Accidental Ambassador Gordo: The Comic Strip Art of Gus Arriola

Text By: Robert C. Harvey

Published By: University Press of Mississippi

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            Gus Arriola may be little known to the new generation of comic strip aficionados, but to the fans of the old style gag strips, Arriola was a pioneer of the era.  Gordo, which ran from 1941 to 1985, brought Mexican culture to the United States in a way that made learning fun – via the gag strip.  His main character, Gordo Lopez, started off as the stereotypical Mexican and turned into so much more over the years.

            Accidental Ambassador Gordoz: The Comic Strip Art of Gus Arriola by Robert C. Harvey gives us an informative view of the man behind the strip as well as an excellent look at the strip itself.  I had never heard of the comic strip or its creator before reading this book, but now I’m hooked.  I love the artwork and the gags themselves are priceless.  There is one involving Gordo’s cat and his constant shedding of hair.  It reminded me of a discussion I had with my brother about my own cat. Then there's the way he would sign some of his strips – inventive puns such as: Gordo by Lowen B. Hold.  Just an extra added bit of fun to an already fun strip.

            What makes Gus Arriola’s strip so great is its likeness to our own lives.  The characters, even the animals, all remind us of someone we know.  He reels us in with characters we can relate to and teaches us a thing or two about Mexican culture.  Arriola’s father was a native Mexican and Arriola was captivated by the country and its culture.  His strip was filled with Mexican-inspired artwork. 

At first, Gordo was all about the gags – a stereotypical Mexican bean farmer who spent his days taking siestas, drinking, and chasing women.  Eventually, as the popularity of the strip grew, Arriola made some changes that endeared him to everyone, comic strip aficionados, educators, people in government and the like.  He received several awards for his work and nods of recognition as a comic-strip ambassador for Mexican-American relations.

Robert C. Harvey makes reading about Gus Arriola’s life as interesting as his comic strip.  For each segment of Arriola’s life, Harvey describes the times for the reader.  We don’t just learn about what Arriola was doing in the 1960s, but we learn about the era and its effect on Arriola’s life and his strip.  One can tell just by reading the preface that Harvey is an avid fan of both the man and his comic strip.

I really enjoyed reading Accidental Ambassador Gordoz: The Comic Strip Art of Gus Arriola and am actually a tad peeved that I never got to read Gordo when it was in circulation.  I know I would have enjoyed it.  The strip was geared to suit everyone – youth and adult alike.  After reading this book, I actually wish I could meet Arriola – not just to thank him for such wonderful work, but to pick his brain about social issues and the like.  Harvey portrayed the man as highly intelligent and insightful and it shows in his work.  I definitely recommend checking Accidental Ambassador Gordoz: The Comic Strip Art of Gus Arriola out.  Whether you’re interested in the comic strip or the man behind it all, you’re sure to find it an enjoyable read.


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