It is said that Brazil has a strong indie comics scene. Ursula by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, and Love Hurts by Murilo Martins seem to support this theory. Bá and Moon have now gained a fair amount of notice for their work Daytripper for Vertigo and have also worked on B.P.R.D, however Ursula falls much earlier in their timeline, published in 2004. Murilo Martins’ Love Hurts, published in 2011, appears to be the first book produced by Martins, who works as an illustrator.
Love, in its many shapes and forms, is the underlying subject of both titles, and that as a focus makes up seemingly half the stories that have ever been told. What makes both titles similar to each other, and different than most, is the absolute sincerity that they posses. In a society that pushes everyone to believe that the only love stories that are available are wrapped in irony, these titles seem light, sweet and hopeful in comparison.
Ursula is a contemporary fairytale. The two lead characters, Miro and Ursula, are just children when they are introduced. However young, they know that they are destined to be together, but due to circumstances beyond their control, Ursula is sent away to school and they are forever separated. Once Miro is old enough to contemplate his place in the future of his kingdom, he wants nothing more than to find Ursula. The comic, being a fairytale, has a few more tricks up its sleeve including dragons, talking birds and a little bit of magic. Quoting often from the author João Guimarães Rosa, the language is often poetic and fluid, creating images of fantasy amongst the dialog that seems to take place in a contemporary Brazil.-like environment. The visual elements take on many styles, from that emulating block print to more wispy gradations that are often associated with a world dragons and magic. Their interplay generates a nice visual depiction of how the layers magic, poetry and reality are all happening simultaneously.
Love Hurts lives in that threshold between zine and comic, telling several short stories of love and loss. “Discography”, the longest chapter in the book, plays on the notion of the love story between an uberfan and his favorite band. Many Generation Xers will completely relate to Martins’ indie rock crush on R.E.M., from his innocent discovery of the band, through the rough, less successful times, to the sad conclusion. How do relationships end? For Martins, as it is for many others, not easily. Though “Discography” is the most substantive portion of the book, there are other tiny stories about love and loss. Often these mini stories are without text, relying on smart, highly designed, visual storytelling to convey the message. In “Short Stories” chapter there is a section titled “Dr. Vladimir Yazdovsky and Laika” that will break your heart in three panels. The book is personal, sweet and funny, with Martins unique narrative inserting itself throughout.
Both books are well-crafted smaller press books. Love Hurts is a limited edition, self-published title, with handmade binding and silkscreen covers. Ursula, a small, almost pocket sized book, has a little larger reach, being printed by AIT/Planet Lar. They are quick but enjoyable reads from a portion of the globe that evidentially deserves more attention from comic book world. If Brazil continues to send comic book love letters to the world like these titles, I am sure that someone will take notice.
Author/Publisher: Murilo Martins
Author: Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá
Publisher: AIT/Planet Lar