Ciudad: Space of Madness

R. Barreiro & J. Gimenez classic comic book

Ciudad, a fin de siècle Latin American comic (Barreiro, R. & Gimenez, J. Barcelona, Toutain Editor: 1982-1991), could not have a more adequate title. Totalizator: that is something urban theory can make us think about. Although it is not about the story of a city but about those who inhabit it, the city is by itself everything that exists: as a huge living being that isolates or surround its tiny human living creatures, it is the place for loss and madness. It is a metaphor of existence as something that in which someone is born despite his/her decision of living it in a violent way.

This city is the place of the endless: of the infinite as anguish. It's symbolic construction as discourse is, as any comic story, through three main axes: drawing, dialogue and story. The anecdote goes on the bored life of a graphic designer (who, ironically, cannot design his own destiny). From being “trapped” in monotony, after a night out, he goes astray within a enigmatic street called “Aleph” without noticing (indubitable reference to Jorge Luis Borges tale, to which is also noticed at the end of the story), part of the city in which he is going to find himself locked.

Once lost his life hangs on a wire: he has entered the Ciudad, a kind of apocalyptic monster that has in it's interior an innumerable quantity of human beings from different historical times and worlds (parallel worlds, of course); all of them fighting for their lives.

The story is worthy of attention because, besides the drawing work, the dialogues bring philosophical perspectives incarnated in the characters. La Ciudad is enunciated (put in a scene, in a pragmatical point of view), signified by them. The idea of a city as a living being that plays with its inhabitants, or that consume them, or more: it sets traps and seeks their death, is a peculiar symbolization of our mega-cities: monstrous and absorbing, housing so disparate places where wealth and poverty live together.

In Ciudad violence is inherent to that infinite being. It seems that violence and the city will never set apart each other since one is the origin of the other. The subject comes, indeed, from the Judaeo-Christian tradition: after murdering his brother, Cain runs away and fInds a city.

How present is this comic today? Taking a look into it's thematic realms (parallel worlds, mathematics and physics, solitude, madness, survival, among others) one can say that we are facing a classic dystopic sci-fi story and, that is maybe why Ciudad has won that appellative. Nowadays it could be a common place to find those chain of ideas within the story (not saying the representation of other classic themes from children’s literature as Hamelin viewed from desperation; a favorite theme of XXI st. Century video games: Alice, inspired in the original work by Lewis Carroll). But can we accuse an end of century story about all of that?

Bring yourself the exploration of Ciudad and lets talk together about it in the “real world”.


Manuel Monroy
Manuel Monroy

Manuel Monroy Correa lives by finding the relation that signs have as cultural actions in the world; getting lost or gaining sense of logic in the huge web of life. He also loves cats.

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Ciudad: Space of Madness