There’s a very interesting experience in the life of any devoted comic book reader: the moment you discover one of your favourite cartoonists leads a double life. I’m not talking about anything particularly libertine, although we could find that kind of stories too within the comic book world: in my years as a teenager captivated by his passion for cartoons I remember feeling as surprised as admired, for example, when I learned the well-known secret that a couple made up of a cartoonist and his girlfriend, as script-writer, apart from getting along very well artistically had also a comfy round bed to which they generously invited other colleagues to join them; or by the sincere confession of an old cartoonist whom, in a small group, confessed that when he decided to have a fling, he rejected anyone who had no bisexual inclinations and, thus, couldn’t attend the date with a friend with whom to complete the threesome. I’m not trying to turn this text into a sort of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls based on the world of Spanish comic books: suffice it to say that during puberty, with my horny brains, such stories as the ones I just mentioned (and many others) took me to thinking that the life of (Spanish) cartoonists was as lubricious as a decadent Roman emperor’s. But the double lives I was referring to here are of a different kind: artistic double lives, graphic secret identities.
A great coming of age rite in this sense was when the devourer of cartoons discovered that Blueberry‘s Giraud was the same Moebius who created Arzak or Airtight Garage: it’s quite anomalous for an author to be a genius; for him to be two geniuses at the same time, that’s simply awesome! But Giraud/Moebius didn’t hide his Mr. Hyde: we’re not talking about the best-kept secret in European cartoons here, precisely. In other cases, the style (or stroke) has been the trace that gave away the existence of parallel and, often, extremely divergent careers and discourses. For instance, when in some adult satirical magazines I found the frenzied pages signed by a certain Sappo, my eyes couldn’t believe the evidence: this man who drew stories in almost cinemascope style about (always naked) adulterous wives, cuckolds and lovers who had to hide in the closet with inevitably –and often bloody– catastrophic consequences could be no other than Manuel Vázquez, father of Anacleto, la familia Churumbel, la Abuelita Paz, las Hermanas Gilda and unrivalled Angelito. Looking at it closely, this case might have something to do with that clandestine dimension we usually give to the concept of double life: the master of children’s humour cartoons, all of a sudden, reveals an unexpected existence from his waist down (something well-known to all those who knew him in person), which provoked a real shock to any innocent readers still addicted to their Olé collection.
Another example: when magazine Rambla, a publication self-managed by a selected bunch of first-class cartoonists, underwent a sort of internal crisis, all of a sudden there appeared on their pages the collaborations with a certain Sánchez Zamora no one seemed to have heard about until then. Sánchez Zamora’s stories were always valuable: solid, twisted and drawn in a particularly synthetic style that somewhere in the brain seemed to press, with the tips of the fingers, very softly, the key of recognition. I remember the day in which Joan Navarro told me, very happy, that he had just discovered the true identity of Sánchez Zamora and that it was surprising. Don’t ask me why, but I, who wouldn’t have been able to express the secret until then, felt the tips of my fingers finally pressing the key and decided to say the name before my friend did: “Josep Maria Beà!!” Something in Sánchez Zamora’s almost conceptual stroke had revealed the identity hidden under the change of skin that had affected both the kind of stories and the way in which they were told. That’s why I always like to say that style is crime evidence and that any critic, when analysing no matter what work, should consider it as a scene of the crime: the work of the critic is similar to the forensic one, looking for evidence and elaborating a discourse regarding authorship.