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Mort Cinder


Mort Cinder is the protagonist of the homonymous series created by Argentine author Héctor Germán Oesterheld (1919-1978) and Uruguayan artist Alberto Breccia (1919-1993).  It was published weekly in the Argentine periodical Misterix from July of 1962 to March of 1964.  Afterwards, in the seventies, it was published with great success in Spain, France, and Italy.  It is considered, by the majority of specialists, to be the masterpiece of its creators, and this in spite of the fact that both created it in order to overcome the difficult economic situation in which they found themselves. Here, Oesterheld achieves the height of his writing, with narratives each time more accomplished and profound. For his part, Breccia experiments with page layout and design.  It is worth noting in his style a distancing from realism and a preference for chiaroscuro.  He used various techniques for drawing this story, like razor blades and paintbrush inking.

In Mort Cinder, Oesterheld recreates once again one of his most beloved plots: that of the time traveler, basis of other of his series, like Sherlock Time or The Eternaut.  Mort Cinder is an immortal being that has resurrected as an adult throughout different periods of history. His last reincarnation takes place in London, in the house of antiques dealer Ezra Winston, co-protagonist of the story.  Interestingly, Breccia painted himself as an old man in order to create the face for the antiquarian, and was inspired by Horacio Laila, one of his assistants, for the drawing of Mort Cinder.

The plot of the series is simple.  Thanks to his multiple lives, Cinder has been witness to various eras, like ancient Egypt, and historical events, like the construction of the tower of Babel or the Battle of Thermopolis, in ancient Greece. In each installment of the series, some object from the antiques store, each one imbued with history and the past, gives rise to the immortal’s remembrance of some different episode for Winston.

The Mort Cinder series, 206 pages in length, consists of ten stories.  The majority of them feature unknown characters.  Unlike traditional historic accounts, the protagonists of the episodes narrated by Mort Cinder are the defeated or the anonymous heroes that were forgotten. The antiques dealer Ezra Winston has a starring role in a couple of the stories.  Many of the tales pay homage to a genre, like noir fiction, historical narrative, or ghost stories.

A dark tone prevails in the series.  Some of the settings are a prison, a battlefield, or a slave ship.  In this sense, the series is a reflection of the social and political situation experienced in the Argentina of the period, with a great instability that resulted in several military uprisings.  Additionally, Mort Cinder presages the later political commitment of its author, Oesterheld.

After 1964, he entertained the idea of publishing new Mort Cinder stories, and in fact he wrote a draft of a script that regrettably was never illustrated.  The exceptional political circumstances Argentina was going through, as well as the forced disappearance of its author, prevented it.

— José Enrique Navarro

See also: El EternautaHéctor Germán Oesterheld

Further Reading

  • Accorsi, Andrés. 2001. “Argentine Comics.” International Journal of Comic Art 3.2: 23-43.
  • Fiore, Daniela, director. Imaginadores. DVD. Buenos Aires, Argentina: SBP. 2008. In Spanish with English, French and Italian subtitles.
  • Merino, Ana. 2001. “Oesterheld, the Literary Voice of Argentine Comics.” International Journal of Comic Art 3.2: 56-69.
  • Pilcher, Tim and Brad Brooks. “Argentina. ” In The Essential Guide to World Comics, 201-222. London: Collins and Brown. 2005.
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