When he put down his pencil on March 2, 1985, Gus Arriola brought to an end a classic comic strip that had endured for 45 years, appearing in as many as 270 newspapers. During that span, Gordo (meaning Fatso) had evolved from a Mexican version of Li’l Abner — a lazy, overweight bean farmer who fit the American stereotype of Mexicans (but not yet as rapist and murderer) — to an “accidental ambassador’ for Mexican culture.
Arriola wrote, illustrated and produced the strip throughout its run except during a stint in the army, although he regularly used tongue in cheek pseudonyms such as Overa Cheever, Liv Anlern, Kant Wynn, and Bob N. Frapples for his Sunday strips.
Along with Gordo, there were his nephew Pepito, poet Paris Juarez Keats Garcia, housekeeper Tehuana Mama and the widow hot in pursuit of bachelor Gordo, Artemesia Rosalinda Gonzalez. And pets Poosy Gato, Señor Dog, and Bug Rogers (a spider).
As Arriola became aware of the strip’s cultural influence over the years, he began to present Gordo as a more complex sympathetic character — more depth, less girth. In 1954, Gordo lost his farm and went to work as a tour guide, traveling throughout Mexico and presenting a more nuanced view of Mexican life.
Charles Schulz said Gordo was “probably the most beautifully drawn strip in the history of the business.” Arriola died in 2008.
Gordo strip for March 2, 1985:
Grave Intrigue in Heidiland
Swiss auto mechanics turned thieves, Roman Wardas and Gantscho Ganev, had a great idea for a heist. They executed their bold plan with daring and cunning in the wee hours of March 2, 1978. Their target: a 300-pound oak coffin in the village of Corsier, Switzerland. Inside the coffin, was the body of the Little Tramp, Charlie Chaplin, who had died on Christmas day of the previous year. The graverobbers phoned Chaplin’s widow Oona with their demand for £400,000 a few days later.
Oona was having none of it. “Charlie would have thought it rather ridiculous,” she said, refusing to pay. A cat and mouse game between police and the robbers ensued as the police set up phony payoff meetings. The robbers got cold feet, however, and contact was never made, although police and robbers continued to communicate in an effort to achieve their disparate goals.
So dogged were the Swiss police that they put 200 phone booths under surveillance. The robbers again called Oona, whose phone had been tapped. The call was traced, and the hapless thieves were arrested. The men led police to a cornfield where they had buried the body. Chaplin was buried once again in the same burial plot, surrounded by a thick layer of concrete where he has since rested in peace.
Other robbers have made attempts to steal notable remains, Elvis Presley for a supposed ransom of $10 million and Abraham Lincoln for a mere $200,000. Neither attempt got very far, but as a result the bodies of Presley and his mother were moved from a Memphis cemetery to Graceland and 24-hour security monitoring. The 16th President now rests in a steel cage ten feet below ground, covered by concrete.
Judy Drownded, Part 4: Creating the Monster
Visitors were strictly forbidden entry to El Sid’s studio, even Leland Armbrewster, the man who hired the director. But thanks to Chicken Avery, who had received a personal invitation from his friend, the international sex symbol, and who had allowed Leland to accompany him, Leland Armbrewster was now stepping into the magical world of Hollywood, or at least the Soleil version of it.
They stepped through the door and down into the two feet of water that covered the floor of the entire building. The floor underneath had been painted turquoise to give the whole place a tropical sea look. As astonishing as this was to Leland, it was not nearly as astonishing as what he saw when he looked up from his wet legs and across the large room. There protruding from the water was a huge gargoyle-like head with mouth open and teeth bared. And it was purple. Nearby, a purple arm also stretched from the water, holding out a flat hand, palm upward, on which sat Rainbeaux Derriere.
Before Leland could even catch his breath, El Sid, who sat in a director’s chair also in the water, shouted “Action.” The gargoyle’s eyes jerked open and rolled back and forth; the giant arm vibrated. The bikini-clad starlet bounced in its mechanized hand, doing her best to stay aboard. Her bikini top suddenly exploded and fluttered to the water below. “Cut,” yelled the director.
The arm stopped moving, and Rainbeaux climbed down and ran through the water to the two men. “Monsieur Leland, Poulet Cheri, isn’t it exciting?” she gushed, as the two men just stared at her internationally acclaimed breasts.
With months passing without a single sighting, relieved islanders thought the creature had left their little paradise. But then late at night, its fearful countenance rose from the waters, eying two young lovers, who barely escaped its sinister clutches. With an entire ocean to plunder, what keeps this monster lurking beneath the waters of tranquil Booby Bay? According to scientists, the creature, in addition to devouring nubile maidens and assorted others, feeds on fauna unique to these waters. Accompanying this press release was a blurry photograph of a grotesque purple face.
The photograph had a strong legitimizing effect, and the Soleil tourist trade doubled almost overnight. During the day, pasty-faced visitors lined the beach; knobby knees pointed seaward, pina coladas held high. Every now and then an unknown something would disturb the serenity of the turquoise water, and a murmur would race up and down the line of spectators before the incident was explained by a passing boat or a dolphin or a swimmer. And the audience would return to watching and waiting.
At night, the braver of the tourists would venture out into local nightspots – even places such as the Crab Hole, where “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” had been superseded by “The Adventures of Chicken Avery.” Leland Armbrewster would dream dollar signs.
Judy Drownded is included in Calypso, Stories of the Caribbean.