Simply the breast: flick through the Brazilian sex comics of Carlos Zéfiro
Carlos Zéfiro was a Brazilian artist who drew pornographic comics. His small publications were circulated underground during the 1950s and 1960s. Here fellow countryman and graphic designer Felipe Taborda, who has reprinted a selection of the comics, explains Zéfiro’s contribution to Brazilian culture:
During Brazil’s military years (1954-1982), one man was responsible for the sexual education of generations of Brazilians. This man called himself Carlos Zéfiro, and he designed and illustrated small pornographic comics that were sold all over Brazil for more than 30 years.
Zéfiro was the nickname of a clerk named Alcides de Aguiar Caminha Filho. It is believed that during his lifetime he produced more than 800 issues. These magazines were popularly referred to as catecismos (catechisms), and everyone in Brazil knew it. It is amazing how this man succeeded in distributing his publications all over the country. It is indeed an amazing thing.
Interestingly enough nobody knew who Zéfiro was. A few months before his death in 1981, the Brazilian edition of Playboy magazine interviewed him, finally revealing his true identity. Besides being a clerk and a comic author, he was a fine composer as well. Many familiar Brazilian sambas are his.
As for his publications, the process was always the same. Alcides drew everything in china ink, and the originals were given to small printing houses. Not a single original has been found so far, probably due to the military censorship that was happening at that time. The total print run of each publication is also unknown.
Generally each magazine consisted of 32 pages printed on cheap paper. A stronger coloured paper was used for the cover. Alcides probably worked at night, by himself, creating not only the illustrations, but also the plot and script for each publication. He often copied his own drawings - one can find the same erotic situation in different publications. He also had a keen eye for typography. His elegant headlines, as well as the speech bubbles, are very well balanced and depict a strong sense of aesthetics.
Alcides lived in a period of strong social change, sexual and cultural. His creations contributed to this - creating the easy-going nature Brazil is famous for. If we compare Brazil to other Latin American countries, it can be said that the Portuguese colonisation was more permissive than the Spanish one. It is very rare to find a similar publication in other Latin American countries.
Nowadays the work of Alcides has achieved cult status. A new generation of consumers is discovering his work, partly due to the use of his drawings in record covers and advertising. However we are yet to see a book about his work. There is so much more to discover in his work, as well as his personality. A book on Zéfiro/Alcides would be an important publication indeed.