A Bull Emerging from the Waters.
Should I have to choose my particular Proust’s madeleine when it comes to holidays, that element capable of activating the memory of the perfect and irretrievable childhood summer, I would have no doubt: the pages of some of the Extraordinarios de Vacaciones (Summer Specials) that TBO used to publish. TBO‘s sense of humour was softer, less brutal, and, at a first glimpse, less spectacular –and, above all, less modern– that what the Bruguera cartoons had to offer, since the latter –we’re talking about the seventies here– were undergoing a kind of golden age, while TBO‘s stories seemed a reminiscence of the humour of our fathers (or even grandfathers). But there was always something innovative –or, better, immortal– within it: Coll’s pages, with his stylish figures, his flexible strokes and mental mastery of the visual gag that, with time, one associated to the refined ways of reformulating the comedy of Jacques Tati, who, by the way, was also the magician capable of immortalizing a perfect summer (though with a touch of melancholy) in M. Hulot’s Holiday.
Today’s stolen cartoon is the one that ended the story “Pánico en la playa” (Panic at the beach), published on TBO’s Extraordinario de Vacaciones in the summer of 1971 (and happily reedited in the compilation TBO Edición Coleccionista that Salvat published in 2011, with clear forewords by specialist Antoni Guiral). The page in question, a slapstick festival featuring a bull in maritime setting, was different from the usual comic methodologies of master Coll –with the game on a fixed shot– to tell a clean adventure story of fright, goring and dip that started in the harbour’s mooring area to continue on the deck of a cargo, sail on coastal waters and finish on the beach. The image of the vignette, with the soaked bull coming out of the water, spitting his purebred fury while tourists run away off-screen and leave behind their towels, radios, inflatable mattresses, newspapers, balls and the rest of spare time utensils, offers a curious closure, because it ends in pure suspension, hinting at the imminence of more gags to come that, should they do so, would turn laughs into shivers.
The holidays depicted on those special TBO summer issues were, in fact, the same holidays of that half-developed Spain whose spirit was present, albeit with a different style, in Alfredo Landa’s movies of the time. Probably without trying, the amazing Coll captured on images the contradictions of this country, half way between atavism and modernity, presided by a dictator that any attempt (like this cartoon’s) to reach a dynamic happiness had no option but to omit. A raging bull and some sun bathers running away: to sum it up, an idea of Spain, in the sun.