El Repórter Tribulete is a comic strip created by Spanish cartoonist Guillermo Cifré in collaboration with editor Rafael González in 1947. The series is an acid commentary about the absurd of journalism in the absence of freedom of speech, insofar as its eponymous protagonist reunites all possible forms of malpractice in this profession.  Thanks to Cifré’s inventiveness and agile storytelling, this strip achieved so much popularity, that the character’s name became synonymous with “journalist” for several generations of Spanish readers.

It debuted in Pulgarcito, a children’s periodical published by Bruguera since 1921 and reborn as a weekly comic magazine in 1947, after a forced interruption because of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the repressive regulation of publications during the early postwar period. Tiny and inept, Tribulete embodies the farce of journalism in the midst of Franco’s dictatorship and it is not a coincidence that Pulgarcito editor Rafael González, who collaborated in the creation of the strip, was himself an ex-journalist, barred by the authorities as reprisal for his past left-wing affiliations. Tribulete was the direct opposite of a good reporter in every aspect: his inability to spell correctly led to surrealistic confusions in the texts he wrote; he was always ready to invent reviews of concerts and plays he had been too late or lazy to attend; and, though always looking for a big scoop, in the end he would write an article about the growth of synthetic sweet potatoes in Uruguay or some other equally nonsensical subject. The only other regular character in the series is the director of the newspaper Tribulete works for. Known only as the Chief, he is not a much more capable journalist than Tribulete, but his own incompetence—of which he may well be unaware—does not prevent him from punishing his subordinate’s mistakes, both verbally and physically. Much of the dark humor in the stories stems from the conflictive relationship between them: this dynamics of power and abuse between a superior and an underling is a tenet of the Bruguera humor. In Tribulete,  the minuscule submissive reporter and the bigger authoritarian Chief are locked in an incessant sadomasochistic cycle of failure and punishment. Another almost universal feature of said Bruguera humor is the fact that their protagonists—no matter whether their natures and intentions are good or evil—never succeed in their endeavors. After Cifré’s death in 1962, Bruguera went on publishing new installments of El Repórter Tribulete by other artists, beginning with the late creator’s own brother-in-law, Enrich (Enric de Manuel González). During the 1970s and 1990s, the strip was continued by a long list of uncredited cartoonists, including Toni (Antoni Bancells) and Antonio Ayné.

— 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.