Research Illustrates Legacy of Latin American Comics
Digital humanities tools enrich analysis of books and strips created during the 20th century
By Jaycie King
Aliens, lethal snowflakes and a resistance movement, and a family separated by time travel could describe a sci-fi film. It's the setting of "El Eternauta," a serial comic published in Argentina during the late 1950s.
A fragment of the original comic as it was published in book form, is now available through Carnegie Mellon University's Latin American Comics Archive (LACA).
The archive is a curated, online exhibit of comic strips and comic books with the goal of enabling researchers to visualize and employ comic strips and comic books created in Latin America between the 1920s and the present for pedagogical purposes.
Spanish-language comic books have had a long tradition in popular culture. In places such as Mexico, at the height of the Golden Era of comics in the mid-1970s, more than 70 million comic books — including superhero, horror, science fiction and romance — were sold monthly. But after a decades-long crisis faced by the industry, it was all but dismantled at the end of the 20th century. The genre is slowly reclaiming a place in popular culture in the Spanish-speaking world at the same time as it is encountering new respectability in educational and academic circles worldwide.
Felipe Gómez, teaching professor of Hispanic studies in Carnegie Mellon University's Department of Modern Languages, leads a multidisciplinary research team in the effort to provide students and researchers a new window into cultural studies.