Mortadelo y Filemón (Mort & Phil in English; check That Other Wiki for their names in other countries) are two clumsy secret agents and the two main characters in the comic series of the same name, drawn and written by Spanish artist Francisco Ibáñez. They are known by many other names throughout the world, specially Europe, such as Paling & Ko in the Netherlands and Clever & Smart in Germany.The comics follow the adventures of Mortadelo and Filemón, two agents of the fictional Spanish secret service T.I.A. (In Spanish 'tía' means 'aunt', making this a Shout-Out to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and a pun on CIA.) The two are totally incompetent and especially Mortadelo is prone to major goofs. The basic setup is that Mortadelo has some wacky idea on how to complete their mission, it backfires, and Filemón gets hurt as a result, angering him and applying some kind of punishment to Mortadelo. However, this basic setup is twisted, subverted and inverted enough for it to never get boring. The action is very fast-paced much like a Looney Tunes cartoon, with Stuff Blowing Up and Amusing Injuries all over the pages. Also, Ibáñez usually mixes his wacky stories with real world current events and fill the dialogues with every single style of pun imaginable... which they usually work (at least in the original Spanish).Created in 1958 and still running, the strip has released more than 190 books so far (and even more short stories), it's the most popular and respected comic book series ever produced in Spain, and probably the only local franchise that can still compete in sales with Manga and American Comic Books at this point in the Spaniard market. The series has also had numerous crossovers with both other Ibáñez's characters (like Rompetechos, Pepe Gotera & Otilio or the wacky neighbors from 13 Rue del Percebe) and characters from other Spaniard comic book artists (like Zipi & Zape, Captain Trueno, etc...)The two main characters are Mortadelo and Filemón:
Filemón: Full name Filemón Pi. Slightly less tall than Mortadelo, usually wears a white shirt and red trousers, and has two hairs on the top of his head. He is Mortadelo's chief and always sent on assignments with him, a job which he doesn't enjoy since that makes him suffer the consequences of Mortadelo's goofs more often than anyone else. Of all the characters, Filemón the only one displaying some common sense and occasionally a hint of Genre Savvy. Mortadelo calls him "Boss" for no real reason (see The Artifact below)
Mortadelo: Tall, thin and completely bald (which is something of a sore spot to him), usually dressed in black and always wearing glasses. He is a Master of Disguise, able to change into some unlikely disguise in an instant, which is useful in his work as a secret agent, and even more useful for making a quick getaway when someone is chasing him. The latter happens quite frequently due to his inherent clumsiness and total lack of common sense.
Other important characters are:
Agent Bestiájez: A recurring character whose appearance, like that of the General Director, changes from time to time, but he's always a hulking brute who uses brawn before brains, just as his Meaningful Name suggests (Bestiájez, in Spanish is something like "Brutesson"). When Mortadelo and Filemón want to skive off work or flee from a mission they consider too dangerous, the Súper always sends Bestiájez after them. Sometimes Mortadelo is able to fool him with his innate talents, but Bestiájez is a relentless hunter and always ends dragging the escapeés back to the T.I.A.
Doctor Bacterio: The resident Q (this one, not that one) of the T.I.A. and sometimes provides Mortadelo and Filemón with the items they need to complete their mission. His inventions almost always backfire in some improbable and spectacular way, and sometimes they drive the plot. The bearded inventor was directly responsible for Mortadelo's baldness, and for this Mortadelo hates him with a passion.
Miss Irma: Her role varies from story to story, but she's usually the secretary of the General Director. She always haves the same appearance, though: she's everything Miss Ofelia strives to be. Sexy, curvy and cute, and, to add insult to the injury, she dresses just like Ophelia, on a tight red dress. Mortadelo is head over heels for her: sometimes she returns her affection, while most of the time she seems oblivious. Even if Irma is usually a giggling airhead, she has been shown to be extremely smart on ocassion, especially on the issue named "El Ascenso" ("The Promotion") when she acted like a real femme fatale. In the later comics, however, she hasn't appeared at all.
Miss Ofelia: The blond, heavily overweight secretary of the Súper. She is in love with Mortadelo (Well, kinda), but he isn't at all interested and usually makes fun of her... which is always a bad idea, because Ofelia is extremely strong and prone to senseless violence when provoked. Sometimes, she makes passes at Filemón or even at the Súper, with the same predictable results.
Supervisor Vicente:Superintendente Vicente in Spanish, written like that because it rhymes, although he's usually called the "Súper" for short. He's Mortadelo and Filemón's direct boss. He is usually the person who assigns them their new missions, and the one who punishes them when they inevitably fail in just about every way imaginable. (Although sometimes they strike back at him, if it turns out that their "vital mission" was not that important after all.) Short-tempered, inconsiderate of his employee's needs and incredibly cheap, he is the ur-example of the Bad Boss. In "De los ochenta p'arriba...", it's revealed his full name is Vicente Ruínez.
The General Director: T.I.A.'s Big Boss. His appearance varies greatly from comic to comic, but he's always a well-dressed old man, usually wearing glasses and sporting an impressive moustache. Even though he's normally portrayed on a positiver light than the Súper, he's not above being vain and tyrannical. He has very little relevance in the stories, and most of the time he's here just to get severely beat up and, subsequently, exert George Jetson Job Security on his underlings.
Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Many times, a mission will require that Mortadelo and Filemón go down to the sewers, which are big enough to fit Mortadelo quite well (Word of God is that Mortadelo is 1'80 metres tall).
Adaptation Expansion: In the movies, Filemón is given a mother in the first and Mortadelo a sister in the second.
Adolf Hitler: He sometimes appears in the comics. For example, in "El racista" he has just talked with two Jews, one of which says that Hitler is preparing something to keep them warm next winter...
In "Mundial 78" about the 1978 World Cup, there was a fictional match (the finals) between Spain and Germany. The political authorities in the seats of honour were Adolfo Suárez, Spanish Premier at the time... and Adolf Hitler, who was wawing at the reader.
Agony of the Feet: A fairly common gag. Generally, the guy's foot gets really swollen, too.
