Gus Arriola Biography

Gus Arriola




Gustavo "Gus" Arriola was born on July 17, 1917 in Florence, Arizona, the youngest of 9 chldren.  His mother died when he was a baby and he was raised by a sister in a Spanish speaking household. He supposedly learned English reading the Sunday comics. Arriola's Mexican-born family moved from Florence, Arizona, to Los Angeles when he was a boy, and the young artist went straight from high school to a job as an animator with MGM. After six or seven years of working on such features as "Tom and Jerry", Arriola felt ready to develop something from his own experience, and he hit on the natural idea of drawing on the warmth, color, and easy-going humor of his Mexican heritage. In November 1941, United Features Syndicate bought Gordo, a gag strip about a corpulent, life-loving Mexican bean framer turned tourist guide.

Arriola established himself as a pioneer in "ethnic" comics when he created. For over four decades he amused Mexicans and gringos alike with the gracefully drawn and affectionately scripted series. In 1942, Arriola enlisted in the Air Force where he served as a film animator, and discontinued his young strip. In 1943, he began a Sunday Gordo, and soon after his discharge in 1946, resumed the dailies.  The strip ran through 1985.

The droll word play, gentle whimsy, and above all the elegant and often innovative visual imagination of Gordo, earned Arriola the National Cartoonists Society's Best Humor Strip awards in 1957 and 1965. It remained a paper strip until Arriola retired himself and the strip in 1985. A retrospective collection of Sunday strips featuring animals, Gordo's Critters, appeared in 1989.  He was awarded a lifetime acheivement award from the Monterey Arts Council.

The Arriolas, Gus and his wife Frances, who he married in 1939, moved to Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterey County, California where he owned a shop selling Mexican arts and artifact between 1961 - 63.  Late in life he suffered from Parkinsons disease and he died in Carmel on February 2, 2008 with his wife by his side.