El Eternauta ("The Eternaut") is the most famous Argentinian Comic, (alongside Mafalda, of course. And maybe Cybersix, assuming people remember it was an Argentinian comic book). It was first published in a weekly basis from 1957 to 1959 in the Hora Cero magazine, scripted by Héctor Germán Oesteheld and featuring art by Francisco Solano López.
The story is set about a decade into the future where a deadly snowfall suddenly strikes. The protagonist - who along with his family and a few friends was sheltered safely at home - must then try to survive in the new desolate and hostile environment: finding rations to live, avoiding all contact with this fluorescent snow that kills everything it comes in contact with, and, most importantly, battling fear, desperation and the potential threat of fellow human survivors. As the story progresses, the real cause of the snowfall is revealed and the protagonist is quickly drafted into a makeshift resistance army.
Widely considered a masterpiece, its reading is highly suggested. There is a sequel, made in 1976-77, which is a bit more Darker and Edgier, and mostly regarded quite a good comic but not as brilliant as the original. There was later a third installment, notoriously infamous for lack of endorsement by the original authors, with Oesterheld being already dead and hired writers and artists who remained anonymous at the time. Starting in the nineties, a lot of other sequels and homages, both official and unofficial, were released, cementing it as an important part of Argentine pop culture. Solano López eventually created the Universo Eternauta brand ("Eternaut Universe") in order to publish both new and old (with bonus material) stories.
There are translations to French and Italian, Italy being a country where El Eternauta hit it bigtime and a major reason for the sequel being made. Besides Argentina, the last original edition is available in Spain too. Word of God says that an English edition was printed somewhen in Britain, probably in the seventies, but if so, it is so rare it has become almost an Urban Legend.
It is considered an all-time classic by several comic historians and scholars, such as Claude Moliterni, Franco Restaino, Thierry Groensteen, Daniele Barbieri and many others. Any serious universal history/dictionary of graphic narrative has it indexed in a noteworthy article.
List of publications:
- El Eternauta, First Part: (1957) By Oesterheld and Solano López. The original that started it all, made purely of awesome. Regularly reprinted, with 2007's 50th Anniversary edition being a standout.
- El Eternauta, Remake: (1969) By Oesterheld and Breccia. This included several drastic changes to the storyline, which coupled with Breccia's weird and experimentalist approach arose an uproar from the fans. Consequently, it got rushed up. It's not merely that the alien invaders are depicted as The Empire, a certain somebody even helps them and all!
- El Eternauta, Second Part: (1976) By Oesterheld and Solano López. A direct, Darker and Edgier sequel. Drops most of the six hundred and seventeen different themes present in the first part in favor of a more direct and arguably leftist message. Generally considered at least a worthy sequel. Last work by Oesterheld before his forced disappearance.
- El Eternauta, Third Part: (1983) By Ongaro, Morhain and Oswal. A controversial, radically different sci-fi comic, reusing the characters in some uninspired setting. It was not aproved by the surviving author at the time.
- El Eternauta, The Repentant World: (1997) By Maiztegui and Solano López. Featuring talking cows.
- El Eternauta, The Cosmic Hatred: (1998) By Muñoz, Barreiro, Taborda and Rearte.
- El Eternauta, Returns: (2003) By Maiztegui and Solano López.
- El Eternauta, The Calling Dog and Other Stories: (2010) By Kern, Solano López and others.
WARNING: Roaring Rampage of Spoilers ahoy!
- Alien Invasion: Type 1.
- Aliens in Cardiff: Even in Argentina itself, when first published. Most comic books available were translations of comics from the US, and even the Argentine comics were used to set things in the US, just because that was what readers were used to read. Since then, Argentine comics set in Buenos Aires became common.
- And I Must Scream: After watching it happen to a friend, the protagonist, who's fully paralyzed, gets an antenna shoved into the back of his head, knowing in advance it will make him a slave forced to kill, betray or worse his fellow human survivors. Thought bubbles: No! NOOOO!!!
- Appeal to Force: Nuclear strategic missiles from some superpower from the North fall over Buenos Aires. They are defused in mid-air by the aliens, but when the protagonists blow the artificial habitat of "Them" with a bazooka, it is bad news that one last missile was still on the way, nuking Buenos Aires. For good.
- Apocalypse How: A green phosphorescent snowfall which, by unknown means, wipes virtually any kind of lifeform it comes into contact with, including bacteria. The few who survive, have less subtle methods awaiting. Class 4, maybe worse.
- Apologetic Attacker: The Manos ("Hands") race are enslaved via a "terror gland" that secretes venom whenever they feel fear. This way they cannot even think of rebellion, since just thinking of it would cause them fear, ending their lives. However, once the gland has been activated, they are finally "freed" (at least for a few minutes until they die) and usually they regret bitterly their evil doings.
