1394 of Pulgarcito magazine. Mortadelo - Mort, in English - is the tall, slim one with glasses and a black frock coat, that covers half of his face. His name refers to a Spanish type of sausage, a mortadella. Filemón Pi - Phil in English - is the shorter of the two and has two hairs on his head. His name is also a nod to a Spanish meat dish, a filemón beef steak.

Originally, the two buffoons ran their own detective agency, with Filemón being the chief and Mortadelo his assistant. Just like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, they try to solve cases. In the early years, Mortadelo and Filemón even dressed up in Holmesian costumes to prove their "professionalism". Mortadelo is a phenomenal master of disguise, who can transform himself into any person, animal, plant or object in a matter of seconds. There seems no limits to his absurd shapeshifting abilities. In some gags, he suddenly looks like a spider, ostrich or even a dinosaur. Unfortunately, Mortadelo is also clumsy and not too bright, while Filemón is too short-tempered to remain calm in stressful situations. Contrary to the genius detective duo from Baker Street, Mortadelo and Filemón fail in each and every mission. They make stupid mistakes and don't think two steps ahead. Invariably, they cause colossal mayhem and disasters, which the furious Filemón blames on Mortadelo. When it's time to run away from Filemón's increasingly violent temper tantrums - he often chases his colleague with the most deadly weapons - Mortadelo's disguises come in very handy.

'La Mujer y la Plancha' cartoon page for Can Can.

Cartoon sections
Like most Bruguera humor features, 'Mortadelo y Filemón' initially appeared in black-and-white on a single page with six rows of strips. The gags were character-driven and the panels had little background art. This allowed Ibáñez to work on several other creations throughout the 1960s. Already in 1957, single-panel cartoons by the artist - often sports-related - appeared in Pulgarcito, El DDT and Selecciones de Humor de El DDT. In the latter publication he had his own humor section: 'Mire qué gracioso es Ibáñez' ("Look how funny Ibàñez is"). In the following year, Ibàñez was present in Bruguera's brand-new humor magazine Can Can, aimed at adult readers. Besides cartoons and one-shot comics, he created recurring characters like 'Don Adelfo' (1958), a short, bald and bearded man, and 'Celestino' (1958-1959), who is always unlucky in love. Also in Can Can, he took over 'La Historia ésa, vista por Hollywood' (1959-1960) from his mentor Manuel Vázquez, a feature with spoof biographies of historical, mythological or fictional characters. Some of Ibáñez' other cartoon pages in Can Can were also thematic, like 'Ellas y...' and 'La Mujer y...', in which he humorously portrayed the relationship of women with cosmetics, gifts, savings and other subjects. Starting in 1963, more movie-related cartoons were made by Ibáñez for the sections 'Pantalla Chica/Pantalla Gigante' and 'Plató del Día'.

During the late 1950s, Ibáñez also filled several cartoon sections in El DDT, Selecciones de Humor del DDT and Ven y Ven, which included one-shot comic pages and thematic cartoons, for instance about movies. In addition, he provided illustrations for text sections, such as 'Pequeñas biografías de Gente Gorda' ("Little biographies of Fat People", 1959) by the Catalan humorist Jorge Llopis in Selecciones de Humor del DDT. In 1960, Bruguera bought Can Can's direct competitor Tío Vivo, and thus hired several of its former staff back. To this newly acquired title, Ibàñez contributed cartoon sections like "Claro que...' ("Of course...", 1960) and 'Ríase...' ("Laugh...", 1960). In 1961, Ibáñez collaborated with Bruguera's women's magazine Blanca with the single-panel cartoon feature 'Polito, tipo duro' ("Polito, tough guy", 1961), showing the cartoonist's more sadistic sense of humor. Between 1961 and 1968, Ibàñez additionally made cartoons and illustrations for Nosotros, the internal staff magazine of the Bruguera publishing house.

'La Familie Trapisonda' in DDT #158.

Family humor
Between 1958 and 1966, Ibáñez created a great many additional comic series for the Bruguera magazines. Some lasted only a handful of episodes, like 'Felisa y Colás' in Pulgarcito (1958), three medieval-themed gags with 'El Escudero Bartolo' for the summer issues of El Capitán Trueno Extra (1960-1962) and the Far West humor strip 'Cabeza de Ajo, El Penúltimo Navajo' in El DDT (1962). Others had more longevity. Over a period of ten years, his gag page feature 'La Familia Trapisonda, un Grupito Que es La Monda' ("The Brawl Family", 1958-1968) ran in Pulgarcito (1958), Ven y Ven (1959), Selecciones de Humor de El DDT (1959), El Capitán Trueno Extra (1960-1968) and Bravo (1968). Intially, the series satirized family life, starring a married couple and their two children, the naughty Flipin and the nerdy Sabihondin. Observing the events is the family dog Atila, who has nothing but contempt for his owner. However, Spanish law at the time prohibited ridicule of parental authority and the sanctity of the family. So after about a year, Ibàñez had to transform the parents Pacracio and Lucrecia into siblings and the children into their nephews. Editorial Bruguera released several book collections with the gags, and continued to reprint the gags in magazines for years to come.

'Los Perez'. Translation: "Yes yes. Oh la la! Oh la la!" - "What are you lookin' at? Give it here!" - "Oh... eh... gulp... those are Madagascarian landscapes!" - "Oh... oh... oooh! Aren't you ashamed, Libertino, dirty old man. Foto's of B.B. (Brigitte Bardot)! Men!" 

By 1960, Bruguera was offering work by its authors for international syndication through its Creaciones Editoriales agency. One of the original creations by Francisco Ibàñez for the syndicate was 'Los Pérez' (1963), a short-lived strip about the daily life of a fictional family, which offers a reflection of the Spanish society of the time.

'Godofredo y Pascualino' (DDT #158).