Alien Invasion: Featured in "Los invasores", "Expediente J" (both Type 1) and "Las tacillas volantes" (Type 2).
All Cloth Unravels: This is a common gag. Generally, they'll start pulling the thread into a ball, but the thread belongs to a buff man's sweater or something. The owner of the garment will hit them (usually Filemón) for ruining his clothing. If the mummy wrapping variation counts, they do that sometimes, too.
Amusing Injuries: Very, very common, especially the Cranial Eruption. None of the main characters is safe, if they are in the scene you can be almost certain they are going to get hurt in the most ridiculous ways. Often results in Instant Bandages.
Anachronism Stew: Whenever historical events are portrayed, expect some out-of-place item, usually a contemporary one like a cardboard-made TV in old Rome. Other characters will invariably call it a fleeting style which will be out-of-fashing soon.
Animated Adaptation: The series got two major ones. The first, a trilogy of animated films produced between 1965 and 1970 (the first two are actually compilations of short films that were supposed to be a TV show), and an actual 26 episode TV show broadcasted in Spain between 1994 and 1995.
Art Evolution: Ibáñez art style evolved during the first 15 years of the series. At first, the strip was black and white, reselbling the art style from the American cartoons of the 1930s and 1940s with some traits of French comic books. The character design was also different, with a Filemón that resembled Sherlock Holmes and a Mortadelo that had an umbrella and a hat from which he got his disguises. During this time, Ibáñez started to get more and more influenced by French and Belgium comic artists of the time, specially André Franquin. These influences got reflected in the series until the mid 1960's, when his own style got more or less defined.
It's worth mentioning "El sulfato atómico", the series first 44-pages story released in 1969. The art style in this volume is the most detailed and elaborated Ibáñez has ever drawn, which is one of the main reasons why it is considered his best master piece. However, putting that much effort in that art style turned out to be too time consuming, so Ibáñez decided to go back to his less-detailed style so he could focus on the humour gags and be able to release more volumes a year.
The Artifact: Mortadelo calls Filemón "Boss", even though they have the same rank in the T.I.A. This is due to the fact that during the first 11 years of the series, both characters weren't T.I.A. agents, but had a private eye agency in which Filemón was, indeed, the boss of the office and Mortadelo his sidekick and only employee. Ibáñez kept Mortadelo's habit after he changed the series basic plot in "El sulfato atómico" in 1969. See Re Tool below.
Association Football Episode: There's usually one for each World Cup, and one for each edition of The Olympics. In most of them the agents get to participate, while attempting to stop a terrorist threat to the event.
Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The primary plot point of several comics and short stories, with Bacterio usually responsible. El Sulfato Atómico revolves about a chemical that does this to bugs.
Author Avatar: Ibáñez sometimes plays a minor role in the plot, or is name-dropped, usually making Mortadelo wonder "where he heard that name before"...
Bat Deduction: This is how "El Gang del Chicharón" Big Bad Gedeón el Chicharrón deduces that a cat smoking is Mortadelo in disguise:
Gedeón: "Cats don't smoke. If they don't smoke is because they don't have money to buy cigarettes. If someone doesn't have enough to buy cigarettes is because he is a T.I.A. agent. T.I.A. agents eat bread with mortadella. Mortadella sounds similar to Mortadelo. Therefore...This cat is Mortadelo!"
Berlin Wall: They managed to cross it twice in In Germany (from East to West because they stink so much the guards can't stand them, and from West to East by going really fast on a car), which Ibáñez wrote for the comic's German fans.
For starters, Mortadelo's baldness. Don't try to mock it if you know what's good for you.
Also, whenever some other Master of Disguise appears, Mortadelo will go into full-fledged disguise mode to prove he's the one and only.
It can't compare to Ofelia's weight. Even the slightest insinuation of she being anything more than "a little pudgy" (if even that) will end up with you running for your life.
Don't tell Mortadelo and Filemón that they have to work with Bacterio, or that they have to test his new invention. Seriously, just don't.
Mortadelo and Filemón themselves are the Súper's own Berserk Button whenever they screw up... which is basically all the time.
Bland-Name Product: Commonly for the lulz, a portmanteau of a well-name brand with some other unrelated word - "Pescadillac" combines luxury-brand Cadillac with "pescadilla", Spanish for whiting, which is not expensive. Sometimes only some letters are changed to ease a Spaniard's pronunciation.
Blind Mistake: Rompetechos (originally having his own comic-books, now a recurrent character in Mortadelo) is a Mister Magoo -like guy who crosses paths with Mortadelo and Filemón because of a mistake - Rompetechos may be looking for a priest and, seeing Mortadelo's black clothes, will harass him nonstop, meddling with Mortadelo's activities.
Body Bag Trick: The comic moves this a step forward: Main characters need to infiltrate into a hospital. They see a slacker sleeping in the street. The characters impersonate nurses bringing the slacker in a pallet, claiming he needs urgent surgery for appendicitis. The slacker wakes up in the operating theater; when he leaves the hospital, he sees a peer loafing around and warns him: If the staff catches him sleeping, they'll operate him for appendicitis!
Bookcase Passage: Secret doors are accidentally opened, commonly for comedic effect.
Breaking the Fourth Wall / Medium Awareness: Happens occasionally. The most prominent example is in "Robots bestiajos", where Mortadelo directly addressing the reader to turn the comic sideways so they could easily walk up the side of a building. Another example has a character comment on events he couldn't possibly see by looking in the panel next to his.
Breakout Villain: Ibáñez made appear the rival organization ABUELA only once, as a one-time Villain of the Week in "El plano de Alí Gu-sa-no". This didn't stop other writers to use it as the arch-enemy of the organization TIA.
Cameo: Practically every single famous Spanish politician of the second half of the 20th Century has appeared in more than one volume. A lot of foreign politicians and world leaders, such as the US Presidents (from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama), Fidel Castro or the European Prime Ministers, appear quite often too.
Canon Discontinuity: Ibáñez lost the rights to write the comic during the late 80s. During that time, less known authors published some stories on their own (each with his own style, see Depending on the Writer below). When Ibáñez regained the rights, he dismissed most of the stories written by other authors (some of them are still among the official works, though).
