New exhibit! Depicting Mexico and Modernism: Gordo by Gus Arriola

(Columbus, OH) – The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum presents Depicting Mexico and Modernism, the first retrospective on the comic strip Gordo. On view Dec. 13, 2023–May 5, 2024, the exhibit celebrates the dazzling artistry of Mexican-American cartoonist Gustavo ‘Gus’ Arriola.

The syndicated strip ran from 1941 to 1985 and featured Gordo Salazar Lopez, a bean farmer turned tour guide, who introduced readers to Spanish words and Mexican culture. At first, the title character, Gordo Salazar Lopez, a bean farmer, was portrayed through Hollywood’s regrettable stereotype as a lazy Mexican. When Arriola realized he was perpetuating negative stereotypes, he shifted the character’s story, reimagining Gordo as a tour guide navigating a Mexican ‘colectivo’ (bus) called Halley’s Comet and focused instead on accurately portraying Mexican life and folklore. Arriola’s development as a modernist artist was influenced by his first trip to Mexico in the 1960s where he immersed himself in Mexican culture and modernist art. The exhibition invites visitors to trace his journey as an artist who used the comics page to celebrate and share his Mexican heritage with American readers.

Gordo was a successful newspaper comic strip during its run, but few people today are familiar with it,” said Jenny Robb, Head Curator of Comics and Cartoon Art at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. “The strip is remarkable not only for the way it introduced American audiences to Mexican culture, but also because of Arriola’s inventive storytelling and design that was unlike anything else on the comics page. With this exhibition, we hope to introduce Arriola’s amazing work to new audiences while providing an in-depth retrospective that will also appeal to his many fans.”

Curated by Nhora Lucía Serrano, the exhibition consists of animation made by Bret Olsen and works on loan from Mark Burstein, Jim Guida, Lalo Alcaraz, Hector D. Cantú and from the collections of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at The Ohio State University.

“Hailed as a virtuoso comic strip artist by Charles Schulz, Hank Ketchum, Mort Walker and Eldon Dedini, Gus Arriola was a gifted visual storyteller whose Gordo is a masterclass on how modernism and Mexican ‘artesanía’ influenced the comics medium,” said Nhora Lucía Serrano, exhibition curator. “Originally intended to be the Mexican Li’l AbnerGordo is also an early example of how the cartoonist and his character’s ethnic identity evolved and emerged in comic strips. Long overdue, this exhibition is the first retrospective on Gordo—a celebration and a testament to the impact that Gus Arriola has had on today’s Latinx’s cartoonists.”

This exhibit will be presented with labels in both English and Spanish languages.

Save the Date! Join us on Saturday, January 20 for a reception to celebrate the opening of this exhibition and a program featuring Lalo Alcaraz, Hector D. Cantú, Carlos Castellanos and Frederick Luis Aldama.


Gordo, by Gus Arriola, Sunday, June 18, 1950. Part of the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. © Scripps Licensing, Inc.

Gordo, by Gus Arriola, Sunday, September 27, 1959. Part of the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. © Scripps Licensing, Inc.

Found in the Collection: Zat magazine

Darryl Mendelson, best known to Columbus locals as the co-owner of the legendary comics shop Monkeys Retreat and one of the key coordinators of ComFest, passed away on August 20, 2023.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Darryl first found his way to Columbus to study at The Ohio State University in 1966, before heading West to immerse himself in the countercultural mecca of San Francisco. After some wild years that included the Woodstock music festival and living out of a converted school bus, Darryl settled back down in Columbus where he was joined by his younger brother Ro-Z in 1970. Along with their friend Stan Bobrof, the two Mendelson brothers helped bring counter-culture to Columbus through their various business ventures and community organizing. It was Monkey’s Retreat, however, that left the biggest mark on Columbus’s comics scene.

Originally located at 2400 N. High Street in 1975 (eventually relocating in the ’90s to 1190 N. High and then 1202 N. High), the shop was unlike any other in the city at the time, pedaling underground comix and newspapers, records, posters, fanzines, clothes, sci-fi and fantasy books, and more. Over its 35 years of business, Monkey’s Retreat played a formative role in developing the artistic sensibilities and activist ambitions of the countless people who came through the door. The various iterations of the store did much more than sell standard headshop paraphernalia, it played host to Anti-Racist Action (ARA) meetings, served as a tai chi studio, and fostered a community interest and passion for a part of pop culture that still reverberates through Columbus today. They referred to it as a “space age variety store,” and impressionable young cartoonists who attended Ohio State, like Derf Backderf and Jeff Smith, had their vision of what comics could be brought into focus thanks to the material on the Monkey’s spinner racks.

However, Darryl and Stan’s impact reached far beyond Columbus.

In 1977 during a visit to New York City for a tradeshow, Darryl and Stan found cheap retail space for rent at 307 W. Broadway, in the then-bohemian neighborhood of Soho, and opened up a new shop. SohoZat quickly became an oasis for music, magazines, and above all: underground comix and newspapers. In 1980, SohoZat regulars Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly sold the first issue of Raw magazine out of Mendelson’s shop — making it the very first place the new radical art comics magazine could be purchased.

Everyone hung out there, from John Belushi to Anthony Bourdain. The latter contributed some of his earliest writing about life in the kitchens of New York to a magazine published by SohoZat, the short-lived Zat magazine, seen below. Bourdain even appeared on the cover of Zat no. 4.

“The Young Caremians” essay by Anthony Bourdain for Zat issue no. 2, October 1984.

Photos by Darryl Mendelson and Carol Ann Hawkins, “Celebrities from the Zat Headshot Collection” in Zat no.1, including Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly.

Zat magazine’s first issue debuted in 1984, and intermittently thereafter for five more issues before ceasing publication in 1985. It included a frenzy of features on graffiti, personal politics, music and movie reviews, fiction and personal essays, interviews with figures from the underground art and music world, and even recipes for cheesecake. There were pages of illustrations and comics, including work by Gary Panter, Mark Beyer, Bill Griffith, Jay Lynch,  Art Spiegelman, and more.


The magazine is a packed time capsule, filled to the brim with loud expressions of life in New York City captured over the course of one short year. While it’s distinctly Soho-centric, nearly every issue ended with a call back to Columbus — a full page advertisement for Darryl, Ro-Z, and Stan’s store: Monkey’s Retreat.

Two page ad for Monkey’s Retreat in the back of Zat no. 2

Due to rising rents, by 1992 SohoZat closed its doors, and Darryl’s energies refocused on the Columbus community. We are so grateful for the influence and impact that Darryl Mendelson had on artistic communities near and far, from his shop just a few blocks from the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

Learn more about Monkey’s Retreat and Darryl Mendelson here. To view the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum’s holdings of Zat magazine, visit our Lucy Shelton Caswell Reading Room or make an appointment by contacting

« Older posts