Zipi y Zape, is one of the most popular Spanish comic strip series, first published in 1948 and created by Spanish cartoonist Josep Escobar i Saliente, which has been widely adapted to the cinema, TV and videogames. Together with Mortadelo y Filemón, the comic strip series contributes to the critical humor style within the Bruguera-school, one of the three most important streams in the medium after the Spanish civil war.

The series portrays the domestic adventures of Zipi and Zape, a pair of mischievous twins who are nevertheless, constantly willing to undertake a “good action” that implies getting in trouble with catastrophic consequences. The protagonists are identical twins who can be only distinguished by the color of their hair (i.e. while Zipi is blonde, Zape is dark-haired). Their names are based on the Spanish word zipizape meaning chaos, a clear reference to their behavior. The characters were originally inspired in two other sets of siblings from the medium: the German Max und Moritz (1865) by Wilhelm Busch and the American The Katzenjammer Kids (1897) by Rudolph Dirks.

The protagonists interact with a set of characters within their school and family circles such as their father (Don Pantuflo), mother (Doña Jaimita) and genius cousin (Sapientín). Following the classical pattern, the narrative of Zipi y Zape is structured in three parts. Each comic strip series sets out the scene by introducing the good action the twins intend to carry out, then we learn that their plan results in chaos. Finally, the story closes with the pair being punished by their father or followed up by some other character.

The comic strip series evolved from a short structure and corrosive humor to longer stories and softer humor. The original short story (1 to 8 pages) progressively extended its length until reaching the 44 pages characteristic of the Franco-Belgian comics. The first publications were amended by the Franco censorship due to their transgressive humor, particularly their satirical portrayal of repressive family values. As a result, both the nature of the twins’ mischief and their punishments were increasingly softened.

The historical value of Zipi y Zape as a witness of the Spanish postwar is best understood in their initial black and white publications, which offer a rejection of the adult world through exaggeration. The series parodies the 19th century bourgeois family structure featuring black humor and sadism. Both techniques are applied to the nature of the punishments that Don Pantuflo delivers to his sons. In this context, Don Pantuflo represents an authoritarian, conservative paternal figure while Doña Jaimita performs the role of a submissive housewife. The author particularly focused on topics relevant to young readers, including school, grades and parents.

— Beatriz Carbajal Carrera

Further Reading

  • Alary, Viviane. 2009. “The Spanish Tebeo”.  European Comic Art 2(2): 253-276.
  • Barrero, Manuel. 2011.  “The Origins of the Spanish Cartoon, 1857-1906”. Arbor-Ciencia Pensamiento y Cultura 187: 15-39.
  • Merino, Ana & Tullis, Brittany. 2012. “The Sequential Art of Memory: The Testimonial Struggle of Comics in Spain”. Hispanic Issues Online 11: 211-25.