Che’s comic turn
(Sunday 09 November 2008)
Ché: A Graphic Biography by Spain Rodriguez
MICHAL BONCZA finds fresh light cast on a revolutionary icon in a tale with a twist.
THERE isn’t much about Che Guevara that hasn’t been said 1,000 times, but this graphical approach to retelling his tale as a strip cartoon is certainly exciting.
Manuel “Spain” Rodriguez began his career in the comics underground of Zed Comics alongside Robert Crumb and has a deserved high reputation as a political artist.
Here, sharp editing by Paul Buhle produces a nice, highly engaging tempo.
Buhle believes that comics started with cave paintings and sit somewhere between oral storytelling and written narratives, which they certainly preceded by millennia.
Rodriguez’ dynamic style, with its film-camera-like movement from frame to frame, continuously engages the imagination with broad vistas as well as exquisite characterisation in close-up.
All the comic’s traditional graphic devices of onomatopoeias, speech bubbles and background text work in perfect harmony, making the turning of pages irresistible.
Che‘s extraordinary appeal owes much to the current emergence of mass popular movements in Latin America led not by the traditional criollo elites, but, for the first time, the native Indians.
In Bolivia, Che‘s inability to speak Quechua or other local dialects proved a major handicap.
This is alluded to when, on his trip through the continent and travelling on the back of a lorry in Peru, he tried to communicate with fellow passengers, but none spoke Spanish.
In a postscript to The Motorcycle Diaries, Che refers to a conversation he had with a fellow traveller he thought was eastern European.
The man apparently told Che with extraordinary foresight “you will die with your fist clenched and your jaw tensed, a perfect manifestation of struggle.”
His face pensive but hard, Che’s last words to his executioner were: “Shoot, coward. You are only killing a man.”
The fear Che put in the heart of his killer and that of every oppressor throughout the continent was such that his body was buried in an unmarked grave in the dead of the night.
But they couldn’t bury the aspirations that he embodied and which time has shown to have been correct all along.