El Campeón de las Historietas
In March 1960, Bruguera launched a new monthly magazine, El Campeón (de las Historietas), for which Ibáñez created three features, all with surreal undertones. The first, 'Increíble, pero mentira' ("Incredible, but a lie", 1960), was a cartoon parody of the news with grotesque characters appearing in exaggerated everyday situations. Equally absurd was his next series, the vertical gag strip 'Ande, ríase usté con el Arca de Noé' ("Go Laugh with Noah's Ark", 1961). While the title refers to the biblical tale, Ibàñez's Noah is a modern-day despotic boss, who constantly orders his assistant Pepe around. Together, they run an agency that supplies clients with peculiar animals, such as a horse that can play chess, donkeys playing the saxophone and a savant monkey. Following them around is an octopus with four tentacles, who keeps copying the gestures and behavior of his owner, Don Noé. In the gag strip 'Godofredo y Pascualino, viven del deporte fino' ("Godofredo and Pascualino, they live on fine sports", 1961-1962), Ibáñez presented another grumpy boss who orders his insubordinate around, this time in an athlete recruitment agency.

13, Rue del Percebe by Ibanez13 Rue del Percebe by Ibanez
'13, Rue del Percebe'. 

13, Rue del Percebe
Starting 6 March 1961, Ibáñez was tasked with providing the backcover feature for Tío Vivo magazine, by then rebooted with a new run under Bruguera reign. The cartoonist came up with one of his most innovative creation, the single-panel cartoon series '13, Rue del Percebe' ("13, Barnacle Street", 1961-1968). Each episode shows a crosscut of an apartment building, with each room offering a glimpse in the life of its inhabitant. Each character has its own storyline, but what happens in one room can sometimes affect several of the neighbors.

Ibáñez' crazy community consists of fixed characters with defined personalities: a defaulter, a thief, some very naughty children, a stingy landlady, an old lady who protects animals, a creator of monsters, an inventor, a scamming shopkeeper, a man who lives in a sewer and a janitor, as well as a cat and mouse who don't get along. Censors under Franco's ultra-conservative, Catholic regime objected to the monster maker character, since "only God can create life." Therefore the character was forcibly replaced by an an incompetent tailor. Ibáñez drew 341 installments of the feature until 1968. It was then taken over by Juan Bernet Toledano -  who, in late 1967, had already done seven fill-in episodes. Toledano created 57 additional episodes until 26 January 1970. Until Tío Vivo's cancellation in 1981, '13, Rue del Percebe' then continued as reprints.

Starting in 1971, Bruguera released compilation books in its collections Olé, Magos del humor and Súper Humor. A more complete edition was published in West Germany in 1983: 'Ausgeflippt - Fischstrasse 13 - irre Typen, heisse Sprüche'. Following the German success, Bruguera ordered 36 new pages to be produced, which filled the tenth compilation. Most of these pages were drawn by Miguel Ratera. The creators of the other pages are unknown, but possibly Juan Manuel Muñoz or Lurdes Martin. 230 additional pages were directly made for the German market, possibly by German artists.

Sacarino, by Francisco Ibàñez

El botones Sacarino
In the meantime, Ibàñez continued to publish regularly in El DDT magazine. In the 27 May 1963 issue (#628), he introduced another feature that would become well-known, 'El botones Sacarino, de El Aullido Vespertino' ("Bellhop Sacarino of the Evening Howl", 1963-1982). The character started modestly in a small comic strip that shared the page with other features. But within a couple of years, he had become so popular that the entire centerspread of El DDT was devoted to his longer adventures. The main character Sacarino is a clumsy and forgetful bellhop, initially working at the offices of the newspaper El Aullido Vespertino. Later, this was changed into the offices of El DDT, making 'El botones Sacarino' a fictional editorial comic.

For the concept, characters and gags of his strip, Ibàñez borrowed heavily from the Belgian comic magazine Spirou, in particular the comics by André Franquin. Graphically, Sacarino shares his looks with Franquin's lazy office boy 'Gaston Lagaffe' ('Gomer Goof'), and his uniform with Spirou's title character, at the time also drawn by Franquin. Like Gaston, Sacarino is lazy, and instead of working, spends his time eating, sleeping and playing with animals. His superiors, however, are more formal and stereotypical than in Franquin's comic. Sacarino's direct boss is known as El Dire (the Director), at first modelled graphically after real-life Bruguera director Rafael González. The latter was not amused by his always-angry counterpart, so Ibàñez had to remodel the character. The Director's boss is El Presi, the president of the company, who is ususally the one harmed by Sacarino's antics, but always believes the Director was to blame. While the character dynamics differ from 'Gaston Lagaffe', Ibáñez regularly copied entire sequences and gags from the Belgian comic. In Franco's Spain, Belgian comics were largely unknown, so readers didn't notice.

Besides El DDT, the adventures of Sacarino have appeared in other Bruguera magazines, like Tío Vivo, Súper Mortadelo, Mortadelo Especial and Pulgarcito. During the 1970s, he also received his own magazines, Sacarino (1975-1977) and Súper Sacarino (1975-1985). Ibáñez worked on new stories until the early 1980s. The clear resemblance to Franquin's 'Gaston' comic didn't keep Sacarino from having a successful international career during the 1980s. Abroad, he was largely known as Tom Tiger, and his misadventures were published in books in at least German ('Tom Tiger + Co'), Dutch ('Tom Tiger + Co') and Finnish ('Timo Tiikeri').

Rompetechos by Ibanez
'Rompetechos' (Din Dan #218, 17 April 1972).

Yo / Rompetechos
Most of Ibáñez's comics are about characters who are disastrous at their jobs, causing mayhem wherever they go. Some of his creations, however, just have bad luck in general. They are often the average man in the street, estranged from his surroundings, falling victim to whatever goes on around them. In Pulgarcito and Can Can, Ibáñez first showed his talent for self-mockery with 'Yo' (1969), a short-lived gag strip in which the cartoonist himself ends up in surreal situations because of his baldness or lack of vision. These autobiographical traits also formed the basis for his next creation, 'Rompetechos' (1964-1978, 2003-2009), a short and myopic man whose poor vision causes comical situations. This sometimes leads to absurd or meta comedy. In a special late 1960s issue of Din Dan magazine, for instance, Rompetechos sneaks into the comics of other characters, because he couldn't find his own page.

