In a long conversation with Brazilian (and without mouthing it, as was to be expected), Arnaldo Angeli Filho, the father of iconic characters from the 1980s, such as Rê Bordosa, Os Skrotinhos, Meiaoito e Nanico, Walter Ego, Mara Tara and Osgarmo, recalled his wandering , lamented, with teary eyes, the loss of his friend Glauco, spoke of the recent transformation of his friend Laerte, and gave names to those he considers the “dirty rats” of politics.
In times of apparent conservative retraction, Angeli continues to defend the freedom to be politically incorrect, like the punk Bob Spit, and reiterates, like the hippies Wood and Stock, the delicious thesis that “only the Great Universal Orgasm will save humanity!” .
With a career spanning 40 years and more than 30 works published, the São Paulo-based cartoonist will have an expressive part of his production exhibited at Ocupação Angeli at Itaú Cultural, an institute based in São Paulo.
The exhibition, which will reproduce the environment of the artist's studio, will display more than 800 works. It will open on March 15 and will remain at Itaú Cultural until April 29, 2012.
Facing a routine of intense work and only four hours of sleep a day, amidst copious puffs of his cigarettes – Angeli celebrates by saying that he went from 4 to 2 packs a day –, the cartoonist says he wants to age with dignity, and that more and more will give up new characters, leaving the way free for future generations of cartoonists in the country – successors who certainly have and will have in him the figure of a hero.
Tinker, bandit, cartoonist
Son of a modest couple of Italian immigrants, his father a tinker, his mother a seamstress, Angeli came into the world on August 31, 1956. Fourteen years later, as an office boy, he discovered the charms and contradictions of his city and also gave the first steps of the cartoonist career in the pages of the extinct magazine Sir.
Our conversation begins with the memory of the suburban alienation that made him believe that São Paulo was limited to his neighborhood: “For a long time, I thought that my life and São Paulo were just that little world of Casa Verde. Until, at 14, I crossed the Tietê (the banks of the river), I got to know the Center and discovered that the city and the experiences it could provide me were something that went far beyond. The same thing happened to almost all my childhood friends, one of them, Toninho Mendes, who later became the editor of gum with banana, for the same reason: the first job as an office boy”, he defends.
Neighboring a bar frequented by drug dealers, Angeli faced a turbulent rite of passage to adolescence, anesthetized by marijuana consumption. He admired his grandfather's craft, a humble blacksmith, who boosted his passion for drawing, but he feared his father's body shop, a possible professional stronghold for a boy who cared little or nothing about his education, due to the recurring feeling of displacement in classroom.
“My grandfather was a blacksmith, a job that apparently has nothing to do with art, but he designed those art nouveau gates and did a lot of research. He made sketches, he was a tremendous draftsman, and I appreciated this universe of his. On the other hand, my dad was a tinkerer, and I was pretty sure he would end up making me one too, which was a good prospect, because I lived in an environment very conducive to turning someone into a thug. I even took care of a neighbor's newsstand in exchange for tobacco. There was a bar frequented by drug dealers next to my house. I would go down the stairs of my parents' house and come face to face with this environment every day.”
Emphasizing what he classifies as a “vocation for delinquency”, Angeli reveals the reasons that led him to the early end of his student career, after repeating the 5a grade and being expelled: “My family obviously cared about raising their children, but they ended up giving up on me. I could! I was expelled from school several times for stupid reasons: I was fighting with a boy and I was warned; hit another and ended up expelled. My mother was pissed at me, but I couldn't dedicate myself. On the eve of turning 14 and still in the 5tha grade, I was doomed to be next to a class three, four years younger than me. I knew that if I stayed there, sooner or later I was going to want to beat everyone up and terrorize the kid,” she recalls.
Neither a tinker nor a thief, Angeli's life was transformed overnight when, in 1975, he was one of the winners of the 2o Piracicaba Humor Salon, closed on the day he turned 18. The award brought him closer to cartoonist Hilde Weber, German, based in Brazil. Hilde worked for the newspaper The State of S. Paul and was the ex-wife of journalist Cláudio Abramo, then editor of Folha de S. Paul. On Hilde's recommendation to her ex-husband, Angeli ended up in Sheet, where he has reigned as a cartoonist and cartoonist for almost 40 years: “It was there that I became a man and people”, he admits.
With the abandonment of studies, the discovery of rock and culture underground, Angeli began to bet more and more on an empirical training, based on everyday experiences and a network of intense exchange of information that freed him from the feeling of displacement that hindered his resourcefulness in formal education.
