Ota was a Brazilian editor, writer and comic artist, best known for editing the Brazilian edition of Mad Magazine and the horror anthology Spektro. He was with Mad from 1974 to 2008, working for all the companies that have published this legendary humor magazine in Brazil. In Mad's pages he had his own satirical feature, the 'Relatório Ota' (1987). In later years, Ota has released several indie comic books with his own work, including 'Revista do Ota' (1993) and 'A Garota Bipolar'.

Early life and career
Otacílio Costa d'Assunção Barros was born in 1954 in Rio de Janeiro. He graduated in Journalism from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). Ota's first work was as an intern in Editora Brasil-América Limitada (EBAL), the most important Brazilian comics publishing house during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. He began in 1969, only 15 years old. After a while, he became an "unofficial" editor for many comics published by EBAL published, taking care of revision, chronology and selection of stories. These included Brazilian editions of Marvel and DC Comics, among other titles. Ota left EBAL in 1973 because the company never made him an official editor (only "promised" to do so), and he preferred to focus on his education. He started his Journalism training around this time, and was already working as freelancer on his own comics and strips.

Os Birutas
His first solo comic book was released in that same year by Editora Gorrión (under the banner of Editora Roval): 'Os Birutas (1973). It dealt with the absurd confusions of three friends, Bochecha, Barbicha and Zarolho. Ota had created the characters for a daily comic strip published in the Rio newspaper O Jornal in 1972-1973. Roval published three monthly comic books of 'Os Birutas', with completely new stories.

'Os Birutas'.

Brazilian Mad Magazine
Also in 1973, Ota was invited to work for Vecchi, then one of the largest Brazilian magazine publishing houses. Its CEO, Lotário Vecchi, wanted to expand its comics actities, which at that point were limited to only a Brazilian edition of the Italian 'Tex Willer' books. Ota, because of his good work for EBAL, was chosen to edit all of Vecchi's comics-related material. The following year, Lotário closed a deal with Mad's U.S. publisher William M. Gaines to publish a Brazilian version of Mad Magazine, with Ota as its editor. The first edition sold 40,000 copies in Rio and São Paulo alone, and a new print run of 35,000 was made for the other cities. By the end of the year, Mad's print run had reached 150,000 copies; a huge success.

The good sales of Mad Magazine and Vecchi's children's comics (translations of the U.S comics 'Casper the Friendly Ghost', 'Hot Stuff the Little Devil' and 'Dennis the Menace'), all under Ota's responsibility, opened up doors to publish the work of Brazilian artists. This was something Ota always wanted to do, but which seemed impossible with big publishing houses; the only exception being Mauricio de Sousa.

The first opportunity to publish local work was in the pages of Mad. The Brazilian edition had 12 issues annually, in contrast to only eight in the US. Besides that, not all the material from the original Mad could be used because many jokes only made sense to U.S audiences or were outdated (Ota could use Mad's entire backlog since the first original issue). Ota wrote many new stories himself, and invited artists such as Vilmar Rodrigues, Nani, Carlos Chagas and Cláudio Almeida to provide the artwork.

Spektro and other magazines
After this experience, Ota launched new magazines and comic books for Vecchi. The most successful was Spektro, a horror comic magazine. In the beginning, it contained mostly foreign stories, but nationally created stories were quickly in the majority, created by Jayme Cortez, Julio Shimamoto, Flavio Colin, Elmano Silva and Watson Portela, among other authors. Ota wrote many stories under a large variety of pseudonyms.

The horror comics were so successful and had so many good stories by Brazilian artists, that Ota was allowed to initiate more publications. After Spektro, Ota also created Sobrenatural, Histórias do Além and Pesadelo. Ota was supervising so many publications that he had very little time to create his own comics during his Vecchi years. His limited solo creations appeared in the underground magazines A Roleta, Vírus and A Mosca.

