Gus Arriola Biography

Gus Arriola





Gustavo "Gus" Arriola was born in Florence, Arizona on 17 July 1917, the youngest of nine children. He was yet an infant when his mother died and a sister in a Spanish-speaking household subsequently raised him. He supposedly learned English while reading the Sunday comics. Arriola's family moved from Arizona to Los Angeles, California when he was a child.

After high school Arriola was hired as an animator with MGM. He worked on such features as "Tom and Jerry" but after six years he felt ready to develop something from his own experience, and he hit upon the 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 farmer turned tourist guide.

Arriola established himself as a pioneer in "ethnic" comics when he created "Gordo." For over four decades he amused his readers with his 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, which ran through 1985.

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

The Arriolas, Gus and his wife Frances, whom he married in 1939, moved to Carmel-by-the-Sea, California where he owned a shop selling Mexican arts and artifacts between 1961 and 1963. Late in life he suffered from Parkinson's disease and died in Carmel on 2 February 2008.