A path of transformation, paved with the abundance of excesses and valuable friendships, such as that of the poet Roberto Piva: “The passion for rock involved much more than music, it was a behavioral issue and also a way of bringing people with similar interests together. One of the meeting points of this group was the Masp free space. It was there that I met Roberto Piva and we became friends. Piva was the mentor of this group. He organized concerts and a series of beat literature soirees, and only then did I find my school. But this was also a difficult period, in which Brazilian rockers still looked like thugs and deer. I remember that at the height of glitter rock, I had a pair of coral satin pants and walked with them around Casa Verde. They called me a fag, but I didn't pick a fight. I saw these provocations as something cool, I felt defiant. Today, I would never wear those pants”, he smiles.
Riviera, Rê Bordosa, Meiaoito
The consolidation of Angeli's career at the turn of the 1970s to the 80s coincided with a generational transition in the country. Leftist emepebistas and anachronistic hippies left the scene to give way to punks and post-punks gathered in historic São Paulo hells, such as the clubs Madame Satã, Acido Plástico, Carbono 14 and Radar Tantã, and bars like the Riviera, dens of a fauna transgressor who, on the eve of the paranoia of AIDS, dispensed with modesty and plunged headlong into libertine and progressive behaviors, ignoring old taboos, such as sex without paranoia and drug use without the burden of self-penance.
Angeli himself, a cocaine addict for a decade and adept at polygamous sexual behavior, knew how to make fun of those crazy years like no one else and, thus, can portray the 1980s as a chronicler. An adventure whose laboratory was one of the most traditional bars in São Paulo's bohemia.
“At Riviera, I met other cartoonists, writers, poets, journalists, all kinds of people. It was a school. Before my generation, it was frequented by the group of Caetano, Gil, Chico. I learned a lot, fought, broke the bar, stole wine, created characters inspired by regulars, got married and broke up inside. I really regretted the end of Riviera. It should have been listed by the historical heritage of the crazy people of São Paulo. It was there that I graduated and learned a lot of what I couldn't learn in school. I kept my ear to the ground, catching conversations and trying to understand everything I heard.”
This appreciation for observation, the insolence and urgency to understand the world around him, were typical attitudes of someone so lacking in direction, but also critical habits triggered by his enormous passion for the cartoonist Robert Crumb, an idol who, since the 1960s, when he imposed on the counterculture priceless characters like Fritz, The Cat and Mr. Natural, he became the guru of successive generations of cartoonists spread around the world.
in the documentary Crumb, by Terry Zwigoff, the American cartoonist confesses that his passion for comics redeemed him from a possible condition of madness. It would not be an exaggeration to say that, in Angeli's case, drawing was urgent redemption for an ordinary life or even a life of crime.
In 1992, at the Treviso Comics Festival in Treviso, Italy, Angeli had the honor of exhibiting her work in the same space where Crumb and another of his mentors, Freak Brothers father Gilbert Shelton, were honored.
“I really adored Crumb, and he was decisive in convincing me that I would have to do something original, talk about my life, the things I liked, the rages I had, my contempt for the bourgeoisie, but I was making political charge in Sheet, at a time when you couldn't point fingers or draw generals. It was then that I said I wanted to get out of the cartoon and started producing strips. There were only American strips in the Sheet, and the embryos of the gum with banana emerged in this new space that I defended. Critical observation is what drew me to the characters. Laerte was from the party (the Brazilian Communist Party) and even took me to some communist meetings, but this militancy thing bothered me. I had the idea of making Meiaoito, a shitty, bar counter guerrilla, and that's when I realized I could create other characters with the same vision. The public response came quickly.”
Far beyond being just the founder of a “porralouca” magazine, Angeli did for his generation what Carlos Zéfiro did previously with his catechisms – a series of pornographic comics, in black and white, played by slaps in the 1970s. But to Zéfiro's sex, Angeli added massive doses of drugs, rock'n'roll and subversive culture, as when she decided to invite the poet Claudio Willer, translator of the first Brazilian version of the classic poem Howl, by Allen Ginsberg, to collaborate with the magazine and make it very clear where the hippie that derived from punk and descended into heavy metal came from, which was so important to some narrow readers of the gum with banana literally head bang without the decibel prerequisite of metal guitars.
“Since that time, I have defended that the way out for man is sex, that only the 'Great Universal Orgasm' can save humanity. It talked about sex, drugs, and after I played all these characters, I finally recognized that I was a true author. In a short time, we reached historic sales milestones, and reached 110 copies on the street. In the midst of so many readers, the letters section of Chiclete only had metalheads, some narrow headbangers, and I started to think: 'Damn, let's try to open these kids' heads a little more, put a little more posture in the magazine'. I ordered a series in chapters from Cláudio Willer about the beat generation (American literary movement that emerged in the late 1950s, which brought together authors such as Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg). Everyone was talking about the hippies, the punks, but no one here knew where these guys came from. The embryo of all this was in the libertarian behavior of the beats.”
