My roommate Leentje and I recently discovered that we both love nerdy things, so she let me borrow her copy of El Eternauta (The Astronaut), a famous Argentine historieta ciencia ficción (science fiction comic). El Eternauta is one of the most well-known comics in Latin America; it became popular immediately after it was published, appearing in weekly magazine serials from 1958-1959.
The earliest chapters of the comic center around an astronaut who travels back in time after a horrific event kills most of humanity. However, as the Dirty War descended on Argentina in the mid 1970s, El Eternauta evolved from a science fiction comic into a scathing critique of the country’s dictatorship, which kidnapped, tortured, and murdered an estimated 13,000 Argentine citizens who were seen as enemies of the government. In 1976, author Héctor Germán Oesterheld added chapters to El Eternauta that featured leftist political themes and open critiques of the government inspired by his involvement with the Montoneros, a socialist guerilla group that opposed the dictatorship. Unfortunately, not long afterward, Oesterheld became a desaparecido (disappeared person) himself; along with his four daughters, Oesterheld was kidnapped and tortured in prison, where he probably died.
Today El Eternauta continues to be a well-loved piece of Argentine history, featuring unique illustration styles from two different artists. I’m excited to geek out on its science fiction and historical content, and I think that the pictures will help me improve my Spanish too.
Check out the beauty:
EDIT: My friend Jason informs me that El Eternauta is probably a play on the words eterno (eternal) + astronauta (astronaut) or éter (ether) + astronauta (astronaut). Either way, it’s a pretty brilliant title for this comic.
And, finally snagged of my own!