Cartoon Cheese: A painful aversion: An elderly woman mistakes a bar of soap for a piece of cheese that looks just like the soap (rectangular, not like a wedge) and gives it to Filemón, who unknowingly eats it...
Chased Off into the Sunset: This happens in virtually every last panel of every story, with the two bumbling secret agents typically being chased by their boss, his secretary, the agency's scientist, or a combination thereof because they (again) screwed up their case big time. Sometimes, Mortadelo will also use his superhuman camouflage skills to hide as a cactus, cow etc. with Filemón hiding "in" him, and their suspicious pursuers in the vicinity looking around for them.
Chekhov's Armoury: The first movie. You'll just get amazed at how many details get reused later on.
But the prize goes to a scene where Mortadelo and Filemón were locked in a bank vault and Filemón ties to dig his way out with a Swiss-Army Knife. Mortadelo tries to tell something to Filemón but the latter dismisses him. He spends three days digging a hole and, when he comes out, he sees that Mortadelo is already out of the vault. How did he get there? The vault's door was unlocked and when Mortadelo tried to tell this to Filemón, he didn't want to hear.
This happens so many times that you nearly expect it to happen when Filemón starts to do something while not paying attention to Mortadelo. There is even one time when Filemón tries to open a door using a cable, and sixteen hours later, when he surrenders, Mortadelo mentions that he was "having some fun with his penknife" and ended making a very artistic door.
In "El cochecito leré", Mortadelo and Filemón must participate in a 1000-km car race to win a great prize for their organization, using a car developed by Bacterio. After an accident, Pepe Gotera and Otilio are the ones that repair the car, and they accidentally don't put the brake pedal, which causes Mortadelo and Filemón to being unable to stop after a policeman tells them to do so. There are no problems in the whole race, but, when they reach the goal, they have to brake, and they can't. Just then, the car starts to break down in pieces, due to Pepe Gotera and Otilio's shoddy work.
Irma, sort of. Her introduction was forced as a way to combat Ho Yay views of the main characters. The character was apparently disliked by the series creator and Brotherchucked when he gained full control of the series some years later.
It's also related to the Canon Discontinuity mentioned above. The introduction of Irma coincided in time with the loss of publishing rights that Ibáñez suffered. As a result, most of the comic books where Irma appears are "apocryphal" and were not written by himself. If you see a comic book where Irma appears, most likely wasn't written by him. When he eventually regained the rights, he dismissed a character that was now strongly associated with the "apocryphal" comic books.
Ironically, now that Irma's gone the rumours about possible Ho Yay between the main characters are pretty much gone, since now Ibáñez has complete creative control over his characters, without censorship, and he's introduced sexual elements such as Mortadelo being sort of a womanizer and Filemón being obviously interested in women. That, and the constant tasteless gay jokes.
Likewise, Agent Bestiájez hasn't been seen in quite a while.
Clingy MacGuffin: One of these features prominently in one of the issues, titled "The Warlock": a magical note, enchanted to kill anyone who reads it. The titular characters subsequently try to remove it by the most varied means, chucking it into the bin, shredding it, burying it, tying it to a rock and throwing it to the sea, and hitting it with a full discharge of a flamethrower. And yet the note manages to never be actually harmed due to some kind of karmic immunity that causes people around it to suffer instead.
Clothes Make the Superman: Some of Mortadelo's disguises grant him abilities he doesn't have undisguised. For example, his ghost disguise allows him to phase through walls, he can climb buildings while disguised as a lizard, breathe underwater with a fish disguise or fly disguised as a bird.
Don't be mad, boss! You aren't a registered nurse and could get fined!
Composite Character: On the animated version, they had the Agente Bestiájez fulfilling the roles of many one-off characters in the comics, probably so they could reuse his design and voice actor.
Continuity Nod: Any appeareances of returning villians are punctuated by a side note pointing to the last story in which they starred. And then there is the book Venganza Cincuentona where a dozen of the most iconic Monsters of the Week return to fight the heroes together.
Continuity Porn: The 50th aniversary special, which includes the return of many former villains and some other references to former albums, not without its problems:
Some of the returning villains (El Rana, Bíchez) were clearly Deader than Dead at the end of their respective album, and it's offered a very poor explanation or no explanation at all of why they're still alive.
It's mentioned at the beginning of the story that Mortadelo and Filemón have been catching baddies for fifty years. There's a problem when you see that both the protagonists and the villains don't seem to be older at all.
Many (if not most) of the recurring villains were portrayed in their original album as pretty much unstoppable, only to be easily defeated in the special.
By far the worst Character Derailment is the one suffered by "Chapeau el Esmirriau". Not only he suffers from a huge Villain Decay (he's the closest Ibáñez has ever been from a Magnificent Bastard), but he seems to have lost his definining traits, such as his trademark silences (it has been said that he speaks more during the two pages he appears in the special that during the 44 that the original album had).
And it's worth noting how all of the returning vilains who were portrayed as smokers during their original album aren't smokers anymore... including Professor Von Iatum, an alien conqueror disguised as a scientist, whose cigarettes were established in the original album as his tool for breathing in our planet.
There are many other frames in which the Súper threatens Mortadelo and Filemón with something if they don't comply with his orders. Usually involves watching something so horrible that they will go with obeying. One example is Chuck Norris' films.
In 20,000 leguas de viaje sibilino (in which they must go from Madrid to Lugo going around the world), one of the stops is China. Two Chinese Secret Police members believe M&F are two spies and attempt to make them reveal why they are there through Chinese torture methods (which are not exactly like the normal ones) until they pull out a torture system clearly based out on the Spanish Social Security system. This one works really well (though, Mortadelo just makes up a really bold lie so that they are healed).
In one gag, Mortadelo tells Filemón that there is "nothing" over a window; Filemón proceeds to jump through said window to plummet hundreds of feet down a precipice, meaning that there was literally nothing past the window. Injured by the fall, Filemón proceeds to chase Mortadelo, trying to smash him with an enormous book titled "Nada, por Tedio Plomez Sopor", which roughly translates as "Nothing, by Tedium Boredom Sleepiness" (Tedio Plomez Sopor, being a gag name in Spanish). Filemón chases him saying "I'll show you what nothing means!"
