by Ernest Hogan
My neighborhood carnicería never fails me. If I feel like I need reading material that will take me away from all the crazy business that tends to pile up around me, I can always go there and pick up some Mexican comic books. After all, as it said on the price sticker on the plastic baggie of the three-pack: LA LECTURA ES CULTURA.
And what culture I found in three issues of El Solitario, Jinete Sin Fronteras. (Not be confused with the enmascardo, El Solitario, who also starred in comic books.) Talk about cultura!
This is western, but of a definite Mexican sensibility. Note the calavera motif in the logo. Rodrigo Santos, AKA El Solitario is not just a sort of Mexican Lone Ranger. He has strange eyes like blue diamonds. He wears a cross and symbol suggestive of native mysticism, and on two of the covers these items are hanging from a six-shooter. His motivation to shoot it out with evil-doers is spiritual.
Though the stories never cross the line into the supernatural, themes and images keep showing up: In “La Noche de la Hechizada,” the ghostly images of people who were killed are shown; a scythe-wielding, laughing grim-reaper appears behind El Solitario in a shoot-out; and in one panel, the legs of a crucified Christ are shown, dripping blood and looking more like flesh than a statue. A shooting in “Tu Peor Pesadilla” takes place under a full moon with black birds flying in front of it, and in the end, El Solitario embraces a beautiful blonde in a graveyard. “Ni El Diablo . . .” has a dragon wrapped around a skull on the cover, a page-and-a-half vision of angels, devils, and Hell, and the grim reaper again appears behind El Solitario as he confronts the villain. In the last panel, the word “FIN” is on a flaming sword.
This doesn’t mean that these tales are Sunday school material. Violence can take place in a church, which is also burned down. Mutilation worthy of horror stories happens. Blood and burnt corpses are also shown.
El Solitaro, Jinete Sin Fronteras, has a Facebook page, a lot of covers displayed on various webistes, and even entire stories that can be read online. There is also a song about him. I even saw issues offered for sale on eBay.
This Mexican Gothic western is still going strong. I wouldn’t be surprised if El Solitario ended up in movies and television, or at least online video. He is the personification of a yearning for justice we see on both sides of the border these days.