by Jordi Costa
In the book Àngel Puigmiquel. Una aventura gráfica, published by Diminuta Editorial, expert Joan Manuel Soldevilla Albertí tries to retrieve the memory of one of our more hidden classic cartoonists: Àngel Puigmiquel, an inhabitant of that paradoxical limbo that turns him at the same time, as the historian says, into someone known and unknown: known by a circle of initiates and specialists; unknown for most contemporary cartoon consumers. A few years ago, Editorial Glénat, when Puigmiquel was already retired but still active, tried to resituate the memory of this playful innovator with a deluxe edition of the album El ladrón de pesadillas, published at the short-lived collection Patrimonio de la Historieta: a book with cloth binding –Joan Navarro knew what textures could activate fetish nostalgia in the reader!– in which were compiled several of the comic adventures that master Puigmiquel had published in the pages of legendary magazine Chicos: SOS en el Museo Diabólico, Los crímenes del gramófono and El ladrón de pesadillas, of which appeared two versions, the original one that appeared in Chicos and the one that was called the Author’s Cut, a reproduction traced by the artist himself using his own originals and in which, besides, he had been allowed to introduce small variations and some radical omissions that contributed to the good rhythm of the whole. The pleasure the volume gave to lots of us –many readers, but never enough– is continued in time by the valuable contribution of Diminuta Editorial, an imprint decided to fight the oblivion that threatens some of the most glorious pages from our cartoon history and to retrieve testimonies as unexpected as Rosa Segura’s, secretary of TBO.
Àngel Puigmiquel. Una aventura gráfica combines the words of Joan Manuel Soldevilla, which follow the artist’s life adventure from his beginnings to his active retirement, mentioning his time in Venezuela and his years in the world of animation and advertisement, with selected pages that belong to different stages of a varied career that went from the kind flexibility of his initial stroke to the blunt synthesis that reminded of the innovative schematic style typical of UPA animation or the Zagreb school. If El ladrón de pesadillas focused in great Puigmiquelian classics dating from the first years of his creative career, Soldevilla’s book proposes a trip around the surroundings and suburbs projected through time, giving us a generous tour full of enlightenments and details that many of us weren’t aware of.
Todays’ stolen cartoon is taken from this new editorial blessing that is called to broaden the cult of master Puigmiquel and belongs to an adventure starred by Bambolia called El poder estrambótico, published on the pages of Chicos magazine around 1950. Bambolia is a wild child, in whom the cartoonist probably saw himself reflected: let’s not forget that his friends nicknamed Mowgli due to his skill and agility. Bambolia, who in other stories was paired with another feral child called Púa, starred in El poder estrambótico an intrigue all by himself that ended up taking the form of a moral fable: a fairy –by far not as angelical as those imagined by Disney– granted the character the possibility to become any animal he wants, but following certain rules that the boy forgets the first time round, which causes a hell of a mess in the midst of the jungle. At the time, Puigmiquel loved American cartoons and had Floyd Gottfredson, author of Mickey Mouse stories, in a pedestal; he admired his capacity to transmute into paper the dynamics of animated cartoons. In Puigmiquel’s stories of the time we can glimpse already the potential admirer, an each succession of vignettes beats with a desire of transcending the page to become a live sequence, in motion, an animated cartoon. The image the cartoon shows gives an idea of the fragility and seduction of that impossible tension. We see two secondary characters: an elephant that has just received a blow on the head because of a stone that Bambolia, conveniently transformed into a cheeky monkey, has thrown by tensing a palm trunk, King Bear, who at the same time is chasing a fast tiger with the idea of eating him up. Even if it isn’t too obvious at first, there are many things happening in this cartoon: the elephant’s gaze seems to indicate that he wrongly thinks that the furry mammal –who is holding the supposedly tell-tale mineral projectile– was responsible of his recently-acquired lump. At the same time, his look is so full of hatred that King Bear comically stops at once while he utters an “EJE…” that works as a not very convenient furtive expression. Pay attention to the detail of the sweat drops falling from the bear’s face, suddenly paralysed by panic. The amount of tension lines in this cartoon! How many kinetic actions dramatically cut! What a beautiful foretelling of the fall to take place on the following vignette (an last cartoon of a whole page imbued with the same happy and boundless wit)! It’s as if someone had taken the Hellenic sculpture of Laocoön and his sons (or its impetuous energy) and, after grinding it, had it converted into a laugh, isn’t it? Except for the bear’s EJE, there’s no other onomatopoeia around, but don’t your ears resonate with the typical sound effects of an unforgettable animated cartoon from those times? If instead of blowing up Marvel or romantic cartoons, Roy Lichtenstein had elevated to canvas format this image by Puigmiquel, he could have entitled it, without a doubt, “Careful!”