Sometimes, both of them are held in specially tiny spaces. This will result in either of the following: either they come out in the form of the place they have been held (and eventually threatened to be sent to other place which is even smaller) or the place where they were kept was much bigger than what it should be (one hilarious example has Filemón "practicing Formula 1 racing" while kept in a drawer, which results in one guy looking into that drawer and getting his big nose flattened by one Formula 1 racing car and shouted at from within the drawer to stay off the track).
Another one has Mortadelo practicing horse riding. Cue a horse coming out of the drawer.
Cranial Eruption: From blows to the head, falling from great heights, you name it. The lumps sometimes come in layers of two or three.
Creator Provincialism: Played straight and averted: There are plenty of stories set in other countries or as world trips (Not that they're accurate or anything), but quite a few have evil criminals, aliens or whatever that just happen to hide/go to Spain for no real reason. Best example? Expediente J. The evil aliens send a few havoc-causing phlebotinum rocks to Spain (And accurately, around the area the main characters live at that) and when their leader appears at the end, he assumes that has caused ALL of humanity to be a mess. What?
And with pretty much any other Ibáñez strip: 13 Rue del Percebe, Rompetechos, Pepe Gotera y Otilio, etc.
Depending on the Writer: Some stories were written during the late 80s by other authors, since Ibáñez didn't have the rights to write his own during that time. Those "apocryphal" stories tend to have Continuity Nods to the former "official" stories, much more than the ones actually written by Ibáñez.
Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: The Súper at the end of "El bacilón". OK, you have an urgent necessity to go to the bathroom, but the unstoppableMuck Monster that has been terrorizing the city for the last week is obstructing your way. What do you do? If you're the Súper, deliver a SINGLE slap so that it dissolves into nothing and stops obstructing your way. No more Bacilón. But, unfortunately, this does little to help him relieve himself.
Digging to China: One episode contains a Running Gag where the two characters repeatedly drop onto a traffic light from great height, driving it deeper and deeper into the ground with each landing. The final iteration shows the traffic light's base sticking out of the ground in China.
Early-Installment Weirdness: The duo ran a detective agency of their own long before joining the T.I.A, and their wardrobe mirrored that of Sherlock Holmes, complete with period caps (which doubled as disguise storage for Mortadelo) and a wool coat and smoking pipe for Filemón. The latter would wear jackets for a while after joining the organization. Other TIA members chose differently colored versions of their base outfit before finally setting for one of them.
Exact Words: If you ask Mortadelo to check for any guard dogs, he won't warn you about the hungry crocodile... Also, if he tells you that there is "nothing" behind a door, don't go rushing through it too fast.
Excuse Plot: The comics usually have extremely thin plots that just function to place the characters in random settings or situations, and then let slapstick ensue. Usually Mortadelo and Filemón's investigations do not advance one iota over the course of one story until the very ending, and often another agent will solve the case, or it turns out there was no case to solve at all.
Failure Is the Only Option: Things simply can't end well for the protagonists. In the rare occasions when the author allows them a happy ending, it'll be lampshaded.
There's more to it than just being a "funny fruit". In Spain, the word "berenjena" has several other uses in coloquial language: a "berenjeno" is someone who likes to argue for stuff that is pointless or totally irrelevant, a "berenjenal" (strictly, the place where eggplants are planted) is an imbroglio or other kind of trouble and a "discusión de berenjenas" (lit. "eggplant argument") is an argument where neither side makes sense or even sees the point at hand.
There's one instance where Mortadelo has to deal with members of a certain political party, which has as its logo a hand with an eggplant (a parody of the actual logo of the PSOE, a hand with a rose), meaning these guys are all berenjenos.
Fun with Acronyms: The two agents work for T.I.A. (tía means aunt in Spanish and also sounds very similar to C.I.A.); one of the older nemesis organizations was the A.B.U.E.L.A. ("grandmother")
Gadgeteer Genius: Subverted, Bacterio's gadgets almost never work right and usually fail in some spectacular way. Once in a blue moon, they'll actually work correctly, and the failure will be due to the agents using it improperly. Or because there are other things about them that they haven't been told.
Genre Savvy: Mortadelo quickly becomes this, doing stuff like using a fire extinguisher invented by Bacterio (whose inventions always work backwards) to fry a living wax monster.
Gilligan Cut: M & F are summoned by El Súper. The duo are informed of their next, incredibly dangerous mission, or the next of Bacterio's inventions they will have to test. Cut to the duo simply dissappearing from the office and El Súper calling for a Seek And Capture on the agents. Cut again to Bestiájez dragging the duo into the office, which are still holding onto a landmark from the other side of the globe. Sometimes played in a more traditional form.
Gone Horribly Right: YMMV in this case: in "El racista", the vice-president is a racist that is intent on kicking all members of other races and/or ethnic groups out of the TIA, assigning them dangerous and difficult missions so that, when they fail, he can present that as a consequence of what they are. After failing at helping those other agents with their missions, Mortadelo and Filemón plan to have Mortadelo disguise himself as an agent of another race and then Filemón tells some big story about that agent. The president becomes so impressed at those stories (without checking whether they are true or not) that he kicks the vice-president out... and then decides to put people of other races in charge of most of the organization's operations, leaving the Súper as a lowly delivery boy.
Gotta Catch Them All: Some of the plots are like this, such as catching all members of a gang, rounding up all animals that escaped from Bacterio's lab, or checking a bunch of paintings for a secret message hidden behind one of them.
Grandfather Clause: Averted TropeFor the Lulz with Mortadelo's old-fashioned frock coat, because it's part of the joke: : Mortadelo, a veritable master of disguise, can wear whatever he wants - but his default choice is a ridiculously old-fashioned suit that emphasizes his physical defaults (baldness, lankiness). Word of God insists that Mortadelo's clothes were already obsolete in his first appearance - so the effect they cause in modern audiences is exactly the intended effect they were to cause in 1950s audiences.
