The most famous photo ever taken of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara was shot by Alberto Korda in 1960, an image so endlessly reproduced it became not only a political icon but a marketing and advertising asset. That photo is the point of departure for the new graphic novel about the "Comandante" now being published in Spanish.
"We were convinced that if we wanted to tell Che's story, we'd have to find a new perspective and something that would help make readers aware of the iconic power of his images," Marco Rizzo, co-author with Lelio Bonaccorso of "Che Guevara", published by Panini Comics, told EFE.
The graphic novel takes us back to a story so often repeated in movies, comics and literature that it was "a challenge", Rizzo admitted.
The two Italians knew from the start that the story they told would spring from that photo, taken March 5, 1960, at the Columbus Cemetery in Havana, during the funerals of more than 80 people killed in an attack.
Korda gave the photo entitled "Heroic Guerrilla", showing Che with a proudly defiant expression, to the Italian Giangiamo Feltrinelli, who used it for a poster and for the cover of the book "Bolivia Diary".
That's where the legend began.
The photographer received no money for this iconic image, both of his own accord and because there is no copywright law in Cuba. Only once did he ask for some sort of payment - from a brand of vodka - which he then handed over to the Cuban health system, the authors of the comic said.
The work of creating this graphic novel began in February 2011, and among other things is a way of paying tribute to two "comic masterpieces": "The Man Who Killed Che Guevara" by the Italian Magnus, and "Che" by the Argentines Hector G. Oesterheld, Alberto Breccia and Enrique Breccia.
In fact, Bonaccorso draws the flashback sequences "with a rough stroke" that recalls the work of the Argentines, while Mario Teran, the Bolivian army sergeant who executed Che, is drawn with the features that Magnus gave him.
"Ever since I was a teenager I read a lot about Che Guevara. I've always known he was no saint, and he said that he wasn't. Neither saint nor hero," said Rizzo, who believes that the man's message remains valid today, as indicated, for example, by the photos of the recent revolution in Libya showing opposition guerrillas carrying banners with his mythical portrait.
Rizzo doesn't hide his regard and affection for this historic figure, but what about Che's relationship with Fidel Castro?
"They had a true friendship at the beginning of their revolutionary adventure and admired each other. What they wrote to each other during the uprising seems sincere," Rizzo says of the two men.
But the author of the story acknowledges that there are still gaps in many segments of Che's life, and that the true relationship between the two "cannot be told if Fidel is still writing the script".