El Jabato is a popular Spanish adventure saga created by writer Víctor Mora and artist Francisco Darnís in 1958 for publisher Bruguera. Its protagonist is an Iberian hero who fights the Roman Empire and other despotic regimes in the 1st century BC. He is assisted by two loyal companions, Taurus and Fideo, with sporadic appearances of his fiancée, Claudia.

Two years after the beginning of his hugely successful El Capitán Trueno, Mora came up with this new strip which exploited the formula he had established in the abovementioned series in combination with the added influences of the sword-and-sandal blockbusters of the 1950s and a premise that holds numerous points of coincidence with Howard Fast’s novel Spartacus (1951). In the first installment of the series, El Jabato is an Iberian peasant, enslaved and forced to become a gladiator because of his natural athleticism and fighting skills, who rebels against the Roman occupiers of his homeland. The herculean and perpetually hungry Taurus joins his cause from the beginning, thus adjusting to the gallant hero plus funny strong guy pattern already present in El Capitan Trueno. Furthermore, El Jabato is psychologically and physically identical to Trueno, whereas Taurus’ visual design, if not his personality, differs from its medieval counterpart, Goliath. Very early in the series, the protagonist gets an eternal fiancée in the figure of Claudia, a young patrician woman who sympathizes with the insurgents despite being the daughter of a Roman senator. When the extravagant poetaster Fideo de Mileto was added as the third regular male member of the series, El Jabato matched even more closely the formula of El Capitán Trueno.

The original series ran from 1958 to 1966 in the form of horizontal comic books, a very typical format in Spain and Italy between the 1940s and 1960s. Additional episodes were serialized in two-page installments within the weekly anthologies Ven y Ven, Suplemento de Historietas de El DDT, and El Campeon, as well as several annuals and holiday specials. In 1962, the strip got its own vertical magazine, El Jabato Extra, which one year later merged with El Capitan Trueno Extra. In order to satisfy the publisher’s demands, Mora and Darnís had to be assisted by other writers and artists. These materials were published in several European countries, with the main character renamed as Rex de Otembare (Belgium), Ajax (France), Taröio (in another French edition), and Ayópi (Greece).

The popularity of El Jabato in Spain has led to continuous new editions of the classic adventures, plus a recent revival in two graphic novels with art by José Revilla, a fan of the series: La Hermandad de la Espada (2008) and El Tirano de Rakhum (2010).

— Jesús Jiménez Varea

Further Reading

  • Alary, Viviane. “The Spanish Tebeo”, European Comic Art vol. 2 no. 2 (Fall 2009): 253-276.
  • Booker, M. Keith(Ed.). Comics through Time. A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideas. Santa Barbara: Greenwood, 2014.
  • Merino, Ana (Ed.). “Spanish Comics: A Symposium”, International Journal of Comic Art vol. 5 no. 2 (Fall 2003): 3-153.