To a lesser extent, Filemón's bow tie has been object of mock by people he meets.
Gypsy Curse: In one album, the Súper is victim of a curse from a gypsy he accidentally soaked with his car, and he starts growing different animal limbs. After several failed attemps from Bacterio to remove the curse, Mortadelo and Filemón are sent to capture the gypsy, to force her to undo the curse (which proves to be difficult, as the gypsy's curses are similar to Reality Warper powers). Eventually, the gypsy tells the Súper the only way to undo the curse is to give the animal limbs to another people, and the Súper gives them to Mortadelo, Filemón and Bacterio.
Hair Today Gone Tomorrow: Mortadelo had exceptionally great and long locks before losing all of it because of a failed experiment by the comic's resident Mad Scientist, Profesor Bacterio.
Hammerspace: Where Mortadelo keeps all of his disguises. Ibáñez has drawn from time to time very detailed diagram pictures of the inside of Mortadelo's garb, as well as all the blunt weapons Filemón keeps under his shirt for the sole purpose of punishing Mortadelo.
In the first years, he kept the disguises in his hat.
On the "Mexico 86" comic, after he's inquired about the matter, he mentions that he changes between panels.
Heterosexual Life-Partners: they have been working together for many years, lived for a time at the same house, and are now living in the same hostel.
Rumours that they weren't so heterosexual led to the introduction of Irma in the late 80s.
A number of 1990s stories have jokes commenting on how people view our heroes as a couple. For example a story includes a section where a paparazzo "outs" Filemón as a homosexual and posts pictures of him holding hands with a particularly effeminate man. Other TIA agents start teasing him on the job - Mortadelo included. The paparazzo's next trick is having Mortadelo and Filemón photographed pushing their heads through holes in a wooden plank, which has been painted so that it looks like they are marrying, with Mortadelo as the groom. The same story had Ibáñez give a brief introduction on history's greatest romances... concluding with Mortadelo and Filemón. Followed by the two characters chasing their creator with murderous intent, "It was just a joke!".
Hypocritical Humour: In "El nuevo cate", one of the priests that comes to the T.I.A. building prevents Mortadelo and Filemón from killing a cockroach and gives them a long speech about the sanctity of life that gives them a brutal headache... but when other agent appears with a machine gun and tells the priest he is going to kill several criminals, the priest only blesses him and sends him on his way.
Impact Silhouette: When the Súper wants to assign some dangerous mission to Mortadelo and Filemón (especially testing Bacterio's latest invention) he usually finds only their silhouettes in a nearby wall.
Many times, Mortadelo saves the day by stealing something without anybody else noticing. His speciality is when someone is holding an important object, which he manages to exchange for an useless thing (eggplants are perhaps the most common example). An ability that Mortadelo seems to be pretty proud of, as he likes to brag about it whenever he does it. This ability also comes useful when a policeman is holding either him or both M&F. Backfires also many times when he steals something from Filemón or the Súper.
In Los ladrones de coches, a story about a gang that steals cars, there are some instances of this. For example, there is one guy sitting on his sports car, waiting for the green light, and the thiefs take his car. While he was on it. And without noticing. He ends up sitting on the street, his feet into the sewer and stepping on a sewer worker's ear, one of his hands on the sewer's lid as if it was the drive wheel, and the other on a dog's tail.
Incredibly Lame Pun: in one of the old short stories, Filemón receives a threat of assassination and asks Mortadelo to help him prepare a good defense against potential killers. His idea is to bring a neighbour of his that has an hiccup attack, on the basis that "the best defense is a good attack".
Iron Butt Monkey: Filemón is the god of this trope, he constantly receives horrible beatings, explosions and even gets burned and frozen several times, only for him to recover one panel later. The rest of the cast qualifies, but Filemón overshadows everyone.
Lampshade Hanging: Pretty much the whole point of the tie-in Guía para la Vida de un agente de la T.I.A.note A T.I.A. agent's guide to life book, which opens with two-page spreads of Mortadelo and Filemón's equipment, which includes: a reducing potion to fit in small disguises, plane tickets to faraway lands for when they're on the run from beating up their superiors, special glue for severed limbs, spare body parts, an array of weaponry (only for chasing Mortadelo) and a full dictionary of "idiot" synonyms, also for Mortadelo.
Large and in Charge: Inverted - El Súper is shorter than Filemón, who in turn is shorter than Mortadelo. Played straight for the villains.
Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Characters from the same publisher sometimes appear, mostly in cameos, sometimes as guest stars. The 35th anniversary special featured Mortadelo as a guest star in short stories starring many other characters (other characters by Ibáñez apparently share universe with Mortadelo).
LEGO Genetics: Mr. Probeta, who can sprout the parts of any of the many animals that were used in his creation.
Lethal Chef: One of the Running Gags associated with Ofelia, with the aggravating factor that she believes herself to be a great cook.
Limited Wardrobe: White shirt, red pants and a bow tie for Filemón; looking glasses, long, black peacoat with an impossibly tall collar for Mortadelo (wherever he's not disguised); navy blue, bottle green and beige dress pants and coat for El Súper, Bacterio and the Director General, respectively.
Literal-Minded: Mainly Mortadelo. A recurring joke is for Mortadelo to be, for example, grabbing Filemón so that he doesn't fall through a window, then letting him fall when the Súper says something like "Stop everything you have on your hands and come here!".
The Load: Filemón is treated as such in the first movie. He gets called this way twice, one by the Súper and another one by Mortadelo.
Long Runners: The longest runner Spanish comic series ever, lasting since 1958 and still running.
Lost in Translation: The Spanish puns and jokes often don't translate well into other languages, making some scenes look strange.
Lots of Luggage: At the beginning of "Valor y al toro", when the two protagonists are about to get on a cruise for their mission, Filemón tells Mortadelo to pack only whatever is indispensable for the mission. Filemón gets angry when Mortadelo shows up later with a big bag and reminds him of how he only had to pack whatever was indispensable. Mortadelo replies that he's only carrying his keys there, and points to more than a dozen of bags, saying that is his luggage. Eventually, Filemón allows him to carry only a hato.
