Amid real-life political scandal, comic strip offers Brazilians even darker fantasy

The Awakener is the brainchild of the Rio de Janeiro-based graphic designer Luciano Cunha.

A sequence of brutal political assassinations is striking terror into the heart of the Brazilian establishment.

Enraged by corruption, a former soldier turned masked vigilante is hunting down venal politicians, grasping business executives and media lackeys.

The president is powerless and the people are on the streets in open revolt.

While Brazil’s real-life political drama is more commonly compared to House of Cards, a comic strip called The Awakener offers frustrated Brazilians an even darker kind of fantasy.

As the fallout from the epic corruption scandal at Petrobras, the state-run oil company, implicates legislators across the range of Brazil’s political parties, the death-dealing crusader’s radical solution to the country’s political crisis is finding a growing audience.

The brainchild of the Rio de Janeiro-based graphic designer Luciano Cunha, the comic strip started life on Facebook in March 2013, just months before the mass demonstrations of June that year, which marked the beginning a new era of turmoil in Brazilian politics.

Back then the character was known as The Vigilante, and the politicians he killed were based on real-life counterparts.

“When I first approached publishers they all told me they liked it, but it was dangerous to handle,” he said. “A lawyer friend of mine advised me to change their names and faces.”

For the most part, it worked. Marcos Feliciano, an evangelical politician notorious for claiming that the three bullets that killed John Lennon came from the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, took issue with a storyline in which a character resembling him was shot dead with three bullets. Feliciano launched legal proceedings, but the case was eventually thrown out of court.

“My wife was terrified that we were going to lose a lot of money, but in the end the judge came down on the side of freedom of speech,” he said.

Inspired as a child by DC and Marvel Comics – Spider-Man and Batman in particular – Cunha was apprenticed to several famous Brazilian cartoonists and started his career drawing for many of the newspapers in Rio de Janeiro.

But it was not enough to survive, and so he moved first into advertising, and then to the communications department of Petrobras, where he used to arrive hours early to work on the comic.

Then in November, he was fired. The company, which announced its biggest loss on record on Monday, has fired tens of thousands of workers over the past 18 months.

But by then, Cunha already had an offer from Downtown Filmes, a Brazilian film company, to make a movie of The Awakener.

“I liked my job, but I always wanted to make a living with my comics,” he said.

The comic has been accused of political bias by critics on both the left and the right, but the very recognisable corrupt characters in his work come from all parties.

Though much of the anger of recent protests has been focused on government corruption, the publication on Wednesday of a list of more than 200 politicians from 24 different parties who received questionable campaign donations from Odebrecht, a construction company at the heart of the Petrobras scandal, has confirmed Brazilians’ belief that the rot is widespread.

Cunha is not the only Brazilian artist to be inspired by the country’s dysfunctional politics. José Padilha, the producer of Narcos and the director of the Brazilian classic Elite Squad, is planning a series based on the events of the sprawling Petrobras investigation. At the lower end of the artistic spectrum, opposition activists demanding Rousseff’s impeachment have even devised their own dance.

Throughout his adult life, Cunha, 41, had voted for the ruling Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) until the last elections.

“Of course it made a lot of social progress,” he said. “But in the end, for a party that was the face of change, I believe it did very, very little. In the end, it abandoned its historic role to perpetuate itself in power doing exactly all the things it had criticized.”

Cunha now believes the best way out of Brazil’s current predicament would be for president Dilma Rousseff to resign, something she reiterated on Tuesday that she would never do under any circumstances.

“[The party] just wants to stay in Brasília at any cost, dragging the hopes of millions, like me, into the sewer. And these fascists and far-right groups have only come to light because of that hopelessness and frustration created by PT,” Cunha said.

[Source:- The Guardian ]