Long before Condorito, Chile´s favourite comic-book condor, plopped onto the scene, there was another beloved Chilean comic that began in 1908 celebrating what would have been its landmark 100th birthday this year.
Photo by Sofia Carvajal
Perusing the vintage covers and prints of the El Peneca Exhibition at the cozy timber floored Palacio Carrasco in Viña del Mar, it was apparent that children’s comic “El Peneca” had quite a history.
Evolving from simple pen and ink comic strips to impeccably rendered illustrations, El Peneca was the first Chilean children’s magazine which captivated children’s attention and hearts. Whimsical, funny adventures from an array of local and international comic strips formed the magazine which sold like hot cakes.
The collection covered comic strips from the early illustrator Urtiaga´s work including “Chupete, Prudencia y Pillin” gang in black and white simple pen illustration, to well-known illustrator Core, to even the curator’s own work, a 40th anniversary cover for the magazine.
Sanfor Rojo the Curator of ¨100 years of El Peneca¨ exhibition was an avid collector of El Peneca comics and is an illustrator in his own right. As a young teenager, Rojo used to collect all the El Peneca magazines he could afford.
“In those days we didn’t have television or internet, so we used to look forward to the day El Peneca would come out at the local kiosk,” Rojo said.
Over the years and between moving and general spring cleaning he lost a few editions but regained them from markets and magazine shops. “There are only a handful that I don’t have – but those were lost over the years,” Rojo recalled.
"My favorite illustrator was Mario Silva Ossa also known as Coré. He was my absolute idol," he grinned. Coré has a richly rendered whimsical style of pen and ink straight out of a book of fairytales. His world was plush velvet, all knights in shining armor, magical paper boats on pristine water ripples, goblins, wizards, pirates. Sadly, Coré’s body of work is very small because his life was cut tragically short when he was killed by a train at the age of 37.
Earlier comic styles evolved from serials about domestic life to more punch-line based Condorito style comics. “All the illustrations and lettering were painstakingly rendered by hand, not printed off with computers,” Rojo said.
A large part of the El Penaca magazine was dedicated to reader feedback and the El Peneca Fanclub. And, if you look closely you can even see, in the editor’s page, a group "of freckle faced little boys of around 12 sitting around a table - including one called Mario Kreutzberger," (a.k.a Don Francisco) Rojo said.
There are also covers featuring rival magazines that appeared in the 1950’s when the children’s comic book age was in its heyday, but Rojo said “El Peneca was the original and best. To me, it not only reflects the comic book world and showcases illustrators of the time but also reveals part of Chilean childhood and culture over many eras.”