Latin American Studies Comics, Cartoons, Graphic Novels
Jorge Catalá, James Scorer
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 February 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0279


The field of Latin American comics studies is relatively young. Though there are earlier studies of caricature, the most significant developments in studies of the region’s comics date from the 1970s and 1980s. During this period, intellectuals, scholars, and historians focused on comics as a neocolonial site of struggle or as expressions of autochthonous national-popular traditions. Some artists and scholars also explored the language of comics itself, setting out innovative approaches to page composition, interrelations between word and image, sequentiality, panel arrangements, or use of color, often as part of the wider political backdrop. Since that period, and particularly given the historic ties between comics and popular culture, the region’s comics have usually been read through the prism of the nation, a means of tapping into the social and political imaginaries of “the people.” That tendency persists into the twenty-first century: edited books tend to draw out overarching regional trends in introductions before individual chapters focus on individual national case studies and the work of specific authors. Much scholarship on Latin American comics has focused on the three countries that can claim to have had something akin to a comics industry: Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico, the latter also significant as the conduit for translated works within the region. There are, nonetheless, a significant and growing number of studies of comics in other Latin American countries, particularly Chile, Colombia, Cuba, and Peru. There is also an established and influential body of work on Latinx comics, though that falls beyond the scope of this bibliography. Scholarship on comics in other countries remains, unfortunately, underdeveloped. Though reading Latin American comics through national narratives remains important, the increasingly transnational nature of Latin American comics in the new millennium—a situation facilitated by the digital turn, growth in indie publishers, international comics festivals, and a thriving and sometimes itinerant zine scene—has meant a shift toward more comparative and transregional studies. Innovative studies on specific works, authors, and magazines are being supplemented by new methodological approaches, such as recent studies of the graphic novel. Though there is scope for more research into artistic working practices, the wider roles associated with comics work (not just writers and illustrators, but also pencillers, inkers, editors, graphic designers, publishers, etc.), and audiencing (particularly using quantitative analysis), scholarship is becoming increasingly diverse, with long-standing political commentaries now embedded in more extended and far-reaching analysis of issues such as gender and sexuality, race, memory politics, and ecology, as well as a greater awareness of intermediality, which has opened up innovative and rich analytical avenues for comics analysis.

Regional Overviews

The overarching tendency in scholarship that tackles Latin American comics as a regional whole has been to use national traditions and developments as the cornerstone of analysis. The early, groundbreaking overviews of Latin American comics, Merino 2003 (which situates Latin American comics under the broader umbrella of “Hispanic comics”) and Lent 2005, both take this nation-based approach, organizing their chapters by individual countries. Fernández L’Hoeste and Poblete 2009, a book that might be seen as one of the earliest in a new wave of Latin American comics scholarship, continued this approach in a more theoretical and analytical manner. It also set out the archetypal structure of the several edited collections included in this section that address the region’s comics: a broad overview of historical trends and recurring tropes in the introduction, before individual contributors focus on specific nation-based studies, in this case mostly focused on individual publications and famous comic characters. Just as Fernández L’Hoeste and Poblete focused on national identity, rather than producing overarching historical overviews, other collections have also focused on specific issues or themes, including the way comics engage with Latin American memory politics in 20th- and 21st-century comics in Catalá-Carrasco, et al. 2017, how comics address Latin American history in Carrillo Zeiter and Müller 2018, or the diverse manifestations of comics beyond print media in 21st-century Latin America in Scorer 2020. Despite this prevailing tendency to focus on national traditions, some works have also situated Latin American comics in wider comparative contexts to different ends: Masotta 1970, for example, positioned Argentine comics within a broader canvas of US and European comics as part of an effort to promote comics as an important element in the country’s visual art landscape. Dorfman and Mattelart 1975 (originally published in 1971 in Spanish under Allende’s Unidad Popular government) radically undermined the long-standing view that comics were mere entertainment for children and young adolescents by looking at the ideological content of the Disney comics that were circulating in Latin America in the mid-twentieth century. Espinoza 2017 reads Latin American comics as cultural expressions of deterritorialization and cultural hybridity during the neoliberalism era, and, more recently, Aldama 2020 explores depictions of indigeneity in Latin American comics amid a broader canvas of comics and indigeneity in the Americas and Australasia to highlight transnational trends and connections. Such transnational approaches are likely to become increasingly common in the years to come.

  • Aldama, Frederick, ed. Graphic Indigeneity: Comics in the Americas and Australasia. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2020.

    This book includes several chapters that discuss Latin American comics, with contributors highlighting in particular how comics draw on pre-Columbian mythology and history when addressing indigeneity. By placing comics from different countries and regions together, the book highlights the shared, transnational nature of the struggles of racially marginalized groups. A useful intervention into a growing area of research for (Latin American) comics scholars.

