Ricardo Liniers Milei doesnt understand the value of things

Ricardo Liniers: “Milei doesn’t understand the value of things”

The South Bookstore is full of people. Almost everyone is there for the same reason: to receive a dedication from the famous cartoonist Ricardo Liniers. There are various books on the tables and some even wear T-shirts with the Argentine illustrator's characters. He landed at five in the morning and had just given his first interview. We offer him something to eat or a coffee, but Ricardo prefers to keep to himself, explaining that later he will have dinner with Kevin Johansen, an Argentine-American singer who is currently in Lima. He doesn't know where, but he says it doesn't matter because “you can eat well anywhere here.” “You must have problems when you travel. I imagine a Peruvian eating out must be something like Albert Einstein, listening to ordinary conversations…” he jokes. Now he received La República for a recorded interview. I ask him more about the illustration part and tell him, “How do you become a cartoonist?”

What a good question. I became a cartoonist because my old man made a mistake… That was… My old man is a lawyer and he wanted me to be a lawyer. I think I had this fantasy when I was little. But he also thought it was important that I learn English. So, he said, I will immediately buy books and magazines in English so that this boy can learn a little. And they bought this for me Crazy magazine and that Calvin and Hobbes cartoon in English. Instead of learning English, I learned to be a cartoonist.

So at a young age?

Tiny. Then one day my bank buddy came to school and had drawn a comic over the weekend. I was already half a fan Mafalda and Asterix. And suddenly I realized: “Ah, can I do this?” And besides, Federico, my partner and I drew Star Wars… This is from the last century. You weren't born. I'm so old that , when I saw Star Wars in the theater, it disappeared from your life forever as soon as you stopped watching it. It's not like you looked for her later Netflix or nothing. Didn't exist. So the only way to have Star Wars was to draw it. And so I was a cartoonist.

I imagine that at the time you started there was more open space in the printed medium, but at the same time it was probably harder to see than it is now. How do you achieve this balance?

Clear. I started drawing at a crucial time, when all magazines disappeared in Argentina. It was the 90s and all the comic magazines that existed in the 70s and 80s disappeared. Plus, it was a time when none existed Internet and you basically drew for yourself. There you made a few photocopies, a few fanzines and gave them to your friends. Nobody knew the Internet would exist. I remember liking the newspaper strip, but nothing, the five cartoonists that were in every newspaper didn't leave those rooms. You kind of had to wait until they died. And at the same time, you didn't want them to die because they are your heroes. There was Fontanarrosa and Quino… It was a very unpleasant situation. But then again, since you didn't draw anywhere… It's not like I drew a style because “oh, I want to publish in”. Wonder” or “I want to publish in Marvel Magazine” there was nothing. So you drew whatever came to your mind, whatever you wanted. And the entire generation that grew up with me in the 90s did it completely differently. Nobody wore anything. Everyone drew what they had to draw. There are pros and cons to that, you know? The advantage is that you draw exactly what you need to draw. You have to adapt a lot. And the downside is that you don't know what to live on and your parents look at you like “Ricardo, I have a job like other people.” “No, but with the penguins, dad… You'll see.”

And today it is very easy to publish it, it is very easy to postpone it, but that no longer guarantees what the institution guaranteed, right?

Now it's a huge cacophony and it doesn't exist anymore, you know? It's like something everyone reads. Everyone, everyone is looking for what they can find. And everything is obviously much more fractal, if you will: a little bit. And no one becomes a mega-millionaire like other times, right? If I had been Schulz, I would have felt much more comfortable. On the other hand, we work on what we like. You don't have to be a millionaire. If I can make a living from this, I'm already exhausted.

What do you think is a cartoonist’s relationship to politics? In other words: Do you need to be informed? Do you need to talk about or refer to politics?

