14ymedio, Havana, 19 September 2023 — The Cuban cartoonist and TV presenter Jorge Oliver died on Monday in Havana at the age of 75. Creator of the Captain Plin comic strip, which was adapted for television in 2009, he gained wider fame in Cuba as host of the television program Cuadro a Cuadro (Frame by Frame) on which he critiqued and screened superhero movies, and explored the larger world of comic strips.
Oliver was born in Havana on December 15, 1947 and graduated with a degree in art history from the University of Havana. He began his career as an illustrator for the weekly humor magazine Palante. A die-hard supporter of the regime from his youth, he also drew for the Cuban armed forces’ magazine Verde Olivo (Olive Green), which published his first strip. In one interview he referred to the Cuban military as his “great school.”
He was also one of the founders of the communist youth magazine Pioneros (Pioneers), whose editorial board he joined in 1970. During the following decades he worked on other serial publications, including El Caimán Barbudo (The Bearded Caiman) and Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth), in addition to the children’s supplement Zunzún, of which he was director.
Oliver often claimed that Zunzún had been approved by Fidel Castro himself. Party bureaucrats were initially opposed the idea of a children’s magazine but, after a presentation in which Oliver pitched the idea, Castro promised him “as much paper as needed and the keys to two new cars.”
The cartoonist often claimed that Zunzún had the approval of Castro himself who, after hearing Oliver’s sales pitch, promised him as much paper as he needed and the keys to two new cars
Oliver admitted on more than occasion that his most famous character, Captain Plin, was based on Fidel Castro. The cartoonist felt particularly satisfied by one performance of the children’s theater company La Colmenita (The Little Beehive), which Castro atttended. When asked by the director, Carlos Alberto Cremata, who the green cat on the island besieged by pirates was, the children in the audience pointed to the Cuban president.
In 1980 he became manager Television Cubana’s channel 6 and founded the in-house advertising agency for Cimex, a corporation run by the Cuban military. He worked in the Animation Studies department at Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry until his death.
His program Cuadro a Cuadro, whose original concept was to provide a critical stance on American action/adventure films from studios such as Marvel and DC Comics, ended up becoming one of the most popular shows on Cuban television. Screenings of films such as Spiderman, Iron Man, Hulk and Batman – Oliver introduced them using derogatory terms such as “imperialist trash” and “Yankee propaganda” – made Cuadro a Cuadro the most widely anticipated television program in Cuba. Viewers often mocked Oliver’s critiques, which betrayed an obvious admiration for the films he was criticizing.
Oliver was critical of the scant attention the island’s educational institutions gave to the comic strip
In his later years, Oliver was director of the Department of Humor and Cartoon Strips at the José Martí Institute of Journalism and provided illustrations for books issued by the publisher Abril. The most recent example, Chamaquili, is a collection of ten-line poems by the Cuban poet Alexis Díaz Pimienta.
He was also critical of the scant attention the island’s educational institutions gave to the comic strip. “We publish very few comics. We have lost outlets, publications, that gave space to comics. No educational institution teaches comic strip techniques or history, not even art schools,” he said in an interview in 2017. “Today none of our cultural institutions, organizations or associations that promote art, literature, even journalism, sponsor competitions, exhibitions or workshops on comics.
The island’s cultural officials honored him for his work with the National White Rose Prize for Children’s Literature in 2006 and 2007.
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