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Mordillo

The colour supplements of the seventies were festooned with all manner of big-nosed cartoon tomfoolery. From the excellent (if now irreparably tarnished) caveman satire-lite of BC, through the less accomplished likes of Hagar the Horrible and the Wizard of Id, right up to that funny-looking kid in Peanuts, size – hooter-wise – was everything. One entry in the fast and bulbous funnies, however, always had us looking askance, exasperatedly muttering: “Is that the gag? No, I must be missing something here…”

Guillermo Mordillo was an Argentinian cartoonist who knew his way round an airbrush, and created a torrent of maxi-nasal mirth throughout the 1970s. He had a penchant for big, sprawling crowd scenes (usually based round a football match) that were pleasingly busy in a Richard Scarry sort of way, and made for excellent picture books (like the immaculately titled The Damp and Daffy Doings of a Daring Pirate Ship), jigsaws and those posters on the flip-me racks at the back of Woolies.

All well and good and deservedly popular. The colour supplement cartoons, however, were the cause of much bother. We mean to say, there’s gnomic whimsy and there’s plain, infuriating obtuseness. Usually consisting of three panels, usually concerning some big-nosed men engaging in a sporting activity, often bunging in a big-nosed giraffe for no reason, but always leaving puzzled “I don’t get it” looks on the faces of the large and tiny-nebbed alike.

Unlike, say, Doonesbury, where we suspect you have to have a degree in the history of the Democratic party to even understand one panel in ten, we think Mordillo’s particular brand of not-quite-funniness was due to the fact that, well, he wasn’t quite funny. Still, he was colourful and busy in a decade-decorating way. And rather wall-to-wall basketballing giraffes than a single panel of the nadir of ’70s unfunny cartoonery, Love Is…

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