14-Year-Old Cartoonist Skewers Brazilian Politicians
Joao Montanaro is a tall, thin, 14-year-old boy with a mop of black hair. He loves video games, Brazil's great passion — soccer — and roughhousing with his two brothers.
But in the family's small, two-bedroom house, Joao has his own studio. There he draws political cartoons for Brazil's largest newspaper, Folha.
In his studio you'll find books with works from the world's best-known cartoonists — from Charles Schulz's Peanuts to a complete collection of Calvin and Hobbes. He says they all provide him with the inspiration that got him drawing when he was only 7 or 8.
"I make comics, cartoons, comic strips, too, and I like the political because you can joke about somebody bigger than you," he says.
Joao's fascination with cartoons began on his father's lap. Mario Barbosa had some anthologies featuring the best in Brazilian cartooning. Joao was too young to understand the political messages, but he took to the art form.
"My dad ... had books with cartoons of that guys, and I see the books, and I love it," he says.
We brought him with this idea to show that, yes, young people also read newspapers, also are smart, are clever, can show their ideas in this space.
And, in time, he began to discern the political messages from the greatest Brazilian cartoonists — Arnaldo Angeli, Glauco Villas Boa and others.
All of them are cartoonists at Folha — a 90-year-old broadsheet paper long known for its cartoons and illustrations.
New, Fresh Ideas
At Folha's bustling newsroom, art director Mario Kanno says editors saw something new and fresh in Joao's work.
He'd already been working at Folha's kids' newspaper, Folhinha, for two years.
"We brought him with this idea to show that, yes, young people also read newspapers, also are smart, are clever, can show their ideas in this space," Kanno says.
Joao belongs to a family that devotes lots of time to the arts. His little brother, Felipe, is learning to dominate the guitar, and Joao's twin, Raphael, plays the drums.
The bedroom the three boys share is just like that of any American boy: messy beds and video games.
Their father says Joao is just like any kid his age. "He plays football. He goes to school. He has no problem about this. He's not a famous one, he's not a famous one. He's a normal guy," he says.
Still, Joao is not exactly like other kids. He reads the paper two hours a day, he's familiar with The New Yorker magazine and he likes to leaf through LeMonde Diplomatique.
Some who support Joao — like Orlando Pedroso, an illustrator at Folha — are a little worried. He says Folha may be putting too much pressure on him.
"OK, he is 14, it's a massive experience, it's incredible, but he should play some football and date girls," he says.
Joao's big day is Friday, the day he has to work on his cartoon for Saturday's paper.
He sketches out two, three or four mock drawings and sends them to the paper for review. From those, editors choose the cartoon for the next day's editorial page.
Joao says what drives him is the absurdity in Brazil's rambunctious politics, or the news of the day.
On a recent afternoon, he worked on "The Wave" — a sketch of the tsunami that hit Japan, based on a famous 19th century Japanese print.
"Everyday I draw," he says. "I have a sketchbook, and I sit and draw something."
Indeed, in many ways, Joao is still just a kid who likes to doodle.
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