Mort Cinder, changeless and changeable

At The Comics Journal, Matt Seneca writes about a new English-translated edition of “Mort Cinder,” an Argentine comic strip of the 1960s created by Héctor Germán Oesterheld and drawn by Alberto Breccia. Main character Cinder, “changeless and frustratingly changeable,” rises from the dead each time he’s killed over the course of these horror-adventure strips that were produced during a “Golden Age” of comics-making in Argentina. Here’s Seneca:

Breccia’s art just about demands cliche descriptors. It really is eye-popping. Constructed with dense gnarls of absolutely brutal, slashing brush marks, every panel manages to cohere into a piece of realistic cartooning in the Norman Rockwell mode, with faces, figures, and lighting that startle with their dead-eyed accuracy. Imagine the sober Alex Raymond of primetime Rip Kirby inked over by Bill Sienkiewicz at his most manic and you’re close; but honestly, neither of those guys’ best work speaks to pure drafting skills as finely honed as Breccia’s. Again and again the panels’ flair for expressionism carries them to the brink of what looks like chaos – ink and wite-out splatter across the pages, furiously scribbled (and gorgeously reproduced) brush marks envelop blank space with black, and texturing effects that Breccia employed toothbrushes and razorblades to achieve spackle across surfaces. Again and again that chaos reveals itself as tidily observed compositions of light and shade—a group of dry-brushed gouges resolves into a birch forest, an elaborately marked scribble into a wrought-iron sign and its shadow, obsessive masses of ink flecks into a herringbone pattern that recedes perfectly into the light source.


mort cinder oesterheld breccia comics journal

Read Seneca’s whole piece at The Comics Journal. In 2016, I wrote for Hyperallergic about another critically revered South American comic strip called “The Eternaut that was first published in 1957. “El Eternauta,” as it was called in Argentina, was also authored by Oesterheld, who was kidnapped and “disappeared” by his own government’s heavily militarized death squads in 1977.