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'Trino's World' at Comic-Con Museum showcases Mexican cartoonist

Comic-Con Museum and the Consulate General of Mexico in San Diego have collaborated for the new exhibit "Trino’s World.” The exhibition showcases one of the most popular and celebrated cartoonists in Mexico, José Trinidad Camacho, better known as Trino.

Trino creates Mexican comics but sometimes his work needs no translation. Take a two-panel strip featuring "Star Wars’" Han Solo and Chewy in Mexico.

Roland Lizarondo
One of Trino's two-panel strips playing off of American pop culture. The strip is on display at Comic-Con Museum's new "Trino's World."

William Nericcio is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University, where he also works with the Center for Comics Studies, and is the author of "Tex[t]-Mex: Seductive Hallucinations of the 'Mexican' in America."

On a recent tour he stopped to look at the "Chuy" strip (above) and noted with a smile, "It's just a two-panel joke playing on the funniness that 'Chuy' is a nickname and 'Chewy' is Chewbacca. He loves his puns, so nothing deep."

But Nericcio also noted that Mexico has a rich tradition of sequential art that Trino is a part of.

"I guess it would start with José Guadalupe Posada with his printmaking shop in Mexico City," Nericcio explained. "And then moving into the 20th century, you have a cartoonist like Rius, who was known for his left wing satirical revolutionary comics. Trino, at the end of this cycle, is just a very accomplished, funny, silly, dirty comic book comedian."

A collection of Camacho’s work has been gathered for "Trino's World" at the Comic-Con Museum.


"It's fantastic because we are a border town," said David Glanzer, spokesperson for Comic-Con International that runs the museum. "We have a lot of people who come up from Tijuana and Mexico to both the museum and Comic-Con. And now to feature an exhibition of a Mexican artist, a very popular Mexican artist, it's really great."

"Trino’s World" showcases drawings, watercolors, sketches, and objects reflecting a career of more than four decades. Last year Comic-Con gave Trino its Inkpot Award for his contributions to the world of comics.

"He's got a very loose and fluid freestyle," Nericcio explained. "It really appeals to me. These are not meticulously planned and drawn panels. His panels are free, easy, floating, frenetic, and funny."

Roland Lizarondo
A pen and ink character study of Trino's El Santos, a luchador.

One of the pieces in the exhibit is a pen and ink character study (above) of Trino's El Santos, a luchador that he created to pay homage to the real Mexican wrestler El Santo. Nericcio was particularly enamored with the sketch.

"The angst is all in the eyes," Nericcio said. "It's the most basic and simple of cartoon renderings. And yet there's a poignance to it. There's almost a power in the pleading in the eyes. You wonder what El Santos is confronting at that moment. It could be a monster. It could be his beautiful woman telling him what to do. It could be that he's confronted by the zombies. One doesn't know."

Captain America.jpg
Roland Lizarondo
An insert of of of Trino's panels featuring American pop culture icons.

But he can also be silly. Take one panel about a soccer match with superheroes.

Nericcio translated: "The referee is saying, 'Wow, that was a very rude, violent move. Who is your captain?' And then Captain America comes running into the field, 'Aqui! Here I am. I'm the captain, Captain America.' I told you he's silly. He's not above a crappy pun to get the punchline."

And although Trino's strips are in Spanish, he appeals to U.S. audiences because a lot of his points of reference are American pop culture from the "Avengers" to "Star Wars" to "Star Trek." Plus he uses the classic tools of cartooning.

Comic-Con Museum
Cartoonist Jose Trinidad Camacho, better known as Trino. His work is showcased in the new Comic-Con Museum exhibit "Trino's World."

"There's not any real attempt to render with precision verisimilitude the human character," Nericcio said. "These are loose lines drawn quickly, but that have terrific expression. Trino's ability to capture classic human expressions, it's without question we're dealing with a comic artist master. He's good. He's got his chops down."

If you are trying to find American comparisons then his character stylings are along the lines of "Simpsons'" creator Matt Groening or in the vein of "Hägar the Horrible" strip, while his humor is sometimes similar to "Wizard of Id," poking fun at authority and highlighting hypocrisy.

There is a lot that Americans can appreciate in Trino's work but Nericcio has a suggestion.

"Bring a pal who speaks Spanish because there are a lot of jokes that are kind of inside-Mexy, Mexican jokes," Nericcio said.

Currently there are no translations for any of the comics or for the letter Trino wrote thanking the Museum for the exhibit.

But one of the joys of this first binational collaboration and exhibit is seeing how our two cultures overlap and what we share.

"Comic-Con International has 'International' in our name," Glanzer explained. "We have guests from all over the world and visitors from all over the world. And I think we'd like to see that at the Museum as well. This is our first foray into that, and I hope it's the first of many."

Beth Accomando
William Nericcio hanging out with Trino's Chewy at Comic-Con Museum's new exhibit on "Trino';s World." May 1, 2023.

But visitors will see the universality in Trino’s work.

"It almost does the work a disservice to call Trino a Mexican cartoonist," Nericcio said. "He is. He's Mexicano. He's from Jalisco. He's real proud of that. But the history of cartooning, from the cave drawings of Lascaux to today, is just human beings try to leave a little trace of themselves behind. And what he leaves behind are some really funny meditations on the human heart and the human soul."

And that needs no translation.

I cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.
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