Initially appearing in Tío Vivo, the character was later featured prominently on the cover of Din Dan (1968-1975). Like other Ibáñez characters, Rompetechos was also given his own titles, (Super) Rompetechos (1978-1985) and Extra Rompetechos (1982-1985). Because a lot of the comedy relied on verbal puns and wordplay, the 'Rompetechos' comic has remained largely unknown outside the Spanish borders. In interviews, Ibàñez often called Rompetechos his personal favorite character, with whom he could identify the most. As a result, Rompetechos often had guest appearances in other Ibàñez comics, and he was one of the few characters revived by Ibáñez in the magazine Top Cómic at Ediciones B in the early 2000s.

'El doctor Esparadrapo y su ayudante Gazapo' (Pulgarcito #1772, 1965).

Disastrous duos
Over the course of the 1960s, Francisco Ibàñez created several shorter-lived features, before focusing fully on his main series. Several of them had the trademark Ibàñez theme: incompetent duos of which one acts despotic and tyrannical towards the other. For Tío Vivo, he made four episodes of 'Doña Pura y doña Pera, vecinas de la escalera' ("Mrs. Pura and Mrs. Pera, staircase neighbors", 1964). The first is a generous and kind-hearted old woman, who inadvertently causes problems for her neighbor, a gossipy, selfish woman with a choleric temperament. Also in 1964, he created 'El doctor Esparadrapo y su ayudante Gazapo' ("Doctor Esparadrapo and his assistant Gazapo", 1964-1965), a rather sloppy doctor without any specific specialty who receives patients from high society. Equally inept is his assistant Gazapo, a cross-eyed and bewildered man who likes to practice his medical knowledge with the office cat. After a first 1964 short story in Tío Vivo, the series was briefly revived in Pulgarcito in the following year.

A duo with more frequent appearances was 'Pepe Gotera y Otilio, chapuzas a domicilio' ("Pepe Leak and Otilio, botched jobs home delivered", 1966-1970), who first appeared on the 2 May 1966 centerspread of Tío Vivo magazine. Pepe and Otilio form yet another ill-fated duo, in this case at work for a repair company, who also concentrate on other manual jobs. Pepe Gotera is the boss, who only gives orders, Otilio the glutonous not-so handyman. Their limited attempts at actual work are often thwarted by landslides, flooding, explosions and other disasters. Appearing in Tío Vivo until 1970, their adventures were also released in book format in the Colección Olé. In 1985, Bruguera released eight issues of the characters' own namesake magazine, which serialized the new story 'El Castillo de los Pelhamcudy', created by Bruguera studio artist Juan Martínez Osete.

'Balin y Balón'.

Advertising strips
In addition to his own features, Ibáñez made a couple of remarkable advertising comic strips, combining the Bruguera humor style with commercial messages. Regularly, the publisher inserted advertisements in comics with their familiar characters, but sometimes new features were made specifically for this purpose. Bruguera even opened a special advertising division to manage these productions, Nueva Línea. In 1962, both Ibáñez and Manuel Vázquez made advertising strips for Nogueroles chocolate with the character 'Kitín, el Amigo de los Niños', appearing in Pulgarcito, El DDT and Tío Vivo. For the latter, Ibàñez created several soccer soccer cartoons for the advertising strip 'Balín y Balón' (1962-1963). In the billboards surrounding the soccer field, sponsored by ball manufacturer Ceplástica-Áriz. For a period of two years, Ibáñez promoted the German UHU glue in several Bruguera magazines with his comic strip 'Uhu y el Niño Prudencio' (1964-1966), starring an owl (Uhu) who causes problems with a tube of glue. The production of the Nueva Línea advertising strips was a big annoyance to Bruguera's editorial director Rafael González, who saw the delivery of his regular comic features delayed by them. So by 1966, Ibáñez was replaced on the 'Uhu' feature by Juan Martínez Osete and Miguel Bernet Toledano.

A different type of assignment was the 'Don Pedrito' strip (1964-1967), which Ibáñez made for Tío Vivo. The feature didn't have a commercial message, but starred the mascot from the cinema advertising spots for Fundador brandy. After 1967, Bruguera handed the features to other cartoonists, including Blás Sanchís. Later in the 1960s, Ibáñez sporadically made new advertising strips, for instance 'Pepsi Man' (1966) for Pepsi Cola and 'Kinito' (1966) for San Clemente stomach tonic.

Mortadelo y Filemón - 'El Sulfato Atómico' (1969, Portuguese edition).

Mortadelo y Filemón: secret agents
All the while creating his many other features, Francisco Ibáñez had continued to make gag pages with his famous detective duo Mortadelo and Filemón in Pulgarcito magazine. But after ten years, the humor had become repetitive, and the author wanted something else. So he turned his series around by making the main characters secret agents, a popular genre at the time because of the successful 'James Bond' movie series. Ibáñez also switched from gags to longer narratives, with more elaborate artwork, inspired by the Franco-Belgian school of comics. However, the pages remained filled with Tex Avery-style slapstick violence. The new rendition of 'Mortadelo y Filemón' debuted with the story 'El Sulfato Atómico', serialized in chapters between January and June 1969 in the first 23 issues of Gran Pulgarcito, a new Bruguera weekly, modelled after the French Pilote magazine.

In the new set-up, Mortadelo and Filemón remained a two-man team, but are now part of a large secret agency, the T.I.A. (Técnicos de Investigacíon Aeroterráquea, in English: "Aeroterrestrial Investigation Technicians"). The initials are obvious a wordplay on the C.I.A., but also spell out the word "tía", which is Spanish for "aunt", making it a double pun on the spy TV series 'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.' The T.I.A. is so widespread that they have secret hallways and entries everywhere on the planet, even in places where no human seemingly ever set foot, like the desert, the South Pole or the Sun. Technically, Mortadelo and Filemón now became equals, under command of their boss. However, Mortadelo still addresses Filemón with the respectful title "Jefe" (Spanish for "chef").

Mortadelo y Filemón - 'Los Gamberros' (1978).

