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Ministerio combined leading


Barreiro’s comics often pay ironic homage to the dual function of entertainment and education in the tradition of science fiction magazines. These have often taken the opportunity to introduce readers to relevant scientific discoveries or facts – such as the principles of nuclear physics or the rudiments of space rocket design – or to frame social messages about the impact of scientific advance within their narratives, in the manner of the ecologically-orientated stories of the 1970s U.S. magazine Slow Death. Within Argentina, Raúl Roux’s Más allá (1938) was peppered with explanations of planetary orbits and Newton’s law of gravity. In an ironic replay of this relationship between entertainment and knowledge, the action of Ministerio is unsubtly interrupted by asides addressed to the reader, giving spurious information about the precise biological make-up of the particular (fictional) species currently attacking the protagonist. The example here lays out classic longitudinal and cross-section presentations of a mutant spider, the giant polyphagous multipede. At another point, an editorial interjection cuts into the narrative at a moment of maximum suspense, leaving the protagonist literally dangling from an elevator cable, to appeal to us as readers to forgive a forthcoming digression in the name of the advancement of knowledge. A page of background information ensues on the ‘Ese Ese’, the protagonist’s android pursuers, before we rejoin our hero, still clinging valiantly to the cable.

Ministerio presents a rather clichéd representation of the dehumanizing consequences of the development of science, technology, and urban modernity, but one that is redeemed by the ironic tone of its narrative and artwork. The human inhabitants of this vertical city are so rigidly segregated that they have no opportunity to discover the terrifying truth: that the lower classes of society are being recycled as food for the higher ones. After being drained of their life forces, they are mashed to a pulp in a huge machine, shown here, before emerging on a conveyor belt, reformed into neat cubes and ready for packaging. The machine’s quite unnecessary number of ducts and grinders, together with the sound effects of gory squelches, point with a self-parodying humour to the common use of visual hyperbole in comics.

Text: Joanna Page

Script: Ricardo Barreiro
Illustration: Francisco Solano López
Ministerio (Buenos Aires: La Página, 2009). Originally serialized in Fierro: Historietas para sobrevivientes (1986)
Permission sought