Quino is the pen name of Joaquín Salvador Lavado; Argentine humourist and comic artist, b. Mendoza, 1932-07-17.

Quino, the son of Andalucian immigrants to Argentina, got his nickname at a young age, to distinguish him from an uncle with the same given name. Quino has kept the nickname ever since, making it one of the comic world's most recognisable and respected names over the half century he's been in business.

The namesake uncle, a painter, introduced young Quino to art at the tender age of three. He got his academic start in the Mendoza school of Fine Arts at age 13 and, by the time he was 17, decided that fine arts were nice but boring, so he decided to seek his fortune as a graphic artist. It didn't occur to him that graphic artists don't make fortunes, even though he ended up coming as close to it as any of them. He sold his first strip for an ad in 1950. He claims to have fortuitously forgotten it and thus does not find it embarrassing. In 1951 Quino tried his luck in Buenos Aires, went home broke, and waited for his military service instead. After it, in 1954, he returned to the Big City and managed to get a regular fortnightly feature in the Esto Es weekly. Work for other publications followed. Over the next few years, Quino managed to work his way up the prestige ladder in terms of employers and was mentored by some of the premier artists of the time. He became a regular illustrator in the advertising business, where commercial illustrators happened to be in demand.

1963 was the turning year for his career. He published his first book of comics, called Mundo Quino. Mundo is a classic. I recently got hold of a copy, after not having read it for many years, and it's still every bit as timelessly hysterical as it was the first time I read it, when it was already over 25 years old. it has its thoughtful moments and its social satire but, most of all, it's one of the laugh-out-loud funniest books you'll ever read. And there's not a single word in it.

The same year, he took on an advertising project asking him to write a strip that was to be a combination of the popular American strips Blondie and Peanuts for a domestic appliance firm. The ad was cancelled but Quino was now onto something. One year later the first Mafalda strip was published. Mafalda was to run in the local press for another ten years and, over time, was translated and published in many languages including Finnish, Chinese, and Norwegian. In the wake of Mafalda's success, much of his other work was also released internationally. The strip's eponymous heroine, a naive, unwittingly political six-year old, is especially popular in Latin America and southern Europe, where the audience can easily relate to the political climate and lifestyle in Argentina as it's reflected in the strip. Mafalda's pessimistic brand of political satire is not the kind that would attract a broad audience in the English-speaking world so her success in English has been limited.

Having mentioned politics, of course, Argentina, from the 1950s to the 1980s, was in frequent political turmoil, with juntas and civilian governments coming and going as though there were a revolving door in the presidential palace. (Perhaps there is one, I haven't been there. Perhaps every country in Latin America had one at the time.) Although there was no formal censorship even in Argentina's darkest days, at one point in 1976 Quino and his wife since 1960, Alicia, thought it wise to leave for Italy. Milan still serves as his European base of operations for part of the year. In 1985 Cuban filmmaker Juan Padrón released the first of several short films based on Quino's sketches. Through the 1980s and 1990s Quino continued to draw and publish various collections, including one Mafalda spin-off. He's also been busy collecting awards and honours everywhere from Greece to Bolivia.

Quino is a master of emotions. Anger, happiness, confusion, and sadness are his staples and he's one of the most skilled cartoonists at using them not only for maximum effect but as the actual plotline. Some of his books have no captions or speech whatsoever. Instead, expressions and wordless thought bubbles convey everything that's needed. Even the signs in the scenery are entirely symbolic. He's not above a little blasphemy--his divine caricature of an old man with a beard and triangular halo is definitely not the work of a good Catholic boy.

Quino is often very political outside Mafalda too. A typical, memorable sketch is laid out as a chess problem, with a dozen white figures dressed as tradesmen, housewives, teachers, etc. on one side, and three cigar-smoking, fat-cat bankers and industralists in black suits on the other. The caption reads: "Rules: Black plays and checkmates whenever he fancies." Not much of his stuff is that bleak in outlook though. He is, after all, one of the world's best humourists. Sometimes he's clearly an inspired surrealist, but much of the time he does what he does best--situational humour with utterly unexpected outcomes.

If you have a chance to get hold of one of Quino's books, which are easily available in Spanish but nowhere near as easy to find in English (the few US editions of his work are out of print as far as I know), seize it. Not that it matters for those with no text. You'll thank me when you finally stop laughing.

I swear, I started this writeup over 3.5 years ago.

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