Mortadelo y Filemón - secondary characters
In every story, the agency boss - known as "El Superintendente" or "El Súper" - sends Mortadelo and Filemón on a dangerous mission. Most of the time, they misunderstand the objective or screw things up, sending El Súper into an incredible fury, especially since he has suffer financially and physically from all the collateral damage they leave behind. Understandably, Súper has a very low opinion of his so-called "top agents", who rather skip their mission and take a vacation. Whenever that happens, Súper sends Agent Bestiájez behind their tails. Bestiájez always manages to track Mortadelo and Filemón down in the wildest places, from exotic countries to other planets, and his fists never fail to make them reconsider their plans. However, Súper, Mortadelo and Filemón have understandable reasons for hating each other's guts. Some of the risky missions are done for petty reasons, like getting back an insignificant object Súper is too lazy to retrieve himself. Other times, he turns out to have made a mistake, making all the sacrifices and injuries a complete waste of time. And while he complains about budget concerns, he embezzles much of the company's money to enjoy Havana cigars, champagne and luxurious vacations. Likewise, Mortadelo often plays pranks on Súper, while Filemón steals his boss' liquor and cigars, while talking behind his back. And even though Súper is their superior, Mortadelo and Filemón aren't afraid of beating him up if they are angry about something.

Over the course of the 1970s, the series was shaped into its definitive form, with new secondary characters added to the cast, many of them based on 'James Bond' characters. For instance, Miss Moneypenny was the inspiration for Miss Ofelia, Súper's secretary, who debuted in 'Los Gamberros' (1978). Blonde and chubby, Ofelia fancies herself a sex bomb and often tries to seduce her colleagues, particularly Mortadelo. Yet, the others just laugh at her expense. But Ofelia sticks up for herself and regularly beats her contenders up. However, she also misinterprets other people's comments as being either personal compliments or insults, even when they were referring to a completely different topic. Whenever Mortadelo and Filemón go on another hare-brained mission, they call in the services of a mad scientist, Profesor Saturnino Bacterio, who has a cat named Hydrocarbon. Like James Bond's Q, Bacterio provides Mortadelo and Filemón with all kinds of gadgets, serums and wacky inventions. But the objects often have unforeseen side effects. Ibáñez liked Bacterío because his inventions gave him opportunities for different storylines.

Tete Cohete
A new character introduced in the 'Mortadelo y Filemón' episode 'Tete Cohete' (Mortadelo, 1981) later received his own spin-off comic. Appearing in short stories in Pulgarcito magazine, 'Tete Cohete' (1982-1983) was Ibáñez's final new creation for Bruguera. Full of energy and hyperactivity, this mischievous boy has a fondness for mechanics, cars and motors. With his technical skills, he can turn the least expected object into a vehicle with which he can travel at supersonic speeds, causing mayhem all around him. Like many other Ibàñez creations, his adventures were later drawn by a host of anonymous studio artists.

Mortandelo, by Francisco Ibàñez
Mortadelo y Filemón - 'El Oscar del Moro' (1999).

Mortadelo y Filemón - humor
Apart from longer stories and a bigger cast, the new 'Mortadelo y Filemón' stories also had expanded comedy. Ibáñez once said that while his stories are popular with children, he would "probably be washing dishes if he had to count on their income alone." For this reason, the longer 'Mortadelo y Filemón' stories also make use of jokes that adults will enjoy more, like funny background gags, surreal plot twists, puns and parodies. Many panels have bizarre objects in the background, like random cobwebs, water taps sprouting from trees and vases containing a foot or an eggplant. Equally strange scenes take place in the background, like a whale frolicking through the city, a dinosaur attacking a skyscraper or a sign prohibiting "parking for camels". In the story 'El 35 Aniversario' (1993), Mortadelo and Filemón are in New York City. In the final panel, the failed real-life 1993 attack on the World Trade Center was referenced, only in this case a plane is seen stuck in the Twin Towers. This small background joke became harsher after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, when two planes indeed flew into the Twin Towers.

Gags can get very surreal and grotesque. Mortadelo's outlandish disguises are one example, but whenever he screws things up, Filemón chases behind him in anger, wielding strange weapons and dangerous objects that he, out of nowhere, has in his possession. In one story, Mortadelo has to recite the entire 'Don Quixote' novel as a password to enter their office. By the time he is done, the door crumbles by itself and the guard has died of old age. At the end of 'El Disfraz, Cosa Falaz' (1995), Mortadelo and Filemón finally arrest the coke dealer they had been chasing throughout the story. But it turns out the Súpér's information was wrong: the dealer merely sold Coca Cola. This angers Mortadelo to such degrees that he disguises himself as the universe itself, so he can tie the Súper to a planet and have a meteor crash into him. In another story, the otherwise indestructible duo end up in early graves. While they seem dead, they can still talk to each other and even manage to return to the world of the living. Filemón then addresses the reader: "You don't want to know how we did did this", but in the background the clue is given away. An archangel yells at St. Bartholomew: "I don't care if you're a fan of Mortadelo! The rules are clear: no miracles!".

'Los Monstruos' (1973).

Ibáñez also enjoyed puns, many of which are difficult to translate. The code names of criminal organizations always have initials which spell out funny words. Street signs and establishments sport a verbal joke too. A café can be called "Bar Budo", after the Spanish name for a man with a large beard ("barbudo"), while streets have names like "Calle Se" and "Calle Seusté", referring to the Spanish phrases "Cállese" ("Shut Up!") and "Cállese usted" ("YOU shut up!"). Character names can have hidden puns too, like Japanese scientist Mirake Tekasko in 'Robots Bestiajos' (1993), whose name means "mira que te casco" ("watch out, or I'll hit you"). Various stories make pop culture references. In 'Los Monstruos' (1973), literary characters like Frankenstein, Dracula and the Mummy are brough to life, which prompts Mortadelo and Filemón to try and catch them. In '!Silencio, se rueda!' (1995), the protagonists meet various icons of cinema, like The Marx Brothers, Darth Vader, the cast of 'Gone With the Wind' and Rambo. In 'El Preboste de Seguridad' (1985), a security agent wants to become "president instead of the president", whereupon Iznogoud's sidekick Dilat Larath from Jean Tabary's 'Iznogoud' comic turns up, wondering where he heard that phrase before. Songs by well-known Spanish musicians are often used as torture devices. And since Ibáñez hated having been forced to read 'Don Quixote' in school, he made an entire album, 'La Mancha Mortadelo' (2005), in which Mortadelo and Filemón think they are Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Even though he never managed to finish the novel, media adaptations and school memories helped him make a funny spoof, complete with the characters speaking ancient Castilian.