During the five years in which it was published by Circo, the gum with banana experienced a commercial success that enabled the publisher to launch two other publications, the magazines Gerald, of the priceless and useless character of Glauco, and the Tietê Pirates, which freed from the limited space of the comic strips Folha de S. Paul the unmistakable trait of Laerte. A story of meteoric rise and vertiginous fall, anticipated with the traumatic arrival of Fernando Collor in the Planalto.
“We sold 80 copies, and in the month following Zélia's plan, we dropped to XNUMX. We never had advertisers, revenue was made at newsstands. But I already thought we should stop there. If it became a very professional magazine, it would lose its charm. It went down in history.”
Dirty mice and redemocratization
Enemy number one of certain birds of prey that fly over the capital of Brazil, Angeli developed, in parallel with the cartoons, a brilliant career as a political cartoonist. He closely followed the transformations that the country has experienced since the 1970s, and accurately measures the mistakes and successes of all the presidents who led Brazil after the death of Tancredo Neves.
He demonstrates antipathy for the “mauricinha” and prideful attitude of the toucans, but he also rejects what he considers unethical conventions that brought Lula to power and that kept the unionist president as an unshakable character over eight years.
“Apart from Sarney, Collor, and the succession of mistakes of the two, I think that even Itamar, in some way, collaborated with the country. FHC also did important things, but I can't stand this PSDB school. They have a very upturned nose: 'Oh, I made Sorbonne'. 'I participated in lectures with Sartre!'. FHC made this film proposing debates on marijuana, I applaud, but these issues have to be taken to the political sphere when you are in power, so that they are really transformed. It's no use having that attitude now that he's out of the government. Brazil advanced with Lula, but he also tolerated a lot of serious things, negotiated with various sides and sometimes went the wrong way. Dilma is taking a firmer hand than he is with regard to corruption. Lula did very important things, but he also did other very negative ones, such as allying himself with the PMDB gang, a party of dirty rats, who live in the shadow of the dictatorship's MDB, and which sells, to this day, the idea that they reformulated the Brazil. We have a rat opposition, and it's not those white, fluffy mice, it's fat and dirty mice breeding puppies. There are the grandson of ACM, the son of Cesar Maia and so many others…”
Crisis, losses and mutations
At 55, three marriages and two children from a second relationship – sound designer and graphic artist Pedro, 30, and physical education teacher Sofia, 26 –, Angeli is married to architect and graphic designer Carolina Guaycuru, 35. cartoonist, Carolina signs the curatorship of the retrospective Angeli occupation, at Itaú Cultural.
The exhibition is opportune for a review of the cartoonist's career. Angeli is serene and fair when measuring the importance of his characters, however, even more generous in admitting that the moment is to take the foot off the accelerator and give way to the new artists that come around.
“I'm in a moment of low creativity, I don't know exactly what to draw and I don't like the idea of creating characters anymore, because I think mine have already fulfilled their role. A new generation of cartoonists has been emerging for some time now, heavily influenced by me, Laerte and Glauco. I look at the work of these kids and, frankly, I ask myself 'Why am I going to keep doing this? I've done this! Why am I going to compete with a kid who's just starting to find his way around now?' For me, aging with dignity is essential.”
Regarding his comment, when asked what he thinks of the efforts made by young cartoonists to regulate the profession, Angeli defends that aging with dignity also involves decent conditions of professional life, but he says he is oblivious to demanding assemblies of his category.
“I think it's valid, but, to be quite honest, I prefer not to attend. I think it sucks to be in such an environment, where all you talk about is cartoons. Regulating the profession and giving minimum guarantees is fundamental, but I also think that excessive professionalism takes away an essential part of the charm of the profession.”
We ended the interview with two controversial and unavoidable subjects: the tragic loss of his friend Glauco and, the mildest of them, Laerte's recent mutation: “I enjoy this, because Laerte already had this thing, he kept saying 'I think I'm bi , I'm gay', but I think he's only now found a way out. And I also need to find one, which I don't know, but it certainly won't be dressing up as a woman. Glauco was the guy who most lived up to the hippie predicate. We were kind of scowling, Glauco came with those comic strips, and I, even in my ripest stage, couldn't make that joke for a joke that he always did. I pretended to have some political bias, but the joke for Glauco's joke was brilliant. The friendship we had brought a lot of freshness to our works. The loss of Glaucon is a profound absence. He played an important role and that void remained.”
Our conversation was recorded in São Paulo, in the upscale neighborhood of Higienópolis. Angeli, like Artacho Jurado (who designed the cult building where the cartoonist lives and was hated by his peers for not having a background in architecture), also circumvented conventions to impose, with forceps, his great talent. Symbolic stronghold, let's face it.
* Profile originally published in May 2012, cover of issue 56 of Brasileiros magazine