Brazil's comics coup: nationalizing the funnies

Once it was said, with pride, that a Brazilian politician had not made the grade until he had been savaged by the country's iconoclastic cartoonists.

So it is rather ironic - and a sore point - that the pages of Brazil's prestigious newspapers and magazines have been dominated by characters like Charlie Brown, Little Orphan Annie, and Blondie.

Starting this week, however, Rio's respected Jornal do Brasil is correcting this anomaly. It is ''nationalizing'' its funny pages. In its Sunday edition, the Jornal made a splashy announcement, heralding the debut of a legion of home-grown cartoonists.

The paper's official explanation for the move is that foreign, mostly American, comics just don't take here. But it also appears to be an attempt to appease local artists who are miffed at the ''near monopoly of the foreigners, for decidedly economic reasons,'' as Luiz Fernando Verissimo, the Gary Trudeau of Brazil, gripes.

As Brazil's November elections approach, and candidates move into their final frenzied campaign stretch, the Jornal's action should prove to be one Latin American revolution that offers comic relief.

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