Man, myth and sacrifice: graphic biographies of ernesto ‘che’ guevara

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Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-
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Journal of Graphic Novels & Comics
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Man, myth and sacrifice: graphic biographies of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara
James Scorera
a The University of Manchester, UK
Online publication date: 15 December 2010
To cite this Article Scorer, James(2010) 'Man, myth and sacrifice: graphic biographies of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara', Journal of
Graphic Novels &Comics, 1: 2, 137 — 150
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/21504857.2010.527097
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Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics
Vol. 1, No. 2, December 2010, 137–150
Man, myth and sacrifice: graphic biographies of Ernesto ‘Che’
James Scorer*
The University of Manchester, UK
(Received 6 May2010; final version received 22 August 2010)
This article reads graphic biographies of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara in the light of the
cultural readings of Che that describe themselves as works that ‘get to know the man
behind the myth’. Framing this desire within the shifting, postmodern nature of the
well-known Che icon – Alberto Korda’s ‘Guerrillero heroico’ – the article looks at
comics by SpainRodriguez, Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón, Sergio Sinay, and Héctor
Oesterheld and Alberto and Enrique Breccia. With specific reference to the ways these
works depict Che’s death in Bolivia, the article shows how they all fail to engage with
the local specificities of his failed Bolivian campaign; rather than deal with Che’s
inability to attract local peasants, they choose to show the campaign asan act of
heroic sacrifice. In so doing they forget how those selfsame peasants participated in
the globalization of the Che icon.
Keywords: graphic biography; Che Guevara; Latin America; Bolivia; myth; icon
Man, myth and sacrifice: graphic biographies of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara
Just two years after the death of Ernesto Guevara in Bolivia in 1967 the film poster for
Richard Fleischer’s Che!(1969) employed a trope that has come to dominate cultural constructions
of Che. It boasted: ‘Now 20th Century-Fox separates the man from the myth’.
Che is forever caught between ‘man’, a reference to some notion of non-heroic, ordinary
biographical authenticity, and ‘myth’, a reference both to the untruths of Che’s life story
and also to a larger-than-life heroic guerrilla narrative. There is,of course, a third feature,
one sometimes distinct from man and myth and internationally recognisable: Che’s symbolic
image. Che continues to be one of the world’s most widely-reproduced faces and
his multiplication on t-shirts, posters and stencil art has, more often than not, bypassed
biography and mythology to spiral into a wry, self-referential postmodern joke. If the origins
of the...
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