- Applied Phlebotinum: Most of the alien technology is so advanced that even the scientist of the group, Favalli, doesn't have a clue on how it works. Grade 1 in the Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness.
- Armor Is Useless: static defensive tactics never end well in this universe, and Tank Goodness is a consistently averted trope due to giant indestructible mind-controlled monsters with an appetite for tanks and extremely advanced BFG tech. If you are La Résistance, you better keep it light and swift.
- Art Evolution: Favalli starts as a fit - if quite bulky - character, only to become fatter as the story advances. His increased belly even becomes relevant to a minor plot point.
- Author Avatar: The Eternaut tells his story to Oesterheld after materializing in his studio.
- Badass Normal: Most of the main characters are just common middle-class Buenos Aires citizens. However, when the shit hits the fan they discover they were much more resourceful that they thought, and actually pretty badass, particularly Franco. It also must be noticed that the militiamen fight without order but, with some exceptions, they are consistently brave and loyal.
- Big Creepy-Crawlies: The "cascarudos" (beetles) are almost Exactly What It Says on the Tin, only the size of an adult human, deadlier, and mind controlled.
- Bittersweet Ending
- Body Horror: Having an antenna's dozens of spikes forced into the back of your head... while all you can do is scream inside your mind because you are fully paralyzed. See Ridiculously Human Robots.
- Cavalry Betrayal: the "Safe zones" announced by radio are just a scam of the invaders, to capture the last remaining survivors.
- Cosmic Horror Story: Independence Day-style Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion this ain't.
- Cozy Catastrophe: Uh-uh. Forget it.
- Desolation Shot: When your city is a frozen fluorescent graveyard, it goes without saying that every single shot count as one.
- Despair Event Horizon: Salvo and his friends are pushed against it, over and over again. Most of the times, they manage to stay in the good side.
- Ditto Aliens: All the Manos look alike.
- Eldritch Abominations: The Ellos (literally "Them") are never to be seen, but it is quite probable they qualify for this. The closest description we have of them is being "The Cosmic Hatred".
- We do get to see their SUITS at the end of the part 2 where it looks like a cloud-smoke-thing at best. Their real bodies however are yet to be seen.
- Also, there is a positive example of this trope in part 2 for the "Them-Friend" that transported Salvo, his family and the author to the year 2100 to combat the other Them in their critical moment on After the End Earth.
- We do get to see their SUITS at the end of the part 2 where it looks like a cloud-smoke-thing at best. Their real bodies however are yet to be seen.
- Elite Mooks: The Manos are this, as they are intelligent, skillful slave opponents.
- Faceless Goons: Played straight with the "cascarudos", as they have not any recognizable or distinctive feature from one another; terrifyingly subverted with the hombres robot, as even Juan recognizes a high school fellow among their enemies.
- Le Film Artistique: Le Bande Dessinée Artistique. The Eternauta Remake of 1969 was lampooned and censored in Argentina because of (among other things) its mind-blowingly dark, gritty, groundbreaking, insane and sometimes abstract or downright incomprehensible art by Alberto Breccia, possibly the most talented comic artist ever born in Argentina. The French BD avant-garde artists just loved his style, and its success allowed a French edition of both the remake and the original version. Several has been done since.
- Giant Mook: partially straight; the Gurbos are giant, Made of Indestructium mooks, but they lack any intelligence of their own, and are controlled by the Manos. But they are really, really dangerous, maybe qualified as Elite Mooks.
- Giving Radio to the Romans: or, in this case forges, steam machines, primitive pistols, muskets and cannons to the Cave People (which are actually in the future, but have been enslaved and kept in the stone age).
- Hope Spot: The comic throws them frequently - only to crush them sistematically.
- Idiot Ball: The Major leads the group into an Obvious Trap, in spite of everyone else's warnings. When it turns out it was a trap, he has an Heroic BSoD.
- Insectoid Aliens: The Cascarudos, of course.
- Kill It with Fire: The "Gurbos", giant creatures with hides Made of Indestructium, can be killed with the BFG heatrays the aliens have. In the Second Part, a good ol' flamethrower is not enough to kill them, but you can hope it will keep them at bay.
- Literary Agent Hypothesis: At the end of the first part, the Author Avatar decides to turn the Eternaut's story into a comic to warn the world about that Bad Future.
- Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: When the lethal snow starts to fall, the characters are playing cards in the attic of Salvo's cozy home. Everything is sealed, so the snow doesn't get in. However, they manage to make a suit to protect Salvo from going through the snow for supplies, using only the things available at the house. It works.
- Mind Screw: The circular ending. Jorge Luis Borges is probably the one to blame. Also counts as a Moment of Awesome.
