As in other countries, comics are part of the contemporary consumer culture, but they show some features which are peculiar to Spain. During the Franco period, they functioned as part of the propaganda apparatus of the regime, fostering the dominant mythology of the heroic Christian crusader, especially in the series El guerrero del antifaz (The Masked Warrior). This figure was a kind of medieval Lone Ranger, single-handedly routing, not renegade gunrunners or corrupt sheriffs, but devious Moorish adversaries. In default of other popular diversions like television, comics fulfilled the need for escapism and entertainment in the bleak years of the 1940s and 1950s, when they enjoyed a vogue aptly summed up by one commentator who described them as "the cinema of the poor". The bulk of those produced fell into the usual categories of adventure stories and humour. The former was represented by, for example, the series involving the vicissitudes of the ship "El Cachorro" and its crew, and the space voyages of Diego Valor. The latter is typified most famously by the characters Mortadelo and Filemón.
   Given the cultural diversity of the peninsula, however, comics, as a popular medium, could also function as a very effective means of disseminating languages other than Spanish, something implicitly recognized by the Franco regime when comics in Catalan continued to be banned in the late 1950s. With the removal of censorship, they have become in the 1990s a significant feature of publication in Basque.
   The ending of censorship has also meant that comics have become an important sub-genre of pornography, and one which is potentially very powerful, given their popular appeal, the absence of regulation, and, above all, the fact that they are readily available to children, being displayed openly in department stores and other places visited by families. Furthermore, they are, if anything, even more explicit than films or television, because the artist, not having to work with living models, has considerably more freedom to portray situations in detail. With the diversification of culture since the restoration of democracy, and, in particular, the breaking down of the traditional distinction between popular and "high" culture, comics continue to enjoy a significant vogue. They are one of the principal means of dissemination of science fiction, and reprints of El guerrero del antifaz have become a collectors" item.
   See also: Francoist culture; kiosk literature; publishing; readership
   Further reading
   - Cuadrado, J. (1997) Diccionario de uso de la historieta española (1873-1996), Madrid: Compañía Literaria (the most comprehensive referencework available on the genre).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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