Mad at other publishers
However, in the early 1980s, Brazil knew a very serious economical crisis, with a huge devaluation of the dollar. As Vecchi had many dollar debts, this affected the company's liquid assets. In addition, the family business suffered from internal struggles and disagreements. Lotário was removed from the position of CEO by his mother, the widow of the company's founder, after he had fired two of his nephews. Their mothers didn't like this move, and demanded Lotário's demission. All this caused many employees to be fired, including Ota, and the publisher to go bankrupt shortly afterwards.

Ota briefly returned to EBAL, but was then hired by Editorial Record, which had obtained the rights to publish the Brazilan Mad. They published the magazine until 2000, when Record closed its magazine division and focused solely on book publishing. The rights of Mad were then bought by Mythos, who published the magazine from 2000 to 2006, when Panini got the exclusivity for all DC Comics' publications (including Mad). It took until 2008 before Panini launched its version of Mad, with Ota responsible for editing national material. Raphael Fernandes was in charge of the foreign content. Creative differences caused Ota to resign after issue 7 of the new magazine.

Freelance work
In the meantime, Ota had ventured into other pojects. In 1984, he published the book 'O Quadrinho Erótico de Carlos Zéfiro' ("The Erotical Comic of Carlos Zéfiro"). It was the first compilation with work by the mysterious Carlos Zéfiro, who quickly gained notoriety throughout Brazil. It wasn't until 1991 that his real identity was disclosed.

Ota was also doing freelance work as a translator and writer, in combination with his work for Record. In the 1980s, he wrote, for example, many scripts with Mort Walker's clumsly soldier 'Beetle Bailey'. In Brazil, the character had his own comic book titled 'Recruta Zero'. Because there was not enough original material to fill it, a local story production was set up with Primaggio Mantovi as main artist.

Relatório Ota
During Record's run of Mad, Ota created one of his best known features. The 'Relatório Ota' ("Ota Report") was a mix of drawings and text with fake nonsense stories about a wide variety of subjects. The first one (about sex) was published in Record's Mad #27 (February 1987). Almost every subsequent issue of Mad contained a 'Relatório Ota'. In 2010, LeYa/Barba Negra published 'O Relatório Ota do Sexo', a 128-page book with a new and expanded version of the sex report.

Later publishing activities
In 1993, Ota created a comic imprint called Otacomix, with the intention of publishing his own work and relaunch some of the magazines he had created for Vecchi. His first publication was 'Revista do Ota', with short stories written and drawn by him. Otacomix also published Cerol, Spektro and Hotel do Terror, with contributions by different artists. Ota's publications however all folded after one issue, due to problems with the distribution.

After that, Ota continued to work as a freelancer, publishing webcomics on his site, as well as independent comic books which he sold online or at comic conventions. In this format, he published two volumes of 'A Garota Bipolar' ("The Bipolar Girl"), selling about 3,000 copies of each one.

Ota has the Troféu HQ Mix, the most important Brazilian comic award, on three occasions: in 1994 for best independent magazine (Revista do Ota), in 1995 for best writer) and 1999 as a special homage for his 25 years of editing Mad. He also won the Prêmio Angelo Agostini in 2003 as "Master of National Comics", an award given by the Association of Comic Artists and Caricaturists of the State of São Paulo to artists who have dedicated themselves to Brazilian comics for at least 25 years.

Death and legacy
Otacílio Costa died in 2021 from a stroke, at age 67. The local fire department found his lifeless body in his apartment - located in the Tijuca neighborhood in Rio's Zona Norte. One of the driving forces of the Brazilian comic industry, Ota has left a lasting mark on his home country's culture. By the time of his passing, Nelson Moraes reflected on his cultural blog Revista Bula: "...My admiration has only grown, especially when witnessing what Ota did for comics and humor - his work and hundreds of others, famous and emerging, Brazilians and gringos, involving editions and reissues of comic books, magazines and books, event curation and bartering. (...) Ota did the devil to diversify, reinvent himself and - as time went by and hard times came with everything - looking for ways to make a living for his work and especially for himself. A giant of the publishing market, increasingly treated as an outcast. It's Brazil. It's us."


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