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17 julio 2024

Bernal: “I don’t know if it’s because of the Ebro water, but there has always been a big comic market in Zaragoza”

The character Juan sin Móvil of this cartoonist (Zaragoza, 1979) has reached South Korea and, soon, he will launch two new works, 'Superco', the hero from Zaragoza, and a work on the life of Goya. This Aragonese author is one of the signatures of 'El Jueves' and his cartoons are also well known among the followers of Real Zaragoza, a team of which he declares himself a fan and about which he frequently deals with current events.

We are in the School of Arts, what memories come to your mind?

Well, practically the best of my life. I did a higher cycle of Illustration and the artistic baccalaureate and it was incredible. You’re studying in high school, they tell you to come to the School of Arts because you’re good at drawing and you like the artistic world and here you meet a lot of people who like the same thing, you meet wonderful people. Those were probably the best years of my life; as a student, for sure.

Were you sad when they closed the old building?

It’s sad when you find out they’re closing it and, even though they said they were going to have a great place, with everything new, this was very mythical and had a special magic.

How did you approach the world of comics?

I always say that I got to know comics thanks to my grandmother on my father’s side, because she had mountains of comics, she covered me with comics all my life. I would go to her house on Sundays for lunch and that’s when I discovered, without knowing how to read, the world of comics. I think that’s when I started to say I want to tell stories through cartoons and I started to draw. At school I also did it, the teacher was teaching and I did it in comic strips. And until now, I have never stopped.

You had it clear from the beginning, then?

I knew I wanted to draw, I liked it and I was good at telling stories through drawings. I discovered El Jueves magazine when I was very young and that’s when my brain told me here are people who do what you really like, tell the current issues through graphic humor. I was a kid because I remember that I hid the magazine, my parents didn’t know I got El Jueves. It was like a flash in the head to say do what you want, but try to end up in this magazine. The teachers at the School of Arts asked for anything, because they made us experiment with cologne, with watercolor effects… and I always did the same thing. I wanted to do comics and I wanted to do El Jueves. Nowadays I meet these teachers and they laugh at me, they say ‘shit my ass, look how clear you had it’.

In fact, the final project of the Illustration cycle was a comic, my first publication. I even took it to the printer and they made copies. I took it to national comic shows to sell it. I think it cost a hundred pesetas at that time. And that’s when I really got into the world of comics.

And what was the first comic you published?

They were some cavities, called Gliceryl and Gum, because I got it from the components of toothpaste. It’s an Asterix roll, of a village that is in the mouth of a character. Each cavity had a main characteristic and it was all because at that time I visited the dentist a lot. Whenever I went, he always told me he had cavities. And while I was suffering from the brrrrrrrr -the noise of the drill- I imagined that world and that way I could escape a little from the anguish that the devil’s dental drill gave me. That’s how it all started, with a caries comic. Now I see it and I am absolutely ashamed. There are still people who come to the comic shows to get me to sign Gliceryne and Gum because they have them in their pockets, laminated and everything. And I’m excited, but at the same time I feel a little embarrassed.

And as a reader, what comics did you like?

I liked the national comics, that’s what I say. I ate up Super Lopez, it was my passion. Super López, Francisco Ibáñez… it sounds cliché, but they are the comics that I have had and that have been part of my daily life. And humor, El Jueves, absorbed me when I was a child and is what has marked me until now.

You arrived at ‘El Jueves’ in 2005, how was that path?

I already knew the cartoonists because I went to the comic shows, I showed them my work and they told me to do watercolors, which is the current trend, or put the handwriting… and I did what they told me to do. I even went once a year, they have the editorial office in Barcelona, I called them to show them my work. I would meet with Albert Monteys, who was one of the directors. Now I see what I was teaching and I still had a lot to evolve.

After teaching, one summer I was at the beach. I caught El Jueves and I saw that they had published a section where people could send their drawings, the Noticiero. I saw that people who were not regulars in the magazine sent in a little joke about a current issue. And I said why not, I’ll give it a try. I remember it was that the soccer league was coming back. I have that issue framed. They didn’t tell me anything, but the following week I went to get El Jueves and the joke was published. I was so excited, I ended up with all the copies that were in that kiosk. And I sent it again and they published it again.

It was getting steady and I got a call. They told me they were going to give me a theme and to try half a page. Then they brought out a section where I created Jano in corpore sano. Legend has it that comic book artists don’t like sports and I love it. So they said Bernal, make a sports character for a comic strip. I liked it a lot. They moved me to full page and it’s been 17 years now. And I’m still there.

You also deal a lot with Zaragocista current affairs in your work?

Yes, I’m a big fan. Apart from being a Real Zaragoza fan, I’m a season ticket holder and a born sufferer. I started making vignettes in the Heraldo de Aragón for the same reason, because they were looking for a cartoonist who liked soccer and Real Zaragoza to make vignettes and they couldn’t find one. In the end, it came to me and that’s when I started. It was a cartoon a week, for the match. Then the newspaper Equipo arrived; its director, Javier Lafuente, came and proposed me to make a daily cartoon. And of course, going from a single cartoon to doing it every day was the joy of any cartoonist. I enjoyed that period incredibly. I still like to do something about Real Zaragoza because it is a way of expressing the feeling I carry.