Ibáñez himself was the villain in the episode 'El Pinchazo Telefónico' (1994).

Ibáñez also made self-reflexive jokes. Mortadelo and Filemón sometimes sigh that they wish they were "as rich as Ibáñez". Other jokes are more stingy and comment that Ibáñez is a "pintamonas" (Spanish for a "quack artist"). In 'El Pinchazo Telefónico' (1994), it turns out Ibáñez hired the antagonist in the story, simply to spy on his bosses and find out whether his comics sold well enough to ask his boss for a pay rise.

'Mortadelo y Filemón' debuted while General Francisco Franco was still in power. Under his dictatorship, Ibáñez couldn't make political, religious or sexual references. In many stories, the artist was forced to set the stories in France or the United Kingdom, since he wasn't allowed to portray the Spanish police forces as incompetent fools. This also meant that the police uniforms were changed from the Guardia Civil to French gendarmes or British Bobbies. After Franco's death in 1975, Spain returned to a democracy and the censorship laws were lifted. Spanish comics experienced a veritable boom in taboo-breaking adult stories, all to get years of oppression out of their system. Starting in 1978, 'Mortadelo y Filemón' stories started containing more risqué jokes and overt contemporary satire. Some stories make direct references to real-life politicians or royalty, like Ronald Reagan, Prince Charles, Fidel Castro, Muammar Gadaffi, Elizabeth II and Donald Trump. As a running gag, members of the Spanish government get random cameos in the cast introduction pages. Other plots revolve around once current events, like the Treaty of Maastricht ('Maastricht I Jesús!', 1992) or the introduction of the monetary unit euro ('!Llegó el euro!', 2001). Since 1978, every four years a new album was devoted to the new real-life Olympic Games or World Championship Football, with the characters travelling to the specific host city or country of that year.

Cover, by Francisco IbàñezCover, by Francisco Ibàñez
'Mortadelo y Filemón' books in the Coleccíón Olé. 

Mortadelo y Filemón - publications
By the 1970s, the Ibàñez creations had become the cash cow for the Bruguera publishing house. Especially the 'Mortadelo' comic appeared in many of the company's magazines, before being released in book collections in the series 'Ases del Humor' (1969-1980) and 'Colleción Olé' (1971-1986). Besides appearances in Pulgarcito and Tío Vivo, the longer stories were serialized in Gran Pulgarcito, which was replaced in November 1970 by Mortadelo, the first magazine dedicated specifically to Ibàñez's characters. More of those followed in the 1970s, such as Súper Mortadelo (1972-1986), Mortadelo Gigante (1974-1978) and Mortadelo Especial (1975-1986).

Of all the Ibáñez creations, 'Mortadelo y Filemón' was the biggest international hit, with translations in about 25 languages. In some, the characters' names remain (almost) the same, like English ('Mort & Phil'), French ('Mortadel et Filemon', later also as 'Futt et Fil'), Italian ('Mortadella e Filemone', but also as 'Mortadello e Polpetta' and 'Fortune & Fortuni'), Polish ('Mortadelo i Filemon'), Slovenian ('Mortadelc pa File') and Russian ('Морт и Фил (Мортадело и Филемон’). In other languages, their names are different. In Portuguese they are known as 'Salamão e Mortadela', while in Brazilian Portuguese they are called 'Mortadelo e Salaminho'. Danish readers know them as 'Flip & Flop', while Norwegians recognize the duo as 'Flipp og Flopp', though this was later changed to the English-sounding 'Clever & Smart'. A similar thing happened in Germany, where the duo were named 'Flip & Flap', but later also changed to 'Clever & Smart'. In Czech, the characters are also known under this latter name. In Dutch, the terrible secret agents are known as 'Paling & Ko', Swedes recognize them as 'Flink och Fummel', while the Fins originally translated the pair as 'Nopsa ja Näpsä', before settling on 'Älli ja Tälli'. To round off the list, they have also been translated in Serbian, Croatian ('Zriki Svargla & Sule Globus’), Greek ('Αντιριξ και Συμφωνιξ’, 'Antirix kai Symphonix’), Turkish ('Dörtgöz ve Dazlak’, Afrikaans ('Rommel en Drommel’), Arab, Chinese ('Tegong errenzu’ ,’特工二人组 ‘) and Japanese ('Mōto to Firu’ ,’モートとフィル’). 

Especially the German book translations by Condor Verlag were highly popular. In 1987, two stories were made specifically for the German market, without Ibáñez's participation, drawn by L'Avi. 'Nur kein Gehetze-wir haben Arbeitsplätze' (1987) and 'Vom Affen gelaust und losgesaust' (1987) have never even been published in Spain. In 'In Alemannia' (1981), Mortadelo and Filemón cross the Berlin Wall, but these scenes were removed in the German translations for being "too political". Instead, the duo gets caught in a demonstration, delaying them for a page, while Mortadelo sells half of their car to get more money. In the original story, parts of their car were blown up after driving over a minefield in East Berlin.

Bruguera Equip
During the 1970s and 1980s, Bruguera had multiple magazines dedicated to the Ibáñez creations 'Mortadelo y Filemón', 'El botones Sacarino', 'Rompetechos' and 'Pepe Gotera y Otilio'. At the same time, his features continued in the publisher's regular magazines as well. While at times older stories were reprinted, the publisher also wanted new exclusive stories and covers to be produced. Ibáñez himself focused on creating the longer episodes, assisted by a host of anonymous inkers, which included at least Juan Bernet Toledano, Juan Martínez Osete (1970-1974), Antoni Bancells Pujadas and Joseph-August Tharrats. In 1983, Juan Manuel Muñoz Chueca became Ibáñez's loyal assistant, a collaboration that lasted for several decades. As the publisher owned all the rights to the characters, their art director Rafael González Martínez could form an entire team of writers and artists to produce additional stories, mostly without Ibáñez's participation or supervision. Eventually known as the "Bruguera Equip", the team consisted of about fifteen people and worked in a studio headed by Blas Sanchis Bonet. Only the scriptwriters were credited. Among them were Ramón María Casanyes, Jesús de Cos, Julio Fernández, Jaume Ribera, Francisco Pérez Navarro, Juan Martínez Osete, Francisco Morillo, Miguel Ratera Sarrá and Juan Zamora.

