Three years after the remains of Francisco Franco were finally removed from the granite chambers of the Valley of the Fallen, another relic of the dictatorial regime is awakening from a long sleep in the depths of the monument’s moist, bone-piled caverns.
Fortunately, the relic in question hasn’t been dead for some time phalangist but rather an imaginary Francoist secret agent whose adventures in contemporary Spain have gone from the pages of three graphic novels to the small screen.
The homonymous protagonist of the new TV series ¡García!, A genetically modified spy created in the 1950s to serve and protect the interests of the Franco regime, wakes up after spending 60 years in cryogenic hibernation to find himself in a profoundly different Spain. The certainties and restrictions of the past have long since disappeared, replaced by a new democratic society of emancipated women, cell phones, drag queens, and a frankly bewildering variety of coffee options.
His counterpart – and guide through this brave new world – is a young journalist named Antonia, whose modern ways defy her prejudices and her monochromatic worldview. While the couple’s adventures in a fictional but distinctly recognizable version of contemporary Spain involve political corruption and stable, car chases and black and white flashbacks to García’s previous life, the saga also represents a subversive exploration of the lingering legacy of he was Francoist.
“We tried to embrace the premise of the comic, which is: what would happen if a super agent who worked for a secret agency during the military dictatorship in Spain woke up in a Spain that is a democracy, albeit with so many other problems – how would you react? ” says Eugenio Mira, who directed the series for HBO Max.
The 45-year-old director, who grew up on a diet of Indiana Jones and James Bond films, prefers to compare the premise of the story to Captain America rather than the Austin Powers that comes in the 1990s. Mira also says that while he enjoyed the technical challenges of the narrative and its many action scenes, the hardest thing was getting a consistent tone.
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“Satire has parody points, but if you take something that’s fundamentally ridiculous too seriously, you end up in a place you don’t want to be,” he says. “For me the key is that I don’t see García as someone from another era that suddenly ends up in ours. For me, he is the idealized version of how things were for those right-wing people who miss that era today. “
The first ¡García! comic, published in 2015, was born from the years of economic and political turmoil that led to the birth of indignant movement, which raged against unemployment, corruption and an out-of-this-world elite.
“All of that was an interesting context for García,” says Santiago García, who co-created the novels with illustrator Luis Bustos. “But the way politics has evolved over the past seven years, things have gotten even more interesting.” Although Spain is ruled by a socialist-led coalition, the resurgent far right makes up the third largest party at the congress and the Madrid region is led by a right-wing populist president who slogans.
“For me, reality has turned to pulp,” says the writer. “Pulp works through stereotypes, exaggerations and caricatures – and that’s what we see in the press today. From this point of view, García has not lost the relevance of him, if anything he has become more relevant “.
The basic idea, he says, was to take the type of “Manichean” character that populated Spanish comics of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s and introduce him to the modern world.
“You have a character who is associated with a very concrete period in Spanish history, which is Francoism,” says García. “And he’s not innocent. So when you do, you’re not just talking about comics; you are implicitly taken to a place where you talk about history, politics and historical memory.
“He also carries with him a lot of things that were not talked about in the comics of the time. It’s about the collision between what we were told and what we want to know now about the reality of that time. “
As Bustos points out, ¡García! works at various levels, blending pulp and adventure with historical and social observations. “[But] there is also a meta theme here, ”says the artist. “You’re using a comic to talk about other comics and how you mix different schools when it comes to adventures and thrillers, from US comics to modern graphic novels and Japanese manga.”
For Mira, the book and the television program are an antidote to cowardly nostalgia and the current “oversimplified and caricatured” climate.
“I think the message is that it doesn’t matter what nostalgics say about fascism,” says the director. “Democracy, with all its mistakes, all its pitfalls and all its disappointments, is the only way … The great thing is that it’s all embodied in García: he could be the most reckless hero, but in the whole series he realizes certain things. “
García and Bustos are also keenly aware of how ineluctably current their books have become as the real world produces everyday events that would have stretched the seams of satire even a decade ago.
“All the absurd and horrible things that were in García’s first two books have been overcome by reality,” says the writer. “Today I look at them and I think, ‘We stayed a little low.’ We should have gone further and exaggerated more ”.