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News: El Vibora Editor Confirms Potential Cancellation
posted June 30, 2004

imageEl Vibora, the longest running underground and alternative comics magazine and an important stepping stone into Europe for two generations of cartoonists, confirmed to the Journal rumors of its potential termination.

Editor Sergi Puertas said hope remains that the magazine will continue its run unabated. "After several months losing readers and money, we reached a situation in issue #289 (March 2004) where we had only two options: closing the magazine right now... or make the situation public in a last effort to get new readers and to get back the ones that used to read the magazine years ago. According to Puertas, the magazine's circulations is down to 6000 from its 1983 heights, when it sold 45,000 copies an issues. It was six months ago that the magazine slipped into unprofitablity, and the decision to go public with their woes was made by Jose Maria Berenguer, Emilio Bernardez, Nono Kadaver and Puertas. The magazine's circulation won't need to increas back to Reagan-era levels, but its staff remains hopeful that the media coverage of the magazine's problems will goose sales enough to put El Vibora back into the black. Another set of sales figures will be available in June. Puertas told the Journal, "We'll keep publishing the magazine until then. If the figure are OK, great! If not... well, we'll have to cease publication."

El Vibora began producton in 1979, on the cusp of a period in the early 1980s when comic magazines such as Creepy and 1984 enjoyed a great deal of popularity in Spain. According to Puertas, most comic magazines went bankrupt by the end of that decade, and magazines in general are in trouble there now. "Nowadays, everything turns around multimedia stuff, videogames, DVDs, cell phones and stuff. [It] seems traditional paper format things are doomed. Puertas also notes that things are particularly tough on general newsstands, where El Vibora used to find most of its market.

El Vibora may be best known to North American cartoonists as a place to gain a toehold in Europe, and for many it was the first step in a fruitful relationship with Spanish audiences. Peter Bagge, R. Crumb and Charles Burns are among those who have been published in the pages of the magazine. Burns told the Journal he met Editor Jose Maria Berenguer in the early 1980s and was "thrilled to find out he was interested in publishing my wortk in his magazine. I'd only had a couple of things in print at that point and the idea of having my comics translated into Spanish made me feel like I was on my way to becoming a real pro." Burns said the magazine has published nearly everything he's done.

Severl of the contributors to the magazine have since published books with the company, based in part on their exposure in the magazine. Burns says that most of the stuff he publishes now in Spain is in pamphlet or book form. "In the '80s there were a lot more anthology magazines in Europe. I guess most of them were based off of the French model: publish an anthology that serialzes the work of various cartoonists and then collect the finished stories into an album. The problem was, people lost interest in buyng the magazines and just waite to buy the albums of their favorite authors. Sound familiar? All the European magazines that carried my work eventually went under except El Vibora."

According to Puertas, the "saddest part" of a cessation of publication would be the hole left in the Spanish market. "If El Vibora ceases publication, there's no adult comic magazines in Spain anymore, and that would affect mostly Spanish underground artists and foreign artists that are not well known here. In Spain, it's very hard to get a publisher to publish a graphic novel, even a comic book if you are not well known. El Vibora was the platform to tell your stuff and get a reputation, and if it closes, well, that's really bad news for all these people."