To Draw or Not to Draw: Alberto Breccia and the Ethos of Reading


It is not often that reading—let alone the reading of comics—is identified as a “need,” a function of basic physical “survival”:

In Argentina, we were forced, as a question of survival, to use metaphor. … Readers often ‘saw’ hidden details in panels, which, let’s be honest, the authors were not even conscious of—they had such a need for it. … A large number of graphic allusions … were evidently the work of [Alberto] Breccia.

(Carlos Trillo qtd. in Breccia, Buscavidas 105)

This is how scenario-writer Carlos Trillo looks back on artist Alberto Breccia’s tactic of opaquing the visual in their collaborative comic Buscavidas. The embedding of “graphic allusions” is figured as an incentive to the inventiveness of subversive, counter-censorial decryptions (or, if you will, the counter-paranoia of ‘seeing’ things) by a readership subjected to the strict regulation of culture during the military dictatorship in Argentina from 1976 to 1983, the period of the so-called ‘Dirty War.’ At the time of the so-called “Process of National Reorganization”—also referred to as the Proceso—state censorship and repression were mobilized to mask the reality of the abduction, torture and murder of ‘subversive elements’ who were all ‘disappeared’ by the state apparatus.  To publicly denounce or directly critique this ‘open secret’ resulted in one’s elimination or disappearance.

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