Gila behind the scenes: The comic strips of the “humorist”

Gila behind the scenes
The comic strips of the “humorist”

Wearing a military uniform, including a helmet, and only a table and a telephone -of which we would now call vintage, very much the order of the day, both then and today – this peculiar character enters the scene directly with an apology: “I have to make a call…. If I may…” murmurs as he dials a telephone code which, with the coming and going of the wheel, marks a tempo, a few necessary waiting bars measured by a character who knows very well how to move on stage. The compass ends and a phrase marks the rest of the function: “Is it the enemy?”.

Miguel Gila would have been 100 years old in 2019, and his humour remains as radiantly current and critical as it was at the time. Born in March 1919 in the humblest Madrid, he stopped studying at the age of 13 to work in workshops and jobs that would allow him to bring some money home to his grandparents. He later combined this work with his studies of linear drawing at night school, marking his passion for the world of illustration.

Gila in one of her famous sketches, on RTVE, along with her uniform and her phone.

The Civil War reached a 17-year-old Gila who was already a member of the Unified Socialist Youth, and who volunteered to fight, taking him in front of a firing squad, which was neither a firing squad nor a firing squad, because he left that feat alive and the rest of the conflict remained a prisoner -a period in which he met his namesake Miguel Hernandez.

Miguel Gila’s first performance took place in 1951, when at the age of 32 he climbed onto a stage in Madrid to improvise his first monologue. By that time he had already worked in various newspapers as a vignette artist and cartoonist, making clear his political intention as a resistance to the regime. Tired of the dictatorship, in 1962 he moved to Buenos Aires, where he relaunched his career with several tours throughout Latin America that would give him the fame we know today.

Is it the enemy?

The Madrid-born man’s trajectory was marked by the optimism and desire to live that characterized him, and this is how he forged an artistic career that is not reduced only to the performance of “dialogue” in his famous telephone gag: Gila developed a career as an actor and as a winemaker that he never left aside.

A natural-born cartoonist who has left us an archive of comic strips and drawings loaded with the humour we know, an innocent humour on the surface – almost as a child – that is loaded with the harshness and cruelty of the one who has seen the barbaries and consequences of a war. As if he were trying to transmit suffering in an emotional way that is more than shocking.

With the centenary of its birth, the Museo Digital del Humor Gráfico Humoristán has collected Gila’s publications in different magazines and newspapers throughout its life, and has generated a digital archive worthy of being visited. Many of them published under Franco’s regime, are debated in a fictitious and open tone, but always with the acid blow, thus getting past the line of the censor. The humour of this total artist covers borders such as hunger, war, social differences, macho violence… Without leaving aside the intention to amuse, always in a fine line between truth and fiction.

You can visit Humoristán’s website to see the whole exhibition, although here we have left a compilation with some of them. Have fun!

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Todo el material referente a las viñetas, dibujos y portadas, está extraído de Humoristán con intención informativa. Todos los créditos pertenecen a los citados y a las fuentes originales

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