Editorial Bruguera: from 13, Rue del Percebe to Mortadelo

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Xavi Franch, director of Civic Centre El Coll – La Bruguera, sent me the announcement of the premiere on Youtube of this 15-minute docu on the history of the company Editorial Bruguera elaborated by barcelonamemory.coma website by Manel Moncusí & Manel Minguillón.

With a script by Josep Callejón, Josep Beltri and the Grupo de Estudios El Coll-Vallcarca, for its production, among others, sources were consulted, such as the extensive contents of brugueraobrera.coma highly recommendable page that includes an interactive documentary that recovers the history of the most combative Bruguera through the memory of the people who worked in the company and their testimonies. All of this is reinforced by a large number of valuable and interesting documents about the workers’ struggle from which the company was born coop57 cooperative.

This is the introduction, or rather a long description, that Barcelona Memory gives of its short documentary:

This story begins with the arrival of Joan Bruguera Teixidó and his family (1910 or 1912) in the Coll neighbourhood. Here, in Carrer Mora d’Ebre, they opened a small printing press, “El Gato Negro”, with a few workers from the neighbourhood.

Early years (1921-1936)

They began publishing magazines, pamphlets and serials. In 1921, they launched their first great success: El Pulgarcito. Joan Bruguera, the founder, died shortly after, so his sons, Pantaleón and Francisco Bruguera took over the family business.

In the years leading up to the war, the publishing house had shown its sympathy for Republican ideals, publishing magazines that conveyed their values (Rataplán, etc.), along the lines of many magazines of the time. They were all collectivised by the Tarradellas decree (1936), although with difficulties due to shortages, Bruguera continued to operate while Francisco Bruguera was fighting with the Republican army as an officer on the Valencia front.

When the war ended, Francisco was released from the prison camp where he was interned and returned to the neighbourhood to work in the publishing house with his brother Pantaleón. Together they decided to replace the name “Gato Negro” with another name less linked to the Republic: the family surname (1940). Editorial Bruguera was born, publishing again El Pulgarcito (1947), avoiding censorship.

New magazines and characters were created: El Cachorro (1951) by Juan García Iranzo and Capitán Trueno (1956) by Ambrós and Víctor Mora.

Newsstands all over the country were full of Bruguera magazines and comics. It had first-class cartoonists and scriptwriters.

In the 1960s, the company modernised: new typographic printing and binding machinery was purchased and rotogravure printing began with its first rotary press.

 
   

The first literary collections became popular, published in pocket format at cheap prices and collections of stickers based on the film productions of the time: The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, Sissi, Sissi Empress… Many families from Coll, Vallcarca, Carmelo, and Taxonera… enveloped the stickers while listening to the radio to supplement their salaries.

New titles and new literary collections filled the bookshops and newsstands. The “Selection Stories” were a bestseller. They encouraged young people who did not read much to read by interspersing an illustrated page with cartoons and literary texts on the following page. (1954)

The Joyas Literarias Juveniles (1970) had a simpler format. The collections of “pocket books”, whether Western, detective or “pink” genre, flooded bookshops and newsstands with stories or novels by Corín Tellado, Marcial Lafuente Estefanía, Carlos de Santander, Silver Kane, Clark Carrados, Juan Gallardo Muñoz (Curtis Garland) and many more.

Editorial Bruguera: from 13, Rue del Percebe to Mortadelo

Map with the Bruguera branches that appears in the documentary.

Editorial Bruguera’s distribution network was excellent. It had branches in Madrid, Bilbao, Valencia, Seville, La Coruña, Barcelona and the provinces. It was also very interested in reaching places where other publishers had no distribution.

TV arrives

Paradoxically, TV was a great opportunity for Editorial Bruguera: it brought to paper the most famous characters from the TV series of the 60s, both animated and other genres such as Bonanza, Sissi, Popeye, or Disney characters.

They exploited the TV success of the Telerín Family and the famous “Let’s go to bed”. They also published stories, mini-stories, die-cuts, and endless collections of stickers. They published magazines such as Telecolor (1963) and Fans (1965), about the youth idols of the moment, for youngsters.

The big boom

The company’s boom came with the appearance of Mortadelo magazine (1970), one of the most widely-circulated magazines of all time. The Bruguera characters created a whole universe that the youngest… and the not so young, enjoyed. Comic books were part of the leisure time of the whole country.

They even published the adventures of Japanese animated characters that were beginning to appear on TV, such as Heidi by Johanna Spiry and Marco by Edmundo de Amicis.

For logistical reasons, construction began on a new industrial plant for the Bruguera publishing house in Parets del Vallès. Workers living on the Coll or in the surrounding neighbourhoods had to travel by the coach service hired by the company.

 
   

The buildings on the Coll were used as returns warehouses, a calculation centre, administration and the Barcelona branch office until, for unclear reasons, a rotary press and a large part of one of the warehouses burnt down, with the consequent added cost for a company that was already beginning to show signs of exhaustion.

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