'El Preboste de Seguridad' (1985), final Mortadelo story by Ibáñez for Bruguera.

A host of anonymous pencilers and inkers was put to work on the art duties of short and long adventures of 'Mortadelo y Filemón', 'El botones Sacarino', 'Rompetechos' and 'Pepe Gotera y Otilio', as well as new pages of '13, Rue del Percebe'. On top of that, exclusive 'Mortadelo' stories were made for the German market, drawn by Lluis Recasens (L'Avi) through the agent Jutta Langer. In general, Ramón María Casanyes is considered one of the best Ibáñez imitators, writing and drawing many stories. Among the other artists that have worked on non-Ibàñez stories are María José Cano Romero, José Cubero Valero, Jordi David Redo, Juan López Fernández (Jan), Lurdes Martín Gimeno, Juan José Muñoz, Juan Manuel Muñoz Chueca, Juan Martínez Osete, Isabel Penalva, José Luis Sagasti, Blas Sanchis and Tino Santanach Hernández. In addition to using its own art studio, Bruguera also ordered stories from the Barcelona-based studio Comicup, which assigned Enrique Cerdán Fuentes, Miguel Fernández Martínez and Daniel Pérez Cabezas to draw them. More sporadic contributors to the 'Mortadelo' productions have been Francisco Serrano, José María Casanovas, Leonardo Díaz, Pérez Navarro (Efepé), Laura Masanella, Andréu Martín, Luis Rivera, Aurelio Soto, Juan Turró, Pedro Roma, J.I. Herrera, Ana Inés Gaztáñaga, Jordi Pueyo, José Escarp, David J. Zamora, Marçal Abella and Franz Hurtado Mestre.

After the Bruguera publishing house closed its doors in 1986, the "Bruguera Equip" continued to produce new stories for Ediciones B, the company that had acquired the Bruguera assets. In 1988, their activities came to an end when Ibàñez resumed control over his creations. Since these studio productions with Ibáñez characters lack their creator's typical humor and overall style, most of these "apocryphal" stories are generally dismissed by fans, and not considered part of the official canon.

Bruguera downfall
Since the early 1980s, the Bruguera publishing house had been in heavy weather. On 7 June 1982, bankruptcy was filed. A couple of days later, 1,056 of the 1,207 Bruguera employees joined forces in a trade union to save the company. This effort managed to keep the company going for a couple of more years, but many of the cartoonists received their wages only periodically due to a suspension of payments. In mid-1985, Ibáñez got into a dispute with Bruguera and left the company, leaving his 'Mortadelo y Filemón' episode 'El Preboste de Seguridad' unfinished. By then, the entire story production of his series was transferred to the "Bruguera Equip". On top of the departure of their lead artist, Bruguera was faced with a court case started by Ibáñez over the rights to his creations. It proved to be a final blow to the company. In 1986, Editorial Bruguera was acquired by the Grupo ZETA, which grouped its new assets under the publishing imprint Ediciones B. At their new homebase, Mortadelo and Filemón initially continued their adventures as a studio production, now handled by the "Team B" (in fact the continuation of the Bruguera Equip).

'Chicha, Tato y Clodoveo, de profesión sin empleo' (Guai! #19, 1986).

In the meantime, Ibáñez and a couple of other former Bruguera artists, including Raf, Segura and Martz-Schmidt, began an association with the publishing house Grijalbo and its imprint Ediciones Junior S.A. Since Bruguera/Ediciones B owned the rights to his characters, he couldn't continue his popular creations. Instead, he created new ones, which nonetheless had many similarities with his older series. In the first issues of Guai! magazine, he debuted 'Chicha, Tato y Clodoveo, de profesión sin empleo' ("Chica, Tato and Clodoveo, professionally unemployed", 1986-1990), a series inspired by the Spanish unemployment wave of the time. Appearing in stories of 44 pages, Ibáñez reused several gags from his earlier 'Mortadelo' comics. One of the main characters, Clodoveo, even has the same cabability of disguising into anything he wants, while the shortsighted Tato is similar to Rompetechos. In his second feature for Guai!, Ibáñez reused his '13, Rue del Percebe' concept, but then under the title '7, Rebolling Street'. When asked, Ibáñez himself defined it as indeed the same comic, but then "corrected and enlarged". The new feature appeared on two pages, and showed the ins and outs of an entire apartment block.

In 1987, a new copyright law was promulgated in Spain, which secured the rights to intellectual property. This meant that Ibáñez could reclaim his 'Mortadelo' characters, resulting in the June 1987 serialization of the new episode '¡Terroristas!' in the Grijalbo magazine Yo y Yo. Since Ibáñez was now doing his main series again, his newly created features for Guai! magazine were taken over by other, uncredited cartoonists. Possibly under pressure of Ediciones B, which still claimed the rights to the Ibáñez characters, Yo y Yo magazine was already cancelled by June 1987. Later that year, Ediciones B also acquired the Ediciones Junior titles, and came to an agreement with Ibáñez over the continuation of 'Mortadelo y Filemón'.

'7, Rebolling Street' from Guai! issue #19 (1986).

Ediciones B
In early 1988, Francisco Ibáñez resumed his activities as author of the 'Mortadelo y Filemón' series, by now published by Ediciones B. While the new stories carried Ibáñez's signature, most of the production was still handled by assistants. As they were producing new stories for Mortadelo, Súper Mortadelo and Mortadelo Extra, it was quantity over quality. Ibáñez recorded his scripts on cassette tapes, which one of the editors then transcribed on paper. In general, the 1987-1990 period is considered the least popular of the series. Many episodes had repetitive humor, and hurried artwork. In 1991, Ibáñez shifted gears and resumed full control over his series, with the help of assistants. In addition to steady collaborator Juan Manuel Muñoz Chueca, artists that have worked with Ibáñez on 'Mortadelo y Filemón' during the later decades have been Joan Espinach Losada, Juan Rafart Roldán and Juan Carlos Ramis Jiménez.

