Joaquín Salvador Lavado Tejón, better known as Quino, is one of the most celebrated graphic humorists in the Spanish-speaking world as well as in many countries where his works have been translated. He has been awarded numerous distinctions, such as the Cartoonist of the Year (1982), the French Legion of Honor (2014) and the Spanish Prince of Asturias Award of Humanities and Communication (2014).

Quino was born in Mendoza, Argentina, in 1932. His uncle, an illustrator, played a very important part in his early vocation. Following the early death of both his mother and father, he abandoned school at 16 years old in order to become an author of comic strips in Buenos Aires and started publishing in the 1950s, with great economic difficulties in the beginning. In 1976, when Argentina was under the military junta, he moved to Milan, but eventually returned to his country some years later.

His most famous character is Mafalda, a little girl who always puzzles friends and adults with impertinent comments and questions about life and politics. The character presents some graphic similarities with Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy, but was mainly inspired, as many remarked, by the work of Charles M. Schulz. Most of the strips are built on the paradox of children tackling adult topics, while remaining children. Thus, Mafalda hates soup and likes to play with her toys but, at the same time, reflects on topics such as democracy, global peace, nuclear weapons, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the meaning of life. The strips are also often highly symbolic. For instance, Mafalda has a very tiny friend whose name is Libertad (Freedom) and a tortoise called Burocracia (Burocracy).

The character was originally created in 1963 for an advertisement campaign which was never completed. However, Quino did not abandon it and its first strips were soon published in Argentinean newspapers and magazines. In no time, Mafalda was so successful that her stories were compiled into books and exported to other countries, such as Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Quino published the last Mafalda strips in 1973, when the character had already gained worldwide fame. Since then, its popularity has never ceased to increase and several TV adaptations have been made. The series was finally translated into English by Ediciones de la Flor in 2004 under the title Mafalda & Friends.

However, Mafalda might have overshadowed many other strips by Quino that have been compiled into various books, most of which feature in the volume Esto no es todo (2008). These stories deal with a great variety of topics –love, religion, ageing, death, science, relationships, etc.– with a humor which has been equally defined as cynical, absurd, allegoric, symbolic, tender, pessimistic, existential and,  above all, human, very human.

–Enrique del Rey Cabero

Further reading