In my last post I mentioned how important one of Edmond Baudoin's conversations with Etienne Robial was in his life as an artist. Our friends aren't those who pamper us, no matter what. Our real friends are those who tell us the truth, even if in a brutal way.
A similar thing happened to Alberto Breccia (Bang! # 10, 1973: 5; my translation): "I was with Hugo Pratt passing in a car at night through Palermo [a park in Buenos Aires] [...] and he told me: "You are a cheap whore, why are you doing crap if you could do something better[?]" I strongly resented his remark, but he was right." If Edmond Baudoin's and Alberto Breccia's objectives in their careers were to become rich doing comics (like Charles Schulz or Hugo Pratt, for that matter - do as I say, etc...) those earth shattering moments were poison (box-office poison); if they wanted to be great comics artists though, those words were a true blessing. Alberto Breccia started drawing comics during the thirties, but the true Breccia appeared (after the above episode occured) when he worked with Héctor Germán Oesterheld at Editorial Frontera doing "Sherlock Time" (first appearance: Hora Cero Extra! # 5, December 1958; all the following titles and dates are first appearances). Breccia changed his drawing style a few times after that fearing the routine of the old timer pro (in later years he was known as "el viejo," the old man, by the way). As he put it (ditto; my translation): "I don't believe in styles, styles are mannerisms."
After "Sherlock Time" another important step occurred with "Mort Cinder" (Supermisterix, August, 1962), in which Breccia used chiaroscuro and halftone dots to achieve dramatic effects. The next one were monotypes and collage: "Richard Long" (Karina, 1966) and the second version of "El Eternauta" (the Eternaut; Gente, 1969), both with Oesterheld. Alberto Breccia's last phase would be a mix of Caricature and Expressionism (grotesque) as can be seen in "Buscavidas" (the rummager; SuperHumor # 11, November, 1981) and "Perramus" (Orient Express # 23, july / August, 1984). Scripts by Carlos Trillo and Juan Sasturain respectively.
"Un tal Daneri" (a guy named Daneri; Mengano # 5, 1974) is a very dark comic set in Mataderos, Alberto Breccia's childhood neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina (he's Uruguayan though). Alberto Breccia explained (SuperHumor # 1, July / August, 1980; my translation): "I think that in 'Un tal Daneri' I conveyed something of what I saw during my youthful years. Those brick walls, those clay streets, those low clouds which seemed to be at hand's reach. In Mataderos I saw creole duels in which the Pampa Julio was involved[...]"
Daneri is an ex-cop with a tired and suffering expression on his face. He lives alone with his memories in a decaying and poor part of the city. The other characters he deals with aren't much different from him: nothing is easy for them and they accept life as it comes. This is also a comic under heavy Jorge Luis Borges' influence. As Fernando Garcia explained in his intro to Doedytores' reprint of these eight short stories (2003, my translation): "the main character's name is an homage to Carlos Argentino Daneri, the owner of the house in which the Aleph is in Borges' short story with said title. [...] Carlos Argentino Daneri is nothing else than Dante Alighieri's anagram." The difference between Daneri and Dante (the character) is that the latter is only visiting. The former can't escape, but Trillo and Breccia also show a great deal of tenderness for their characters. Even in hell we can find the beauty of a noble gesture or the sad beauty (is there any other kind?) of a tragic ending.
1. Advertisement for "Sherlock Time" by Héctor Germán Oesterheld and Alberto Breccia: Hora Cero Extra! # 5 (December, 1958): "nace un personage:" a character is born;
2. the cover of Breccia Negro (Breccia noir): Record, 1978, in which four "Un tal Daneri" stories were published for the first time;
3. the beginning of the story "El monstruo" (the monster) with Carlos Trillo's sparse, but beautiful prose (my translation): "There's a moment in which the night exhausts its euphoria and its gloominess and prepares itself to die."