Once they broke an old fortune-teller's crystal ball... which prompted the old fortuneteller to reveal she was actually a buff thug in disguise. Cue Mortadelo and Filemón on their graves on a graveyard, apparently alive ("How are you doing, boss?" "Meh, kinda chilly in here.) After escaping their graves, Filemón tellsthe reader "You don't want to know how we did this." On the background we see an archangel chiding St. Bartholomew "I don't care if you're a fan of Mortadelo! The rules are clear; no miracles!"
Sometimes, the enemy is a Mad Scientist who is madder than Bacterio. Examples include a guy that can "resurrect" beings that can serve him for his plans (such as Frankestein's Monster, Mata Hari or César Borgia (venom included)), a guy that concentrates bug DNA into some pills and can turn into a certain bug by eating one of them, or one who developed instant growth seeds.
Manchurian Agent: Several villains, including Magín and The Sorcerer (El Brujo, Aniceto Papandujo), have tried this plot to take over the T.I.A.
Master of Disguise: Mortadelo, which serves him well in his work and even better when he has to make a quick getaway.
Mortadelo is called like that because... he is thin and always wrapped in black, like a bar of mortadella
Filemón, aside from a respelling of a (barely known in Spain) real name in Greek, sounds much like "filetón" (big steak). (In Brasil he's called Salaminho and in Portugal, Salamão; both are references to salami.
Vicente was a common name in Spain few years ago, and not punny in itself... until you remember a Spanish saying: "¿A dónde va Vicente? Adonde va la gente" (literally: Where does Vincent go? Where people go; in correct and orthodox English: monkey see, monkey do). Which isn't a particularly good name for the boss of most characters in T.I.A.. note His surname, Ruínez, is an obviously fake surname meaning "Ruinson"
Ofelia (Ophelia)... maybe for her Mad Love for Mortadelo?
Todoquisque (informally "anybody"). because he can disguise as anybody.
Bestiájez, an obviously fake surname, meaning Brutesson. (Also Migájez, "Crumbson", and many others)
Actually, in every single book there are several new characters that have this trope. The amazing thing is that Ibáñez rarely repeats any of them.
Establishments are also given punny names. Notablybars, whose name made by extracting the prefix "Bar" from a Spanish word that begins with it; so we have Bar Baro ("barbarian"), Bar Budo ("guy with a large beard"), Bar Quillo (lit. "biscuit roll", double points as "Quillo" is Andalusian slang for "Guy"), ...
Mission Briefing: Each long story commonly has one, in the first episode, with Superintendente Vicente briefing Mortadelo and Filemón.
Monumental Battle: When Mortadelo and Filemón travel through the world, important landmarks may appear, sometimes with slight changes (such as Liberty Statue using her torch to fry a sausage).
Mugging the Monster: The comic El Bacilón has the title character (a gigantic, anthropomorphic green monster) walk around the seedy parts of the city; a mugger targets him, but since he is waiting behind a corner, he only hears it walking. He becomes a Running Gag along the episode and eventually turns mad due to both the monster and Mortadelo disguised as a big animal.
Multiple Reference Pun: The agency the titular characters work for is called T.I.A., which is an obvious reference to the CIA. Since "tía" in Spanish means "aunt", the name also works as a pun on The Man from U.N.C.L.E., fitting since it's a Spanish series about comedic espionage.
There are some things that remain continuous within the comic books. Antofagasto Panocho (a parody of Augusto Pinochet) is a recurring villain.
The most notorious recurring antagonistnote often being recognised by the two main characters and within panels featuring little annotations that say things like "Yes, yes! Check issue X and you'll see what they're talking about!" is probably Prince Charles.
It seems like Ibáñez is trying to have some Continuity Nods during these years, making recurring villains and so. The former comic books, however, are rooted on Negative Continuity.
New First Comics: In a strange comic book example, the publishers had around a hundred of their early strips (including the first one◊) redrawn by unrelated artist Martínez Osete to account for the changes Ibáñez introduced after 1969- mainly, changing the heroes' roles from private detectives to secret agents and adding their new boss, Súper, who would take in many cases the role of Filemón, now Mortadelo's sidekick instead of his employer.
Non-Standard Character Design: Whenever real people (or Superman) show up, they're drawn with realistic faces, which contrasts with the usual characters looking cartoony. Then there's also the Cross Over with El Capitan Trueno, where the Trueno characters get sometimes drawn in their original realistic style and sometimes look cartoony... and sometimes it's a mix... you can see why we don't like talking about that.
Not This One, That One: One of the most common running gags. For example, when the duo needs, for example, a plane for a mission, it will appear at first that they're going to get something like an F-22, only to realize that what they're going to get instead is an old, beaten up plane from World War I.
No Sense of Direction: Mortadelo's level of disorientation is legendary. Instructed to drive to Córdoba, Argentina (M&F are playing the 1978 FIFA World Cup with the Spanish team) he makes it to the Córdoba of Spain. After fording the ocean thinking it was a very wide river.
The most iconic moment is when ten villains make ten holes in the wall to escape from their cell. Filemón points out they could all have escaped through the same hole, and both Mortadelo and the Súper admit they hadn't thought of that.
Open Says Me: A humorous version occurs when they pay a visit to the President of the USA. A security guard goes through a number of scans and checks (iris scan, voice recognition, access code, etc.) to open a door in the White House, prompting Mortadelo to remark that "Security sure is tight." Then along comes the cleaning lady, who just kicks the door a few times to open it. Perhaps she is an Almighty Janitor.
Our Time Machine Is Different: Professor Bacterio's shabby time machine looks mostly like a phone booth. Justified, as it is a prototype he just jury-rigged in his lab.
Parody Names: Sometimes applies to brand names, sometimes even to people.
