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Spain’s beloved cartoon genius Forges dies at age 76

The iconic cartoonist captivated the country with his ironic and playful critique of Spanish society

Muere Forges
Forges at the Ja! Festival in Bilbao in 2010.

The cartoonist Antonio Fraguas de Pablo, better known by his artistic name Forges, who captured the last 50 years of Spanish history, has died this Thursday in Madrid from pancreatic cancer, sources from his family confirmed. He was 76 years old.

Since his beginnings at the newspaper Pueblo in 1964 to his final work for EL PAÍS, where he published uninterruptedly for the last 23 years, Forges affectionately and ironically tracked Spanish society as it evolved from a dictatorship under Francisco Franco to a hyper-technological modern state.

The first cartoon published by Forges in EL PAÍS in 1995.
The first cartoon published by Forges in EL PAÍS in 1995.

Forges was born in Madrid on January 17, 1942. He was the second child in a family of nine. At 14 years of age, he began to work at the state broadcaster Televisión Española, where he started to draw. In 1964 he published his first cartoon in Pueblo, followed by collaborations with other newspapers. As Spain transitioned to democracy, Forges also published cartoons in the country’s first satirical magazines.

On June 25, 1995, Forges began drawing cartoons for the Opinion section of EL PAÍS – a relationship he maintained until his death. His first cartoon for the newspaper captured a conversation between two blasillos, a character invented by Forges in homage to the country’s rural community. It goes: “And how should we greet one another?” “We simply say good day.” “Better not, they are going to accuse us of being manipulators.” “Heavens, it’s true.”

Other comic strips made fun of Spain’s passion for soccer, criticized nostalgia for the past, and also took a stand on key social issues. Forges opposed the war in Iraq, defended women’s rights and created a campaign to ensure readers would not forget about the victims of the Haiti earthquake.

Forges at the EL PAÍS newsroom in 1995.
Forges at the EL PAÍS newsroom in 1995.

As well as his cartoons, Forges also authored a series of books, directed two films and wrote many scripts for television comedy programs. He received numerous awards and distinctions for his work, among them the Gold Medal of Merit in Work, the National Journalism Prize and the Quevedos Latin American Prize for Graphic Humor. In 2014, a collection of stamps was printed with his cartoons.

In his later years, Forges enthusiastically embraced the internet and social media, becoming the EL PAÍS collaborator with the highest number of Twitter followers – more than half a million. In an interview, Forges described his relationship with technology.

“All generations believe we are so important for the intelligence of humanity. We also tend to see the world from our point of view. I don’t feel like an immigrant to a new culture, I am part of this new culture. I am not afraid of new technology and I believe it is one of the advantages we have in our search for freedom.”

Condolences

Spain’s leading political figures and personalities have paid tribute to the iconic artist. The Spanish royal family thanked Forges for his lessons and lamented that “Spaniards have been left orphans of a bastion of wisdom and defender of democratic values,” in a message on the official Twitter account.

Forges receiving an honorary doctorate from Alcalá University in 2016.
Forges receiving an honorary doctorate from Alcalá University in 2016.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy also expressed his condolences on Twitter, describing Forges as a “landmark cartoonist in the Spanish press.”

Pedro Sánchez, the leader of the Spanish Socialist party (PSOE), tweeted: “We have lost a comic genius but also a good and committed man,” while Albert Rivera of Ciudadanos described Forges as the “painter of our history.” Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias wrote “I cannot conceive of Spain without its cartoonists. We have been left without a cartoonist equal to none in Spain’s political and social history.”

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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