HBO Max series ¡García! brings a fictional Francoist spy to the small screen | Spain

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Three years after Francisco Franco’s remains were finally removed from the granite chambers of the Valley of the Fallen, another relic of the dictatorial regime rises from a long slumber deep in the monument’s damp, bone-piled caverns.

Fortunately, the relic in question has not been dead for a long time. Falangist but rather a fictional Francoist secret agent whose adventures in contemporary Spain have gone from the pages of three graphic novels to the small screen.

The eponymous protagonist of the new television series ¡García!, a genetically engineered spy created in the 1950s to serve and protect the interests of the Franco regime, awakens after spending 60 years in cryogenic hibernation to find himself in a profoundly different Spain. The certainties and restrictions of the past are long gone, replaced by a new democratic society of emancipated women, cell phones, drag queens – and a frankly bewildering variety of coffee options.

His foil—and his guide through this brave new world—is a young journalist named Antonia, whose modern ways challenge his prejudices and monochrome view of the world. While the couple’s adventures in a fictional but distinctly recognizable version of contemporary Spain involve political corruption and shenanigans, car chases and black-and-white flashbacks to García’s former life, the saga is also a subversive exploration of the enduring legacy of the Franco era. .

Detail of the graphic novels the series is based on. Photography: Astiberri

“We tried to embrace the premise of the comic, which is: what if a super-agent who worked for a secret agency during the military dictatorship in Spain woke up in a Spain that is a democracy – well one with a lot of other issues – how would he react?” said Eugenio Mira, who directed the series for HBO Max.

The 45-year-old director, who grew up on the diet of Indiana Jones and James Bond movies, prefers comparing the story’s premise to Captain America rather than Austin Powers arriving in the 1990s. Mira also says that s he enjoyed the technical challenges of the story and its many action scenes, the hardest part was getting a cohesive tone.

“Satire has parody points, but if you take something that’s fundamentally ridiculous too seriously, you end up in a place you don’t want to be,” he says. “For me, the key is that I don’t see García as someone from another era who suddenly finds himself in ours. To me, he’s the idealized version of what things were like for those right-wing people. who today are nostalgic for that time.

The first ¡García! comic, published in 2015, was born out of the years of economic and political turmoil that led to the emergence of the indignant movement raging against unemployment, corruption and an out-of-touch elite.

“All of this was an interesting context for García,” says Santiago García, who created the novels alongside illustrator Luis Bustos. “But the way politics has evolved over the past seven years, things have gotten even more interesting.” Although Spain is governed by a Socialist-led coalition, the resurgent far-right forms the third-largest party in congress and the Madrid region is led by a right-wing populist president who promotes slogans.

“For me, reality turned to mush,” says the writer. “Pulp works through stereotypes, exaggerations and caricatures – and that’s what we see in the press today. In this regard, García has not lost its relevance – on the contrary, it has become more relevant.

The basic idea, he says, was to take the “Manichean” kind of character that populated Spanish comics of the 1940s, 50s and 60s, and project it into the modern world.

“You have a character who is associated with a very concrete period of Spanish history – which is Francoism,” says García. “And it’s not innocent. So when you do that, you’re not just talking about comics; you are implicitly taken to a place where you talk about history, politics and historical memory.

“It also brings with it a lot of things that weren’t talked about in the comics of that time. It’s about the collision between what we were told and what we want to know now about the realities of that time. .

As Bustos points out, ¡García! works on different levels, blending pulp and adventure with social and historical observations. “[But] there’s also a very meta theme here,” the artist explains. “You use a comic to talk about other comics and how you mix different schools when it comes to adventures and thrillers, from American comics to modern graphic novels and Japanese manga.”

For Mira, the book and the TV program are an antidote to the loose nostalgia and the current “hyper-simplified and cartoonish” climate.

“I think the message is that it doesn’t matter what the nostalgics say about fascism,” says the director. “Democracy, with all its mistakes, all its pitfalls and all its disappointments, is the only way… What is good is that all of this is embodied by García: he could be the most thoughtless hero, but through the whole series, he comes to realize certain things.”

García and Bustos are also acutely aware of the inescapable topicality of their books as the real world produces everyday events that would have strained the seams of satire just a decade ago.

“All the absurd and horrible things that were in García’s first two books have been overtaken by reality,” says the writer. “I look at them today and I think, ‘We missed a bit. We should have gone further and exaggerated more.

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