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By Héctor Germán Oesterheld. Art by Alberto Breccia.

In the 1950s, pioneering comics writer Héctor Germán Oesterheld authored the serialized science-fiction adventure story The Eternaut, which now is collected here as a seminal Argentine graphic novel. In 1969, Oesterheld reimagined his classic narrative as a bold allegory of political resistance against the oppressive Argentine regime; Alberto Breccia’s expressionistic chiaroscuro style lends a chilling dimension to this apocalyptic tale. A deadly “snow” falls; however, Juan Salvo’s small household of family and friends are spared, protected inside his home — but what horror awaits them in the silent, deserted streets of Buenos Aires? Venturing out in search of supplies, our everyday heroes soon join the resistance against an enemy far more sinister than anything they could have imagined. Fantagraphics, 2020.

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In the 1950s, pioneering comics writer Héctor Germán Oesterheld authored the serialized science-fiction adventure story The Eternaut, which now is collected here as a seminal Argentine graphic novel. In 1969, Oesterheld reimagined his classic narrative as a bold allegory of political resistance against the oppressive Argentine regime; Alberto Breccia’s expressionistic chiaroscuro style lends a chilling dimension to this apocalyptic tale. A deadly “snow” falls; however, Juan Salvo’s small household of family and friends are spared, protected inside his home — but what horror awaits them in the silent, deserted streets of Buenos Aires? Venturing out in search of supplies, our everyday heroes soon join the resistance against an enemy far more sinister than anything they could have imagined.

The original audience was not receptive, and Oesterheld had to pack the rest of his story into the last installments, here. What remains is a stark warning of what was to come: The Dirty War (1976-83) where an estimated 30,000 people would vanish at the hands of the military junta.

Born in Montevideo, Uruguay, Breccia moved with his parents to Buenos Aires, Argentina when he was three years old. He began to work professionally in 1939, when he joined the publishing house Manuel Láinez. He worked on magazines such as Tit-Bits, Rataplán and El Gorrión where he created comic strips such as Mariquita Terremoto, Kid Río Grande, El Vengador, and other adaptations.

During the 1950s he became an “honorary” member of the “Group of Venice” that consisted of expatriate Italian artists including Hugo Pratt and del Castillo. With Pratt, he started the Pan-American School of Art in Buenos Aires. In 1957 he joined publisher Editorial Frontera, under the direction of Héctor Germán Oesterheld, where he created several Ernie Pike stories. In 1958 Breccia’s series Sherlock Time ran in the comic magazine Hora Cero Extra, with scripts by Oesterheld.

Breccia and Oesterheld collaborated to produce one of the most important comic strips in history, Mort Cinder, in 1962. In 1968 Breccia was joined by his son, Enrique, in a project to draw the comic biography of Che, the life of Che Guevara, again with a script provided by Oesterheld. This comic book is considered the chief cause behind Oesterheld’s disappearance.

In 1969 Oesterheld rewrote the script of El Eternauta, for the Argentinian magazine Gente. This was a reboot of a science fiction comic strip that originally ran from 1957-59, illustrated then by F. Solano Lopez. Breccia drew the story with a decidedly experimental style, resorting to diverse techniques. The resulting work was anything but conventional and moving away from the commercial. Breccia refused to modify its style, which added to the tone of the script, and was much different from López’s original.

He plays with texture, mixing collage, acrylic and watercolor. This technique was used later in the eighties by artists such as Bill Sienkiewicz and Dave McKean.

The original 1950s The Eternaut was published by Fantagraphics in 2015.

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