“The comic book is in intensive care,” warned Manuel Pérez Alfaro in 2009 from the pages of Juventud Rebelde newspaper. The notification was accompanied by an argument that has been repeated countless times: there have been young people desperate to publicize their comics, but they didn’t have a periodic publication that will allow them, subsequently, in Cuba the ninth art was at risk of death.
Now the one who has died is Manolo; his death, on the age of 86, occurred in Havana on August 6 last. His clamor was constant. That is attested to by this fragment of an intensive piece of writing by him within the tabloid El Muñe, regarding the First Ibero-American Meeting of Comics that will be held within the Cuban capital in 1990, of which Manolo was considered one of its coordinators: “The national artists who dedicate themselves to cultivating comics are considered rare specimens that uselessly waste their faculties.”
The paradox: this was manifested on the time that the aforementioned tabloid circulated within the country, a publication that hosted works by the youngest; in addition to the very fashionable Cómicos and Pablo magazines, during which renowned Cuban and foreign cartoonists published, and of which he was a member of the Advisory Council. Who was he referring to, if the creators had printed media, had countless admirers and a national comic book salon?
The underestimation apparently got here from their very own ranks, because long before, also in El Muñe, Manolo had identified the deep crisis that the Comics Section of the Union of Journalists of Cuba was going through, weak in its informative work and incapable of organizing the aforementioned salon, to the purpose of heralding its demise.
Against that he battled, to begin with, writing scripts, including Víctor Sierra, Mito Brito, Fefo, the storyteller and Camila. To this was added the pedagogical work, in a duet with Francisco Blanco, to perfect the craft of writing through the Comprehensive Comics Course, which led to the El Muñe Workshop, during which kids who stand out today were forged.
Manolo indefatigably honored the work of others. From his work as Cultural Director of the Revista Latinoamericana de Estudios sobre la Historieta magazine, he spread the experience of the disappeared P-Ele Group, to which probably the most significant creators of the guild belonged; just as he recalled the importance of the © Línea magazine, which he proposed to rescue, in order that Cuban comics could be known outside their borders.
He was unable to attain it, but greater than a decade later he produced, not without multiple setbacks, a compilation entitled Contar con arte, which celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of the Pablo de la Torriente publishing house, during which he had worked since its foundation in 1985. The compilation, easy in its finish but priceless in its content, brought together comic strips by Tulio Raggi, Juan Padrón, Virgilio Martínez, Cecilio Avilés, Roberto Alfonso, Rafael Morante, Luis Lorenzo, Orestes Suárez….
Resulting from his physique and his impetus, Manolo Pérez appeared like a contemporary Quixote, only he never lost his mind. He died within the hope that current and future authors would proceed to be brought together in installments that will give continuity to the to date only volume of Contar con arte.