Percussive Maintenance: The first live-action movie combines this with a Eureka Moment of all things. Dr. Bacterio has invented a device that he just can't get to work. He's sure that something is missing but doesn't know what. When his radio stops working, he hits it to get it going again. That's when he realizes what is missing: "Of course! Beatings!" He proceeds to beat the crap out of the device with his shoe, and it works! It's the only part of the movie that is even remotely funny, and the German dub completely ruins it because the joke went right past the translator.
Perspective Magic: One comic deals with UFOs that were coming to Earth in order to invade it. One of them appears to be really huge and far away, but in the end it turns out it is very small... and it hits Filemón right in the mouth.
The point 2 example, "those far away houses are just on the other side of the page", is used in another story. With those literal words.
Pictorial Speech Bubble: Gag comics such as this one commonly have pictures in speech bubbles whenever a character is supposed to curse; for example, in the speech bubble there would be a pig with the face of another person if the character was angry and shouting at him, or just the picture of a turd when someone was supposed to say "shit!".
Ping Pong Naïveté: Filemón can either be the Straight Man with much more common sense than Mortadelo or just as big as an idiot as him (usually when the boss is present and both of them do something to anger him).
Plot Armor: Everybody in the series can survive anything, you name it -atomic explosions, drowning, being electrocuted, burnt alive, cut in pieces...-. You only need to worry if you happen to be the Villain Of The Week and the book is getting close to page 44, because it's very likely that your Plot Armor will fade just in time for a last explosion to kill you off for real (while the Súper, who happens to be sitting next to you, survives it).
Poorly Disguised Pilot: Another character of the autor, Tete Cohete, was presented in a Mortadelo comic of the same name.
Potty Emergency: This is the running gag for poor Superintendente Vicente in the book El Bacilón. The eponymous monster is disintegrated at the end by a single slap from El Súper because it stood in between him and the toilet.
Kicked Across The Room: characters are also prone to kick others in the same way. One example: Filemón is almost dead after being shot in the stomach, and is on a wheelchair. The Súper (who was the indirect causant of his being shot) asks him how he is. The next frame has the Súper with a shoe-mark on his back after having landed on an igloo, asking himself how it could happen.
Refuge in Audacity: When Spain was under the Franco regime, Mortadelo y Filemón was a pretty tame comic with just some very mild slapstick violence. After the death of the dictator, Ibáñez started introducing more "raunchy" themes, with graphic violence, sex jokes, toilet humor, profanity and political incorrectness in general. It's still aimed at kids though.
Re Tool: Mortadelo and Filemón originally had a private detective agency and were a parody of Sherlock Holmes and Watson (the comic's original title was "Mortadelo y Filemón - Agencia de Información"), not the James Bond parody they eventually became. As a relic of that time, Mortadelo still calls Filemón "Boss", despite they don't seem to have much different responsabilities in the T.I.A.
Revision: They were given this in a book where it's explained how they lost their private detective agency and were forced to join the secret services overnight. Several years after it kind of suddenly happened.
Ridiculous Future Inflation: In "Los mercenarios" the main characters obtain 100 000 "percebos" (fictional coin of Percebelandia) They think they can get more than one million pesetas (a fortune in the moment of the album), but thanks to a sudden devaluation only obtain 17.50.note This, for the non familiarized with the former Spanish coin, is less than 15 dollar cents, not a lot of money, even in 1975 when the album was published.
If Mortadelo and Filemón take separate ways in order to solve a problem (say, capture a baddie, finding things or laying on traps) they will very commonly screw up each other's plans.
In some stories El Súper gets tired of waiting and appears on the scene to spy on the duo or to get the mission done by himself. This can only end badly.
Ripped from the Headlines: Ever since the end of the Spanish Democratic Transition in 1977 (and thus, the end of Franco's dictatorship censorship system), Ibáñez very often bases (very loosely) his stories in Real Life current events.
Ibáñez rarely did this during the Silver Age (early 80s). It wasn't until the 90s (let's be generous and say late 80s) that Real Life was referenced in the comics (either as celebrity cameos or as stories based on Real Life events, and until the XXI century that it played a big role in them.
Road Sign Reversal: Mortadelo does this at the end of "Los mercenarios", to lead a squad of mercenaries to the country that hired them, instead of their intended destination.
Rule 34: Artist Casanyes' strip for the satiric magazine Titanic.
Running Gag: The basic plot is one. Mortadelo goofs, Filemón gets hurt and punishes Mortadelo. Lather, rinse, repeat. Often subverted, inverted and played with though.
When Filemón is the one that goofs and is later punished by Mortadelo, he will complain that the natural order is having Mortadelo on front.
Also, very often both Mortadelo and Filemón get punished by the Súper, Ofelia or any other character.
Let's not forget about Bacterio. He is probably the character, apart from Mortadelo, that has been punished the most often throughout the series. Very often by Mortadelo himself.
Many times, Ofelia will go tell Mortadelo that the Súper is looking for him. He will say something that Ofelia takes for a romantic thing, but turns out to be some kind of insult (mostly aimed at her girth), to which she responds quite forcefully. Filemón will later continue the joke, and finally the Súper will say something completely innocent that Ofelia takes for the continuation. The one that suffers most is the Súper.
Whenever Prince Charles (the most recurrent antagonist) appears, someone (normally Mortadelo) will make continuous jokes about Charles' ear size. Sometimes, even supposed English newspapers get in the joke.
A main character receives Amusing Injuries of an specific nature or to a certain body part continuously throughout the entirety of the storynote for example, Agony of the Feet. Characters that have nothing to do with this mention something to the character tangentially related to the injury, which drives them nutsnote a coworker mentioning going for a walk in the park, playing a match on the agency's soccer team, etc.
Self-Disposing Villain: It's a rule in the comics that when a villain really tries to destroy the pair for real, he will fail miserably and get himself owned. A notable example is "El señor todoquisque" the bad guy is a man who can disguise himself and, in the first half of the album, humiliates our heroes in very painful ways. However, when he decides to take care of them himself and goes to the TIA, his plans brutally backfire on him, and, at the end, he goes insane.
Sexy Secretary: Irma, the newest (and most short lived) member of the team that fits this trope to a T.
