Héctor Germán Oesterheld & Francisco Solano Lopez, The Eternaut (Fantagraphics, 2016). $39.99.
In 2016 the Anglophone world was introduced to the English translation of Argentinian Héctor Germán Oesterheld’s El Eternauta (1957-69). Not only were English-speakers presented with a 1950s science fiction story of alien invasion, time travel, and displacement, but they were also confronted with a dystopic comic that warns of the dangers of political regimes and dictators. In the comic, Juan Salvo, the ‘voyager of eternity’ (‘el eternauta’), survives a deadly alien snowfall that annihilates Buenos Aires. Along with his family and a few friends, they are displaced within their homeland. Throughout the story they seek to survive and fight back against the alien invasion with Salvo leading the resistance. What is so enthralling about Juan Salvo’s story is how it reflects the political landscape in mid 20th century Latin America. For Oesterheld, and the artists—Francisco Solano López and Alberto Breccia—Salvo is rendered as if in a political editorial cartoon because he questions Argentinian authority as well as draws attention to corruption and political violence in Latin America. El Eternauta thus shines a spotlight on the erosion of the homeland as well as appeal for a peace not yet delivered in Latin America. Much like the editorial cartoons of the turn of the 20th century, the English translation thus serves as truly an ironic ‘voyager of eternity’ that warns present-day readers about the dangers of imperialism, dictators, and political regimes. A timely read in today’s political landscape that I highly recommend.
An 2018 Eisner Awards judge, Treasurer of the Comics Studies Society, and recipient of a Smithsonian National Postal Museum fellowship and summer NEH institute fellowship, Dr. Serrano is currently a Mellon Diversity Fellow at MIT Press. She is a visual culture, digital humanities, and transatlantic studies scholar whose research and comics interests includes Latin American and European comics, museums and comics, and editorial cartoons.