While titles like Mortadelo and Tóp Comics continued to serialize the stories, the adventures of 'Mortadelo y Filemón' were now produced almost exclusively for the book collections Olé and Magos del Humor. Since 1996, all the new 'Mortadelo' stories have been created as direct-to-album releases. With four to six books a year, Ibáñez and his assistants maintained a steady production. By the 2010s, the publication rhythm was slowed down with two to three books a year. To safeguard his new stories from becoming repetitive again, Ibáñez began taking more care of the continuity in his narratives, while incorporating more and more references to current affairs in his scripts. Storylines were constructed around major sports events, political news or as film parodies, while many international celebrities received cameo appearances. While this resulted in more tightly structured plots with news value during their initial release, the later 'Mortadelo y Filemón' albums outdated quicker than the earlier ones with their plain slapstick shenanigans.

Later 'Mortadelo' episodes also had guest appearances from other Ibáñez creations, such as Rompetechos and El Botones Sacarino. Between 2003 and 2009, Ibáñez occasionally produced new stories with the shortsighted 'Rompetechos' in Top Cómic. In 2002, Ibáñez also made a new page of '13, Rue del Percebe', exclusively for compilation edition by Ediciones B. Over the years, Ediciones B has released many compilation editions other Ibáñez creations.

Appearances of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in the 2017 episode 'El 60 Aniversario'.

Media adaptations
As early as the mid-1960s, 'Mortadelo y Filemón' were adapted into animated shorts. The first two, 'Mortadelo y Filemón' (1965) and 'Carioco and his Invention' (1966), were made in 1965 by Amaro Carretero, produced by Editorial Bruguera. The films won two Platero de Plata awards at the Festival of Gijón. Later, Carretero established his own animation studio Dacor, who made 14 additional animated shorts, all six minutes in length. One of these, 'Un Marciano de Rondón', won another Platero de Plata award. The original intent was to make an animated TV series, but low budgets forced the makers to make six-minute shorts instead. These were later compiled into two feature-length films, 'Festival de Mortadelo y Filemón' (1969) and 'Segundo Festival de Mortadelo y Filemón' (1970). A genuine animated film with a full-length narrative followed later, 'El Armario del Tiempo' (1971). Ibáñez had no direct involvement with all these animation projects and was very unsatisfied with the end result. Like many TV cartoons of the 1960s and 1970s, the 'Mortadelo y Filemón' animated shorts had to be produced cheaply. The designs, pacing and audio synchronization left a lot to be desired. Ibáñez once remarked that his characters were so lifeless that they looked like "potato bags". Another problem was that the plots weren't based on the actual comic stories. The studios picked out unrelated gags and strung them together. Especially in the compilation films, this practice made the end result very repetitive.

A few decades later, Ibáñez's dream of a genuine animated TV series became financially possible. In 1994, a 'Mortadelo y Filemón' cartoon series (1994-1995) was produced by Ediciones B, BRB Internacional and TV channels Antena 3 and the German network RTL. A majority of the animation was done in China. Each episode was based directly based on a pre-existing comic story and broadcast on Antena 3. Ibáñez was also personally involved in the background designs, voice casting and screenplays. In the 21th century, several live-action film adaptations were released. 'La Gran Aventura de Mortadelo y Filemón' ('Mortadelo & Filemon: The Big Adventure', 2003) was directed by Javier Fesser. It starred Benito Pocino as Mortadelo and Pepe Vivyuela as Filemón. Also included in the film were Rompetechos and characters from Ibáñez's '13, Rue del Percebe' comic. The movie received mixed reviews, because some felt the comedy was too profane and cynical in sharp contrast with the quirky, family-friendly comedy of the original. While the casting was praised, Filemón was recharacterized as an unsympathetic semi-antagonist, with Mortadelo being basically the hero. Nevertheless, the picture was a colossal box office success, even the second highest-grossing Spanish film of all time, behind 'Los Otros' (2001). A sequel couldn't stay behind. 'Mortadelo y Filemón. Misión: Salvar La Tierra' ('Mortadelo and Filemon. Mission: Save the Planet', 2008) was directed by Miguel Bardem. Viyuela reprised his role as Filemón, while Edu Soto took the part of Mortadelo.

In 2014, Fesser returned to the director's seat, but this time to make a CGI-animated feature film, 'Mortadelo y Filemón Contra Jimmy el Cachondo' ('Mortadelo and Filemon: Mission Implausible', 2014), produced by Ilion Animation Studios. The voice of Mortadelo was done by Karra Elejalde, while Janfri Topera voiced Filemón. The picture was well received, especially since fans and critics felt it captured the spirit of the comic. It won two Goya Awards for "Best Adapted Screenplay" and "Best Animated Film". The characters also inspired several video games. In 2008, a musical play, 'Mortadelo y Filemón, The Musical' (2008) was directed by Ricard Reguant and produced by Zebra Producciones and Mucho Rudio Records. In addition, an unsuccessful live-action TV series based on 'El Botones Sacarino' (2000-2001) was broadcast on La 1, with Jorge Roelas playing the titular character.

On a completely different level, a character based on Francisco Ibáñez himself was featured in the 2010 film 'El Gran Vázquez', directed by Óscar Aibar. The film was a biopic about the legendary bohemian and anarchist cartoonist Manuel Vazquez, who was Ibáñez's initial mentor at Bruguera. Set in 1964, the film offers an interesting insight in that time period's comic industry, with portrayals of several famous Bruguera comic artists. The role of Francisco Ibañez was played by Manolo Solo.

