The exhibition Entre viñetas. El vino en los tebeos, organized by the Museum of Wine Culture in Briones, in the wine-producing region of La Rioja, is an original attempt to cover the history of Spanish comic books through the presence of wine in its vignettes.
The relationship begins with the very word vignette, a French diminutive for vigne (vine) that comes from the Latin vinea. The word was used to describe the drawings decorating the beginnings of book chapters, which had an abundance of grapes and vine leaves.
The show features historical issues of popular comic books such as ¡Cu-cut! (published in 1905), TBO (1928); 1950s classics such as El Capitán Coraje, El Capitán Trueno, El Guerrero del Antifaz, Maravillas and Roberto Alcázar y Pedrín; beloved strips of the 1970s and 1980s, including Mortadelo y Filemón and Rompetechos; and original pages from winners of the National Comic Book Award Arrugas, by Paco Roca (2008), and Dublinés by Alfonso Zapico (2012).
The small village of Briones has become a meeting point for some of Spain’s leading cartoonists, including Manel Fontdevila, who publishes his work in the popular satirical magazine El Jueves, and the partners Antonio Altarriba (scriptwriter) and Kim (draftsman), winners of the 2010 National Comic Book Award for the widely acclaimed El arte de volar, inspired by the life of Altarriba’s father, an anarchist who fought with the losing side in the Spanish Civil War.
Altarriba, who is also a teacher, says he has had offers to take the graphic novel to the big screen, although the projects are on hold due to financial problems. He explains the presence of wine in his and Kim’s work: “We see how wine served as a tool to learn the language when he was living with a French family after going into exile and being imprisoned in concentration camps.”
Other illustrated references to wine include an episode in which wine growers from Logroño pour the red liquid into a river to get the French army drunk during the Spanish War of Independence; there is even a superhero named “Superuva” (Supergrape).
All of these artists have triumphed in the field, yet just a privileged few make a living out of it. “Authors get no recognition here,” says Rubén Rodríguez, a cartoonist at the exhibition. “Those who earn a living from cartoons have to publish abroad; the rest of us need to get a serious day job.”
Entre viñetas. El vino en los tebeos. Until June 16 at the Museo de la Cultura del Vino Dinastía Vivanco, in Briones. See www.dinastiavivanco.com for more information.