- Our Orcs Are Different: The Zarpos, in the second part, look and behave like orcs, as they are strong, violent slaves of the Big Bad. But they have been bioenginereed from human slaves, and look more like neanderthals with claws and small tusks. And they use guns, more than axes◊.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: An improvised army mostly made of unprepared civilians fights against an invasion armada of Big Creepy-Crawlies, robot men and monsters 30mts. tall with skins made of indestructium directed by a Higher-Tech Species. Of course, as it turn out they are all but controlled pawns of Eldritch Abominations. Averted partially, since they die in great numbers, are treated with disdain by the professional officers and they all suffer a Fate Worse than Death except for Salvo and his family. It is also a Justified Trope, since in both parts there is no professional army to rely on.
- La Résistance: Both the first and second parts of El Eternauta develop around this trope.
- Ridiculously Human Robots: TERRIFYINGLY Human Robots, since the Manos use a device that, inserted in the spine of a human, transforms his nervous system into a living puppet used to kill or capture more humans. You know... for kids!
- Rock Beats Laser: Literally justified and used, as River Plate stadium is chosen because the big concrete walls are the best cover against the heat rays. Metaphorically averted, as alien tech is too big (although somewhat mundane) to be fighted straightly with seemingly "primitive" weapons (tanks, conventional artillery, even nuclear weapons). But if the tech itself is not absolute, the intelligent tactics of the Manos are.
- Rubber-Forehead Aliens: The Manos, being completely humanoid except that they have enormous hands with dozens of fingers... and large foreheads.
- Scenery Gorn: Many places and landmarks of late 1950s Buenos Aires are carefully reproduced, and destroyed. And then the entire city is nuked.
- Shown Their Work: a great deal of the success of El Eternauta was due to the lavishing depictions of Buenos Aires Solano made, with landmarks as Plaza Italia, Estadio Monumental, Zoológico Municipal or the Congress Building being invaded and devastated by aliens. The different ethnic and social types of Argentina, the decoration, cars, guns, just everything is extremely accurate, in order to make the invasion trope very real, and the perspective of this 20 Minutes into the Future scenario more dreadful for the 1950's reader.
- Slave Mooks: Every single enemy we see turns out to be naught but a fear- or mind-controlled slave to the REAL invaders.
- Stay in the Kitchen: The role of Elena, Juan Salvo's wife and the only significant woman in the story, is pretty much just to prepare food for the male protagonists and take care of her and Juan's daughter, Marta. When the male characters join a group of surviving soldiers, no one seems to even consider Elena and Marta could leave the house with them, even though the 12-year old Pablo is apparently mature enough to do so. There doesn't seem to be any other women in the group of civilians who've joined the soldiers, which suggests other female survivors were left in their homes as well.
- Steam Punk: A very curious and early approach. In the Second Part, the Cave People are subjected by a Higher-Tech Species that have been stranded for centuries because of a malfunctioning spaceship and are quite bitter about it. Limited in their high tech supplies and armory, they keep the Cave People enslaved and unable to advance technologically, using an army of ferocious artificial humans and Humungous Wooden Steam-Propelled Tanks with one-shot cannons and flamethrowers. It sounds ridiculous, and one of the characters even points it out, but the "mano" quite calmly explains to him that as crude as it looks, it works just swell against unarmed cavemen. In this grim universe, rocks don't beat flamethrowers.
- Tagalong Kid: Pablo in the first part.
- Talking the Monster to Death: The information obtained by Juan Salvo from the first Hand and how they are actually being controlled by a fear gland probes to be massively useful later on trough the series.
- Professor Favalli manages to be the first to weaponize this knowledge and it's as awesome as it sounds.
- The Capital of Brazil Is Buenos Aires: Averted, since both writer and artist are Porteños (i.e. from Buenos Aires). See Shown Their Work.
- The Day of the Triffids: A probable source of inspiration. Oesterheld never stated so, but there is an Argentinean translation of the novel published in 1956, and he was a Sci-Fi fan (he even directed a Sci-Fi and science magazine, Más Allá ("Beyond")), so it's not farfetched.
- The End of the World as We Know It: if not the end of the world, period.
- The Load: Mosca the historian makes no attempt at making himself useful, concerned only with writing everything down for posterity. No wonder he becomes the Butt-Monkey on a couple occasions.
- The Professor: Favalli.
- The Watcher: In the second part, a good invader kindof has this role.
- Vichy Earth: Implied by some "Mano" that this is what will become of the planet if The Resistance loses (humans made slave labor and resources plundered). Then, at the end, its implied by another "Mano" that this actually came to pass after Earth fell.
- Zee Rust: Alien technology seems quite outdated and camp-material, but, well, the same thing happens with just any Sci-Fi comic of that decade. Actually, put in context, some thingamajigs still look pretty cool and/or deadly. The trope runs very straight for the futuristic Buenos Aires of the mediocre and apocryphal Third Part made the 80s.