Josep Escobar Saliente (1908-1994) was a multifaceted Spanish cartoonist whose activities also included animation, illustration, and theatre. For publisher Bruguera, he created such popular strips as Zipi y Zape and Carpanta, among many others. In the late 1950s, Escobar and four other influential artists emancipated from Bruguera in order to found their own, ill-fated publishing company.

Born in Barcelona, Escobar debuted professionally in the magazine Virolet at the age of fourteen, and he went on to contribute to other Catalonian publications, like En Patufet, Sigronet, and La Gralla. Following his father’s recommendation, in 1925 he got a job as a postal worker, which he combined with his artistic vocation during the following decade. In the early 1930s, Escobar entered the fields of animated films, and amateur theatre, while also contributing to comics magazines like Pocholo and satiric periodicals like Papitu and Gutiérrez.

Escobar fought against General Franco’s army during the Spanish Civil War and was imprisoned for political reasons. In 1940, he joined the animation studios Chamartín, where he became the director of the team in charge of producing the Civilón series of short-length films. Also within the field of animation, he invented the toy projector Cine Skob, which would become very popular among Spanish children during the following decade. In the late 1940s he was recruited alongside other Chamartín animators (Cifré, Iranzo, and Peñarroya) by publisher Bruguera in order to relaunch their old periodical Pulgarcito (1921) as a weekly comic. His first major series for this publication was Carpanta (1947), whose indigent protagonist is always desperately trying—and invariably failing—to find something to eat, mirroring actual famine in postwar Spain. Even more successful was the strip Zipi y Zape (1948), a highly idiosyncratic version of The Katzenjammer Kids, complete with its twin protagonists in a perpetual struggle against adult authority. This is Escobar’s best remembered series—second only to Ibáñez’s later Mortadelo and FIlemón (1958) among Spanish humorous comics—although he created many others, like Doña Tula Suegra (1951) or Petra Criada para Todo (1954).

In 1957, Escobar, along with four colleagues (Cifré, Conti, Giner, and Peñarroya) left Bruguera to found their own publishing company, D.E.R. (Dibujantes Españoles Reunidos), which launched the innovative magazine Tío Vivo. When the enterprise failed, they were rehired by Bruguera, where Escobar returned to the abovementioned series and created new ones, like Don Óptimo y Don Pésimo (1964), and Plim el Magno (1969). However, since the 1970s, he devoted himself almost exclusively to Zipi y Zape, on which he kept on working till his death. This series has remained popular and has been adapted to other media, including a couple of theatrical films, the most recent one in 2013.

— 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.