Shape Shifter Showdown: The most epic one happens at the end of "El disfraz, cosa falaz", although there had been an earlier one between Mortadelo and Ruiz Mosqueos, in the form of a disguise duel.
Share Phrase: "Quite, quite ¿Qué le hace pensar que...?" ("Bah, bah, what does make you think that...?); "Tenía que hacerlo, ¿entiende? ¡Tenía que hacerlo!" (I had to do it, do you understand? I had to do it!). They're used by many characters in the comics.
She's a Man in Japan: A strange case: in the German translations the title characters were originally British intelligence agents. Later this was changed to them just being Germans to open up possibilities for jokes relating to German culture, current events etc. However, there were often cases where the comic being originally from Spain just couldn't be written around (like when they actually go to Germany as foreigners). So, in Germany, they are German, except when they can't be anything but Spanish and somehow have English names (Fred Clever und Jeff Smart).
Shoe Phone: A very early example of this trope. Sometimes, both Mortadelo and Filemón have it, but usually it's only Mortadelo.
Hilariously played with, as sometimes the Shoephone will have something that makes it ridiculous or painful (such as having an actual phone into the shoe, or an antenna that extends without warning into the ear of the listener) or Mortadelo has done something to the shoe that usually backfires on him (for example, making it sound like a cat and, the next time he is called, a huge bulldog is passing by).
Another joke is having the phone ring at the worst minute possible. Mortadelo performs a mission needing some degree of stealth, for example a burglary. He has managed to not awake their sleeping enemy or bypassed a few guards. Then the phone rings, alerting everyone to his presence.
Shout-Out: There are tons of shout-outs, tributes to and parodies of political figures, actors, and characters of comic-books and animation.
In a story, Mortadelo plants an electrified trap and he declares that it has power enough "to fry even Mazinger Z". Given that Spaniards Love Mazinger-Z, it is pretty normal finding a shout-out to that series.
Spangrish: A very common reaction of the characters whenever something goes wrong.
Springtime for Hitler: In the book ''El Tirano", the titular pair of agents are given the mission to eliminate a fascist dictator (a parody of Augusto Pinochet), but their constant failures actually stop murder attempts from other people (not to mention screwing with each other's attempts). When they are told they have to protect the man so that he is taken to Spain and judged for his crimes, they try, but their attempts at protecting him subsequently send him to the intensive care wing at the closest hospital.
Spy Speak: Usually people around take these words literally with odd results.
It doesn't help that several arranged codes seem to be offensive. Requiring the agents to insult people having facial hair or a certain ideology or ethnicity. At that moment, an agressive member of that group happens to overhear and deals with them accordingly.
Fun fact: In Real Life, Enrique Chicote, the only man who ever got the top prize in the Spanish version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, answered one of the last questions correctly thanks to one of these jokes that he read in the comic books.
Steal the Surroundings: A staple used to establish the competence of a thieving Big Bad. In one album, a particularly crafty gang of car hijackers routinely make their hits on manned vehicles, stealing everything except the seat and the steering wheel, without the driver noticing.
Crappy music and films are used as a method of torture. The title characters are tortured by their boss with an LP of Spanish blockbuster songs (apparently repeated ad infinitum). They are driven mad, and other characters talk about the cruelty.
Suddenly Voiced: Chapeau el Esmirriau was pretty much The Voiceless in the album he was the Big Bad from. In the 50 anniversary special that brings back many former villains, he talks like any other character.
Teeth Flying: Very common as a result of punches to the face or explosions. For example, there is one scene where Filemón gets hit by a boxer off screen, and Mortadelo asks him if he lost a tooth. Filemón comes back into view, counting a handful of loose teeth: "No, I think I got all of them... 22, 23, 24..."
Played with: The two protagonists find themselves in a cell with a steel door. Filemón starts making a hole in the wall, all the while brushing off Mortadelo who's trying to tell him something. When, after considerable time, he finally breaks through the wall, he finds Mortadelo there waiting for him — it turns out that the bad guys forgot to lock the door...
In another case, a number of prisoners are discovered to have escaped through an equal number of Man-Shaped Holesfrom the same cell. Lampshaded when Filemón comments on how stupid one would have to be to not just use the same hole for everybody... only to find out that the thought hadn't occurred to either his partner or his boss, either.
Yet another case was an inversion of the standard scheme: Filemón attempts to pick the lock on a door but eventually has to give up, only to find that in the meantime, Mortadelo has made a very artistic new door by "having some fun with [his] penknife".
Too Dumb to Live: Most of the cast, with only Filemón as a very occasional exception.
Took a Level in Dumbass: Filemón in the movies. While not very bright, he's still portrayed as clearly more intelligent than Mortadelo in the comics. In the movies, his intelligence is downgraded to the point that sometimes he's even dumber than Mortadelo (the scene where Mortadelo refers to him as "The Load" clearly shows this).
Tsundere: Miss Ofelia. When her coworkers aren't being morons (read: very rarely), she's quite sweet (deredere).
Ultimate Job Security: The protagonists are never fired from the TIA, no matter how they screw up things.
Unexplained Recovery: In the 50º aniversary album a lot of previously deceased enemies appear with litle or no explanation.
Vague Age: It's never mentioned the actual age of the characters, but they seem to be somewhere between their late 30s and early 40s.
Though in a different 50º Aniversary Album most characters are implied to be, well, 50 or more and have several (totally disproportionate for their age) health issues, which guide the plot/jokes. It's Just for Fun though, and promptly forgotten in the next issue.
Villain Of The Week: The plot of a sizable amount of the comic books hovers around capturing a criminal or gang of criminals that are rarely seen again.
This is in-universe. A lot of people recognize Mortadelo & Filemón as bad news and some even have attempted suicide before having to deal with them.
Walking Techbane: In "Los invasores", after Mortadelo and Filemón discover the alien they've been fighting during the chapter is actually a robot, Mortadelo tells Filemón to just touch it, to invoke this trope with Filemón and destroy the robot. He succeeds.
Where It All Began: In many stories where the heroes have to travel across the city or the world, the last chapter takes place on the T.I.A. headquarters, where they were assigned their mission.