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Carlos Zéfiro realizó más de 800 comics de contenido sexual, según se cree. Photo: Agente Provocador
Carlos Zéfiro created approximately 800 comics with sexual content. Photo: Agente Provocador

The mysterious author of pornographic comics who overcame censorship in Brazil

Known as Carlos Zéfiro, the bohemian official devoted himself to drawing "catechisms," or sex comics that Brazilians in the 50's passed around .

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A few decades after the so-called "Tijuana Bibles" became popular in the United States with pornographic stories starring Hollywood artists, Brazil experienced its own erotic comic book revolution thanks to a mysterious cartoonist.

He signed his works as "Carlos Zéfiro" and drew up to 800 erotic and pornographic comics in the 1950s, when they were banned in Brazil. As a result, they became even more sought after.

The idea of going into porn, at least the one with charcoal and paper, came to Alcides Aguiar Caminha out of pure necessity.

Aguiar worked at the Immigration Department of the Ministry of Labor and his salary as a civil servant barely covered the cost of feeding his family and some of the luxuries of a bohemian life, such as going to the samba rodas.

A good artist and lover of adventure, the employee risked his job and a denunciation for scandalous activities, so he invented the alias of Carlos Zéfiro, inspired by the name of a Mexican author. 

Zéfiro began by mimicking illustrations from foreign pornographic magazines, which he drew on vegetable paper, and writing the scripts himself.

His micro comics — between 24 and 32 pages to fit in your pocket — were sold clandestinely through trusted kiosks and were very successful in times of repression because, apart from their risque content, Zéfiro had enormous creativity. 

They were not purely sexual pamphlets, but stories with a structure, a lot of humor, and references to Brazilian culture.

In short time, the popularity of these booklets known as "catechisms" ended up being a problem for the government of Emílio Garrastazu Médici, who decided to hunt down the cartoonist. 

But they did not succeed. Hidden behind his pseudonym and with good friends among the printers and kiosks that kept silent, Zéfiro managed to elude censorship and when the erotic magazines, were legalized his comics stopped arousing so much interest.

That is, at least for the readers. Academics and historians wrote numerous essays in the 80s about his work, wondering who the mysterious cartoonist was.

In 1991, the world knew the truth after another opportunistic cartoonist claimed of being Carlos Zéfiro in Playboy

Aguiar finally had to come clean and did so, tragically, a year before he died.

Since then, his fame grew until he became a cult cartoonist, whose images have been used by artists like Marisa Montes and his style and line have been praised beyond the explicit drawings.

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