Does Real Zaragoza play a role?

It gives play. I was doing scripts for Aragón Televisión, for the program Fondo Norte, and it was the year -in the 2020-2011 season- when we almost got relegated, when we were saved at the last minute in a great game at the Bernabéu with goals by Lafita. Shit, in the end, everything is pity, everything is misfortune, and the scriptwriters made sketches about how we were about to commit suicide because it was all a pity. The good thing about soccer, which is a wonderful thing, is that, for graphic humor, if things go wrong, it’s juicier. You get the gag out of the sorrow, it’s like humor is more grateful when you try to go from being sad to being happy. But, if everything is wonderful, it is more difficult to get jokes. So, Real Zaragoza gives us a lot of play. The thing is that I would also like to tell good things.

Returning to the comic, in Zaragoza there has been a good quarry. Calvo, Calpurnio… how do you see the panorama?

Here, since I was studying at the School of Arts, I’ve met a lot of people with the same hobby as me and who are still publishing. I don’t know if it’s because of the water of the Ebro or whatever, but there has always been a lot of comic market. In fact, there are a couple of publishing houses and a lot of cartoonists.

It is also famous for its comic book fair…

Maybe it’s my passion and that I’ve been going since edition number one, but it’s probably the best comic book fair in Spain. I say it openly. It has things that really interest me as a reader and as a cartoonist. They take great care of the authors and you can breathe comics everywhere, they give it the importance it has to have. It is very welcoming. In Zaragoza I’ve even seen readers who have come single, the next edition they have come with couples and then with children. And I think that’s wonderful.


Talking about comic fairs, you were in Moscow, how did you get there?

That was a fabric. I was in El Jueves and I received an email from Anna Voronkova. She said that they wanted to invite me to the Moscow Comic Festival, this, in Spanish regulinchi. In the message they put the conditions: travel, stay and salary. And when I saw the salary, I thought that one of these suckers is pulling my leg. And I didn’t answer. Time passed and the people from El Jueves called me to tell me that a certain Anna Voronkova was calling them, saying that there was no way to get in touch with you. And I got in touch with her. At that time I was doing a lot of cartoons about migration and in Russia they wanted to open up a bit, given their fear of foreigners, and, through comics, inviting authors from Europe, they wanted to make a joint publication.

Not long ago ‘Juan sin Móvil II’ came out, are you satisfied with this work?

Juan sin Móvil is a gift of life. The publisher presented the text to me to see if I wanted to illustrate it and already, reading it, I saw that it had something special. The publisher is Fun Readers and is made up of teachers. They found the writer, José Vicente Sarmiento, who is also a professor of New Technologies. And the editor, Jesús López, knew my work and thought it would be very cool for me to illustrate Juan sin Móvil. Once I read it, I saw that it was wonderful; in what way it tells us that new technologies are very important, that they make our lives easier, in no case does it say that children cannot be with their cell phones, but that they have to know that it has its good and bad things.

It has been published seven times and is on its way to its eighth edition. There are 3,000 copies per edition; 24,000 copies for juvenile literature is a marvel. It is recommended as reading in schools and we have brought out the second edition, which also touches on video games. I think it’s a marvel because I, with my older daughter, have coincided in all the evolution. When we published the first one, my daughter was with her cell phone and tablets and, when we published the second one, she is playing video games to the fullest. I am very happy because it contributes to the kids.

Juan sin Móvil’ reached no less than South Korea?

They took the sales rights from us and it’s translated into Korean, which is funny because I didn’t have to do anything. They put everything in Korean, everything, the title, some illustrations that you see with text… and they did it themselves. Incredible, they are centuries ahead of us. And it’s very cool that, in South Korea, the cradle of technology, they liked the book so much and that Korean boys and girls are reading it.

By the way, will you be releasing anything new soon?

I will soon publish a comic with GP Ediciones, the Superco, with a script by Diego Peña, a genius and friend of mine, and with Guillermo Montañés, who gives me a hand with the colors and drawing. We will bring it out in September. It is the superhero that this city needs. We will see emblematic places of Zaragoza, it will have jokes, winks, famous Aragonese characters… a lot of fun.

You are also planning to present ‘Al borde de la cordura’, a project about Goya, right?

We will soon bring out a comic book about Goya. It’s going to be free and we have Jorge Asin, who is the scriptwriter. He has made a story of his life with a beautiful ending and very well summarized, so that when you read it you can practically say I know Goya’s life. We have been commissioned by the City Council of Zaragoza and I think it will be out by September. And the economist and restless ass Juan Royo is going to include texts on the importance of Goya in the world of comics.

In fact, what does it mean for a cartoonist from here to deal with the life of Aragon’s most universal painter?

I have become obsessed. First, because I know that it is for all ages and I know how important it is that the style appeals to both children and adults. And as it tells the life of Goya and there are scenes that are then the pictures he painted, I’ve gone crazy and I’ve done the scenes as if I were Goya, drawn by me. And I have been very obsessed with making sure that the harmony of Goya’s life was well captured. I was in my studio as Goya, I put on the candles and everything; well, I put them on because now the light is impossible. This is another gift.

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