Thursday, March 30, 2017


That bit about the two of them starting their own "Good Neighbor" program sounds like such a euphemism.

With American superhero comics focusing almost entirely on American characters, it's exciting to see a story which prominently features a Mexican hero delivered without stereotypes. It would be, actually, is what I meant to say. Instead, we have The Toreador.

The Toreador is Ron Russell, an American acclaimed as the greatest bullfighter in all of Mexico (he's a little slim on actual bullfighting in the comics, but he never goes anywhere without his suit of lights, lest we ever forget what his job is. "We get it Ron, you vape," for cases in which "vape" is slang for "stab bulls").

Is this an editorial cartoon? 
Despite having built a career out of fighting bulls in the rings of Mexico (which are like the rings of Saturn, but spicier) most of Ron's efforts are spent fighting Nazis and bull-rustlers in sunny Mexico.

The latter baddie is a staple of western films and stories in the first place, but the Nazis were an interesting twist. Sure, every comic book superhero fought Nazis during World War II, but it's worth remembering that there was a persistent narrative that America's deadliest enemies were hiding in Mexico and using the porous border as an opportunity to sneak North and destroy democracy as we know it. The rumor continued vibrantly through the Cold War, during which Communists were meant to have been sneaking back and forth between our two nations, sowing discord and taking advantage an allegedly immaterial border barrier. Seems to me I've heard something similar to that lately, but I've recently quit social media and the media so I get all my latest political news from whispers upon the wind.

Nazis in Mexico which was a prominent fear, as were communists and terrorists. In fact, America has a long history of suspecting Mexico of harboring overseas enemies. I wonder why. Why oh why do we accuse the Mexicans of this all the time? It's almost like there's something uniting all those people that we distrust for some reason that's more our fault than theirs.

One unexpected sneeze and it's gonna take care of you, too. 
In any case, The Toreador uses his spectacular bull-fighting techniques to fight crime. These include an expert use of the cape, his mastery of the lariat, and his prowess as a horseman. Also, he has a gun and will shoot you, which doesn't sound cricket in the bull ring, to be fair.

His sidekicks included Pat King, an American ex-pat whose primary gig is eyelash fluttering and adding a little sex appeal to the comics, and Pedro, a local borracho who is portrayed as effectively being in love with his Ferdinand-like pet bull Delilah. I'm not gonna tell him, are you gonna tell him?

The American element never plays much of a role, except when Ron needs to throw around a little diplomatic weight. Otherwise, he really could have been a Mexican crimefighter. There's even a story which centers on open land grants issued by the Mexican government, a topic which might have been admittedly familiar to American audiences raised on frontier drama, but rather specific to Mexico at the time.

Toreador is another pretty good entry from Blue Circle Comics, a title which manages to make hay out of its roster of atypical vigilantes and do-gooders. The Toreador is a companionable entry -- with art by young Gil Kane and Leonard Starr, it has a good pedigree. In fact, it'd make for a good stud if they ever wanted to breed it with local stock for a more genuine offspring...

The bull is genderfluid. Who are we to judge?

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