When Himmler was in Spain and met… the Gilda sisters and the Marx brothers?

We all know that on October 23, 1940 Franco met Hitler in Hendaye in a crucial meeting for the history of Spain and Europe. What is not so well known is that, on the same day, the head of the German SS, the terrible Heinrich Himmler, visited Spain with a very special mission. A historical fact that alfonso lopez (Lleida, 1950), mixed with the absurd humor of Bruguera, the Marx brothers, Woody Allen or Monty Python, in a cocktail of intrigue and international espionage that is very funny, but also invites us to reflect. Your title: An afternoon with Himmler (The Dome)

Alfonso tells us how this amazing comic came to be: “It would be necessary to distinguish between the original idea and the subsequent development of the script. In principle, it was born because, over time, It made me want to pay another tribute to some other characters from the classic Bruguera, especially the late forties and early fifties, for me its golden years. I don’t know, as if I had it pending. Then, studying the documentation of that historical moment, is when I decided to focus on the immediate postwar period, in 1940″.

A work with which Alfonso returns to that post-war scenario that he portrayed so well in street market and tram (2007) and the solar (2016) and in which he once again pays homage to Bruguera’s great characters: “As I try to explain in the introduction to the book, It has turned out a trilogy, but without me pretending it. when i posted street market and tram, In 2007, I didn’t think it would continue, but doing so opened up a challenge for me which is essentially: Respecting the essential characteristics of some of those characters, what could I do with the current possibilities, both those that refer to the purely editorials, that is, a greater breadth of the narrative space (a history of the Ulysses Family had never been made longer than two pages) such as those referring to current freedom of expression? And of course, inevitably the capacity of testimony of his time and are linked to what has come to be called Historical Memory. Of course, from humor. This is what unites them.”

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Why did Himmler come to Spain?

Alfonso López assures that his intention is to “publish small historical novels with humor”, and the truth is that he manages to mix reality and parody in a masterful way. “Himmler’s visit is one of the argumentative excuses, but it is not the only one -he tells us-. His visit was part of a political-military strategy that could have ended with Spain’s entry into World War II side with the Axis powers. It was not like that, but it was close, hence its importance”.

“The main objective of his visit – he adds – was the agreement with Francoism according to the Nazi political police, the Gestapo, could act with total impunity in Spanish territory. But his obsession with esotericism in general is still very interesting. Something of which he recorded with his visit to the Monastery of Montserrat in October 1940. So much surrealism and so much absurdity were an insurmountable temptation for me.”

“This story is basically flavored with absurd humor, but underlying it, as on other occasions, the cynicism and imbecility of the human condition“-adds the cartoonist-.

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Churchill, Ian Fleming or Josep Pla rub shoulders with the Gilda sisters

Doña Urraca, grandfather Cebolleta, the reporter Tribulete and the Gilda sisters rub shoulders with real historical figures in these pages. “Apart from Himmler -says Alfonso-, they appear and act Winston Churchill, the banker Juan March, Francisco Cambó, the writer Josep Pla and Ian Fleming himself among others. These, for better and for worse, make history.”

“The comic, that is, Popular life is starred in paper or celluloid characters which may remind us of those created by Vázquez, but also by Conti or Cifré, among others. Narratively, it is simply a game of sequences” -concludes Alfonso-.

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The Marx brothers meet the Gilda sisters

We asked Alfonso why Bruguera’s characters have marked him so much. “I owe a lot to Bruguera, especially in his golden years, before greed led the publisher to decline. All of us, or at least many of us, owe him that in his early days reflect the flaws of a society that other media shunned…”

But… What do you think Vázquez would think of his version of the Gilda Sisters? “It doesn’t seem right to me to comment on what this or that author who cannot defend himself would think. It is a speculative practice that I have never liked and because we all have the right to have an opinion and then to change it. By the way, they are not technically the Gilda Sisters, they are the Haywort Sisters, let them remember them, that’s something else…”

In the comic, those Haywort sisters and the Marx brothers make a really hilarious bunch. “Regarding whether Bruguera’s humor and that of the Marxes had something in common, I must affirm that in some authors they did, especially it would be convenient to review the first comic strips by Carpanta and the Zipi and Zape brothers, to see the cleverly absurd language used by Escobar. A marvel”.

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“I’m closer to Groucho and Wilder than to Chaplin”

Despite the absurd humor of the story, Alfonso López manages to be faithful to the story, for which he has handled a great documentation. “More than complicated, the documentation process has been laborious,” he confesses. due to the number of events of historical significance that were happening at that time. But we must not forget that half of my professional life has been dedicated to commenting on political life through current affairs cartoons in the press. So I already had a practice that makes things a lot easier.”

Regarding his drawing style, Alfonso confesses to us: “I don’t feel like heir to Slapstick or physical comedy, my characters may have a certain amount of movement or dynamism, but I recognize myself more in dialogue comedy. Obviously , I’m closer to Groucho Marx and Billy Wilder than Charlie Chaplin”.

After completing this trilogy, the author will completely change register for his next work. “At the moment I am trying to start some ‘partial’ memories focused on my years of international cooperation in Latin America that it is possible that, if the weather and biology allow it, they take me some time. In between, I think that something will come out that is totally new in the Spanish market and some compilation that has never been published in its entirety”.

Cover of ‘An Evening with Himmler’

When Himmler was in Spain and met… the Gilda sisters and the Marx brothers?