As an Argentinian, it is impossible not to relate to politics and publish it in a newspaper. The thing is, I never… Well, there was a time, in the beginning, Macanudo, when I drew politicians when they were kids. They were like little jokes, they were all shitty kids, but I realized I hated them even as kids. How it bothered me to draw them! And I said, “No, why should I draw her?” That's why I do political humor a lot, because the subject of a strip is politics: whether it's about abortion, whether it's about equal marriage… There were moments where There were political discussions in Argentina and I explained my position from the comic strip.

And do you think that a moment of political crisis, a complicated political moment, leads to a good production?

Argentina is… Did you see how you sit on a chair and start pushing back? Have you seen that there is a moment when you are about to fall and don't fall? This is always Argentina. We live in this constant moment.

How do you think that changes now, starting with Milei?

Argentina is always in such a border situation. Milei It is an expression of Argentine boredom, of tiredness. But I have already experienced it in the USA with Donald Trump. The Americans also had an irrational attack because they wanted to give power to these characters. How Trump card, Bolsonaro, Boris Johnson, All these clown types usually only last one ride because people say, “No, that was something.” And I can imagine something similar happening with Milei.

They are almost literary characters…

They're more than literary, they're comic strips. Because everyone has something… There's something in fascism and in the hair. Someone needs to deal with the fascism and absurd hair. Or through mustaches, like the mustaches of Stalin, Hitler or the strange hairstyles of Johnson, Trump, Milei. There is something between absolutism and capillarity that should be analyzed. Yes, it's an even stranger thing we do in Argentina. We won the World Cup and we were all very confused and said, “Let’s do something weird.”

Can the Omnibus Law have an impact on culture in Argentina?

I don't know. My problem is when someone is in a position of as much power as that Managing Director, He comes to the conclusion that culture is like the enemy of the people, that culture exists to steal from the people. It goes through like a line in which the actors, the directors and the singers, all of them, want to steal from the people. Nobody is there to steal from people. (….) Then of course there are international structures, book fairs, music fairs, there are moments when politics and culture mix, but they should mix to create synergies, not for that reason. I see Milei's problem very much in a sentence of Oscar Wilde, which says that some people know the price of everything and the value of nothing. I think that's the problem of someone with such an economic mind, let's say an economist. Yes, of course you know that a cultural event has its price, but it has value when many little children see the child and say: “I want to perform there too.” And that boy in 10 years is Ricardo Darín. And there's someone else who sings and says: “I want to play guitar like that too.” And in 10 years it'll be the new thing Spinetta. And then these people like Piazzolla for us or Chabuca Granda for you, who leave behind things that are part of our personality as a people, as cities. There are sounds from Lima and Buenos Aires that these people made. And it wasn't the actor's fault Piazzolla He said I'm going to screw up your taxes with the guitar… But, well, Milei's problem for me is this: Milei doesn't understand the value of things.

And how can one defend the independence of art in a country in such a crisis?

Crisis countries produce good art. That's why we created such interesting art in Latin America. Because it's like a reaction, we have to protect ourselves or say things. In the age of dictatorships you couldn't say that. You saw Charly García say: “Who knows, Alicia, this country was not created just for its own sake.” Unfortunately, crises create art.

It seems that we are regressing in the face of progress, having overcome the authoritarian governments of the last century. I think about all the work of independent publishers and what is being done against them.

I had a publisher and the whole editing process was always very difficult. The problem we have in Argentina is that we try it everywhere. We try direct specialism, dictatorships, democracy, neoliberalism with Menem, socialism… We go from left to right. We don't get a single one. (Still on the internet).

  • Bonjour and Macanudo are his most famous comics. In 2018 he won the Eisner Award, considered the “Oscar of comics.”
  • In 2017 he published the book Bola negra together with the Mexican writer Mario Bellatín.

    Zeilers has illustrated seven covers of the renowned magazine The New Yorker.  Photo: Distribution

Zeilers has illustrated seven covers of the renowned magazine The New Yorker. Photo: Distribution