During his lifetime, Ibáñez has been bestowed with many awards and honors. In 1994, he received the Grand Prize at the International Comic Fair of Barcelona for his entire career, followed by the 2001 Gold Medal of Merit in the Fine Arts, awarded by the Spanish Ministry of Culture and Sport. In 2000, he shared the "Premio Haxtur al Autor que Amamos" ("Haxtur Award for the Author We Love") with his Argentinean colleague Quino. In later years, Ibáñez received the Oso Award for Lifetime Achievement of the International Comic Fair of Madrid (2001), the Notario del Humor Award from the University of Alicante (2008), the El Chupete Award for Best Communicator with a Children's Audience (2013) and the Gold Medal for Cultural Merit from the Barcelona City Council (2022). In 2021, Ibáñez was awarded the Creu de Sant Jordi (St. George's Cross), one of the highest civil distinctions awarded in Catalonia. In the following year, he received the Gold Medal for Cultural Merit from the Barcelona City Council. On 25 May 2023, shortly before his death, Ibáñez won the Loyalty Award at the Madrid Book Fair, a tribute for his significance in support of culture and reading.

Several large-scale expositions have been dedicated to Ibáñez and his creations. Between October 2014 and January 2015, the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Barcelona hosted the exhibition 'Francisco Ibáñez, El Mago del Humor'. Between September 2019 and January 2020, the exposition 'Los Monos de: Ibáñez' was shown in the Comic Museum of San Cugat del Vallés.

Sacarino, by Ibanez
Sequence from Ibáñez's 'El botones Sacarino'...

Gaston by Franquin
...and the gag from André Franquin's 'Gaston Lagaffe' that inspired it.

Even though most of Ibáñez's hit series had success abroad, they contained gags, characters and entire sequences that would be very familiar to fans of Franco-Belgian comics. For his series 'El botones Sacarino' and 'Mortadelo y Filemón', Ibáñez took clear inspiration from artists like Albert Uderzo, Jean Roba, Maurice Tillieux, Jidéhem, Jean Tabary, Peyo and, most notably, André Franquin. Especially in the 1960s, he ventured dangerously close to plagiarism by copying entire ideas, panels and sequences from Franquin's 'Gaston Lagaffe' comic. The looks of some characters were directly lifted from other artists' creations, Sacarino being the most obvious example. Secondary characters also showed similarities to Franquin creations, like Mortadelo's Professor Bacterio and Franquin's Doctor Zwart from the 1956 Spirou episode 'Le Gorille a Bonne Mine'. Cars and car chases were lifted from comics by Maurice Tillieux and Jidéhem, while magical elements were taken from Jean Tabary's 'Iznogoud' stories.

To modern-day readers, it would seem easy to dismiss Ibáñez as a mere copycat. But the situation in 1960s Spain was different than now. At Bruguera, artists had to come up with twenty pages a week to fill all the magazines. As a result, the original Bruguera house style was basic, efficient and aimed at direct comedy. During the 1960s, the editors wanted to model their magazines after the successful European comic magazines, especially the Franco-Belgian ones, and urged their artists to work in a more elaborate style. As the quantity of the work stayed the same, taking direct inspiration from foreign comics would seem the most logical thing to do, if one has to keep the same production level. On top of that, comics like 'Gaston Lagaffe' were not available in Spain at the time, and comic books were generally considered disposable items of entertainment, with no collectable value. Things turned out differently, and to this day fans and historians are studying the 'Mortadelo y Filemón' books in search of borrowed scenes.

Final years and death
During his lifetime, Ibáñez created an incredible amount of comics. Experts calculated that he must have produced about 50,000 pages. For his 'Mortadelo y Filemón' series alone, he drew over 180 serials and over 1,000 short stories, while participating in adaptations for computer games and animated films. According to legend, Ibáñez remained actively involved in the production until the very end. His assistant until 2020, Muñoz Chueca, once estimated that 70 percent of the pencil work was still done by the master himself. On 15 July 2023, Ibáñez died in his hometown Barcelona: he was 87 years old. In March of that year, Ediciones B had released the 219th installment of the collection Magos del Humor, containing the last 'Mortadelo y Filemón' story released during Ibáñez's lifetime, 'Mundial de Baloncesto 2023'.

Francisco Ibáñez and his characters, including the living signature (bottom right) that he began using in the 1990s.

Legacy and influence
With 'Mortadelo y Filemón', Francisco Ibáñez created one of the most successful Spanish comic series of all time, including one of the longest-running. By taking his artwork into the direction of the Franco-Belgian school - his early plagiarism aside - he updated the Bruguera house style by giving it a modern, contemporary look. The resulat was an hybrid of dynamic, cartoony artwork with the more grotesque and satirical humor of Spanish comics. Estimated to have created 50,000 comic pages, Ibáñez has served as an inspiration to an entire generation of Spanish humorists and artists abroad, like Argentinian artist Fernando Sosa and Brazilian comic artist Tiburcio. His characters live on in Spanish pop culture. In 1979, the Spanish children's band Parchís recorded a song about the characters, 'Mortadelo y Filemón'. When in 2000, game show candidate Enrique Chicote won millions in the Spanish TV quiz 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?', he claimed he knew the right answer by remembering a scene from the 'Mortadelo y Filemón' adventure 'La Caja de los Diez Cerrojos' (1971). When playing for Cádiz C.F., the Serbian football player Nerad Mirosavlevic was nicknamed "Mortadelo", after the Ibáñnez character. A neighborhood in the Spanish city Rivas-Vaciamadrid has streets named after popular Bruguera comics, including the Ibáñez creations '13, Rue del Percebe' (Calle Rue del Percebe, 13), 'Mortadeo y Filemón' (Calle Mortadelo y Filemón), Sacarino (Calle Botones Sacarino), 'Pepe Gotera y Otilio' (Calle Pepe Gotera y Otilio) and Profesor Bacterio (Calle Professor Bacterio).

For those interested in Francisco Ibáñnez’s career, Fernando Soto's 'El Mundo de Mortadelo y Filemón' (Media Live, 2008) is highly recommended. Another excellent source for information is the fan site

Francisco Ibanez signing in Barcelona (Photo courtesy of Henrik Bernd).
(in Spanish)

Series and books by Francisco Ibáñez you can order today:


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