Eight cartoonists at the gates of prison

Eight cartoonists at the gates of prison

Andalan, 13 to 19 March 1981

Forty years, the same stories

If complaints, denunciations and trials for"offences against religious feelings" seem almost daily occurrences today, during the last throes of Franco's regime, they were also commonplace. Here is the story of the last attempt, during the mandate of the last Francoist corporation in Zaragoza City Council, to put eight cartoonists in prison.

The year was 1978. According to the chronicles of the time, an anonymous complainant considered that in issue number 3 of the fanzine Zeta there were two jokes that could constitute a crime of mockery and against religious freedom.

Eight cartoonists at the gates of prison

Photo: Carlos Azagra (See more)

The truth is that the identity of this alleged complainant was never known. However, Manuel Estradera Vázquez, "Strader" has some suspicions. (1)

"Nobody knows how our humble publication got into the hands of a judge (...) Although, curiously enough, one of the judge's surnames coincided with that of a young fan of the group and comic fan who hung around, along with half a dozen other sympathisers, in the premises we used as the magazine's editorial office and editorial workshop. But, well, these are just unfounded assumptions

that go nowhere".

The virgin!

The jokes to which the unknown complainant referred were a drawing of the Virgen del Pilar and a photo in which eight members of the magazine appeared having dinner as an advertisement for the next issue of the magazine with the phrase: "this is not the last ZETA".

Ocho dibujantes a las puertas de la cárcel

From left to right: El Rizos, Azagra, Luis Royo, Strader, Ricardo Joven, Mastral, Lahuerta and Gregorio.

It's funny because that was the last one, as the publication was hijacked and the eight cartoonists ended up in court.

Ocho dibujantes a las puertas de la cárcel

According to the complainant, both the illustration(which I have not been able to find in better quality) of the Virgin of Pilar and the photograph were offensive to the religious institution, as they were a parody of the Gospel passage of the last supper.

Eight cartoonists at the gates of prison

Updated 04 September 2017, Carlos Azagra has found and sent the page in quality and powerful size to be able to see it in detail.

Eight cartoonists at the gates of prison

Illustration of the Virgin of Pilar drawn by Antonio Soteras, El Rizos.

Rise, the accused

The trial was held in October 1979

The sentence was quite in line with the prosecutor's requests, four months and one day of rigorous imprisonment and seven years' disqualification from teaching, holding public office and voting.

Ocho dibujantes a las puertas de la cárcel

Semanario Andalán

, no. 245, 23 to 29 November 1979

Eight cartoonists at the gates of prison

Dossier by Colectivo Zeta, various authors, 32 pages, with back cover by Carlos Giménez

Ocho dibujantes a las puertas de la cárcel

Zeta Collective Dossier Page

To the jail

It was taken for granted that they would be released on parole, but against all odds they were sent to prison, as many media reported in an agency report.

Ocho dibujantes a las puertas de la cárcel

Eight cartoonists at the gates of prison

On the day of his imprisonment, seven of the eight condemned cartoonists were present. The absent one, Manuel Estradera Vázquez, "Strader", recounts his memories of those days:

"I was not prepared to spend eighty or eight days locked up in a cage. (...) That same night I was leaving for Paris".

"The following morning, all but one of the prisoners presented themselves punctually at the Audiencia to be transferred to Torrero prison".

"They were accompanied by a large group of the previous day's assembly members, who demonstrated peacefully in the Coso, in front of the Audiencia. As I was not present, I have recourse to an account that appears in a blog:

"At the door of Torrero, prison in Zaragoza, they were waiting to enter. Fernández Ordóñez, Minister of Justice and MP for Zaragoza, made a statement demanding their immediate release.

There were eight draftsmen and only seven were there. The eighth had fled to France. They had to sign the "enterado" or parole. They lined up and the first one to sign lined up again to sign for the eighth".

This last amusing anecdote is, I know, apocryphal. I know that someone excused my absence on the grounds that I was ill, and they were told to tell me that I should go and sign as soon as possible.

Within minutes I was contacted by telephone, as some of them knew that my first stop was Angoulême and that I was meeting the director of the Salon International de la Bande Dessinée,

who had his office in the town hall of Angoulême. They filled me in on what had happened and begged me to come back to sign, lest... Well, I went back and signed. I went back and signed. Just to please my friends.

The media coverage of this affair following the protest actions of some citizens and a group of artists and intellectuals of the time, plus the actions of some politicians such as Fernández Ordóñez, Minister of Justice and member of parliament for Zaragoza, and the efforts of the then mayor of Zaragoza, Ramón Sáinz de Varanda, were decisive in the outcome of this story.

Sentence suspended

On 16 March 1981, a report by the EFE news agency stated that, shortly before their admission to prison, the judge suspended the sentence for the eight cartoonists for two years, "depending on the behaviour he observed in the defendants during this period, to act accordingly".

It remains to be found and added the text of the sentence, which is said to be very funny.

Eight cartoonists at the gates of prison


, no. 313, 20 to 26 March 1981

Ocho dibujantes a las puertas de la cárcel

The three issues of "Colectivo Zeta" (1978), the third issue was never distributed.

Second stage

After its legal seizure, the second stage of the Zaragoza magazine "Zeta" (1979) was renamed "Bustrófedon" and had a large staff of professional cartoonists and writers such as Carlos Giménez, Azagra, Luis Royo and Antonio Altarriba, together with other new authors.

It would not be the last time that Carlos Azagra and some of the members of the collective would have to face a trial for "mockery of religion".

Shortly afterwards, also during 1978/79, an issue of the magazine Butifarra! dedicated to the Church and entitled Iglesia S.A. cost them another trial.

Ocho dibujantes a las puertas de la cárcel

Carlos Azagra, who had drawn three pages, two explaining the business of religious teaching and another dedicated to sects, recalls that trial:

"In that trial I could not go as the author, as I was on probation for another trial for the same thing, mockery of the Catholic religion in Zaragoza... if they discovered that I had drawn those pages, I would go straight to jail, as would Rafael Vaquer - the creator of Jhonny Roqueta - who in those days was still doing his military service and could go to prison for the same thing. So between all of us they covered up for us, advantages that judges don't understand styles..."

"At the trial, Miguel Gallardo - the creator of Makoki - had to tell the judge that he had drawn my pages, because if I did the same thing again, I would go straight to prison (I was still on probation for the previous trial in Zaragoza)". (3)

Ocho dibujantes a las puertas de la cárcel

From when comics were kidnapped

. Carlos Azagra

Sources consulted:

-Zaragoza Rebelde

-Virtual library of Aragon. Andalán newspaper archive

-ABC Newspaper Archive 17/03/1981

- Carlos Azagra's blog

- Encarna Revuelta's blog

-Antonio Altarriba (2009): "When comics were progressive", Tebeosfera 3, second period. 09/03/2009

-Download Coletivo Zeta nº 1 -(PDF) 83Mb

-Download Coletivo Zeta nº 2 - (PDF) 36Mb



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