  • Carrillo Zeiter, Katja, and Christoph Müller, eds. Historias e historietas: Representaciones de la historia en el cómic latinoamericano actual. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2018.

    Reads Latin American comics in relation to history and memory in the region. The quality of the contributions varies considerably and there is an overreliance on certain studies (e.g., Merino 2003) at the expense of other relevant works. There are, however, some excellent chapters, including Rike Bolte’s analysis of Latin American comics and memory and the project Historietas por la identidad, and Juan Poblete’s analysis of Lalo Alcaraz’s La Cucaracha and Migra Mouse.

  • Catalá-Carrasco, Jorge, Paulo Drinot, and James Scorer, eds. Comics and Memory in Latin America. Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh University Press, 2017.

    This edited collection explores the relationship between comics, history, and memory politics in different national contexts, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Peru. Grounded in theories of social, cultural, collective, and prosthetic memory, the past in comics is explored via narrative, image, and form. The introduction includes a brief history of Latin American comics, theoretical discussion of memory and history, and analysis of the formal properties of comics in relation to memory. Also available in Spanish.

  • Dorfman, Ariel, and Armand Mattelart. How to Read Donald Duck. New York: International General, 1975.

    A seminal work for the study of Latin American comics, though the focus is actually on the consumption of Disney comics. Highlighting how Disney’s comics were propagating capitalist ideologies as part of what the authors saw as US cultural neocolonialism, the book is a classic example of left-wing revisionism. Copies were thrown on bonfires in Valparaíso after the right-wing coup d’état that overthrew Salvador Allende and brought Augusto Pinochet to power in 1973. Originally published in Spanish in 1971.

  • Espinoza, M. “Neoliberalism in the Gutter: Latin American Comics and Society since the 1990s.” Studies in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature 42.1 (2017): 1–18.

    This reading of Latin American comics in the neoliberal era argues that, much like the wider social and political landscape, deterritorialization and cultural hybridity are the principal traits of the region’s contemporary comics. Brief analytical references are made to comics from Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, and Chile, highlighting the interplay of humor and political critique.

  • Fernández L’Hoeste, Héctor, and Juan Poblete, eds. Redrawing the Nation: National Identity in Latin/o American Comics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

    This essential book provides a continental approach to Latin/o comics, theoretically grounded in cultural studies. It is not a history of comics but an examination of how comics have played a prominent role in the configuration of national identities in Latin America. It draws on Martín Barbero’s concept of mediation, claiming that comics have constituted one of the most important media forms in terms of the connection between socioeconomic modernization, cultural matrices, and mass-mediatization.

  • Lent, John A. Cartooning in Latin America. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2005.

    This seminal, early work includes twenty-three chapters mapping Latin American comic art in Argentina (4 chapters), Brazil (4), Chile (3), Colombia (2), Cuba (3), Mexico (2), Peru (2), Uruguay (2) and Venezuela. Most contributions first appeared as articles in the International Journal of Comic Art, Latin American Perspectives, and Revista Latinoamericana de Estudios Sobre la Historieta. An excellent, albeit older, entry into Latin American comics by a leading comics studies scholar.

  • Masotta, Oscar. La historieta en el mundo moderno. Buenos Aires: Paidós, 1970.

    An important early example of Latin American comics criticism. Part of Masotta’s efforts to address comics with “the respect it deserves,” a comment made in the magazine LD: Literatura dibujada (1968–1969). The first part is a historical review of US comics. The second focuses on European comics, and the third on Argentine comics. The latter analyzes the work of Héctor G. Oesterheld, Hugo Pratt, and Alberto Breccia. Also included is a chapter by Oscar Steimberg on Patoruzú.

  • Merino, Ana. El cómic hispánico. Madrid: Cátedra, 2003.

    This excellent book explores comics as a cultural manifestation of peripheral modernity within the consolidation of mass societies. After a theoretical framework that sets out to legitimize comics within a wider cultural canon, Merino focuses on local folkloric comics in Spain under the publisher Bruguera; revolutionary and didactic Cuban comics since 1959; the interplay between the urban and the rural in Mexican comics; and the fantastic in Argentine comics, principally in the work of Héctor G. Oesterheld.

  • Scorer, James, ed. Comics beyond the Page in Latin America. London: UCL Press, 2020.

    Explores manifestations of comics in Latin America beyond textual analysis of print media. Contributors address global and national consumption networks, comics industries, the rise of digital comics and online platforms, comics in public spaces and as part of political campaigns, and as educational tools. Covering comics in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay, the book includes a comic drawn by Jesús Cossio about comics pedagogy and the internal armed conflict in Peru.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.