Ruth Hoberman (1987) suggests that ‘biography is the terrain on which each generation works out crucial questions about its relation to the past’ (1987: 204), and perhaps the most crucial question of Spain’s recent history has been that of how to deal with the memory of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and General Franco’s dictatorship (1939-1975). Drawing on existing scholarship that has described the repressed memories of Spain’s past as ghostly (Labanyi 2000 & 2002), this article will examine the conjuring power of memory to bring the ghosts of the traumatic past to the present in graphic biographies, taking as case study the Galician comic Bóveda (2012) by María Xesús Arias (writer) and Carlos Sardiña (artist), about the life of the politician Alexandre Bóveda (1903-1936), executed by Francoist forces at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. The analysis will also address the specificities of the comics medium to ‘bring back’ the bodies of the victims of the war, compared to filmic representations of historical figures in biopics and documentaries.
Because of the emblematic role that he has played in the imaginary of Galician nationalism, Alexandre Bóveda has become a national symbol of the traumatic suffering inflicted on Galicia by Francoism. Pramod K. Nayar (2016) suggests that graphic biographies provide ‘a new mode’ to address social systems of oppression. Following this assertion, the analysis of Bóveda will not only reflect on the representation of the life of an individual, but also on how by invoking his memory, the whole national project embodied by this politician is also reclaimed. In this light, the graphic biography challenges the fallacy of Galician peaceful submission to Francoism while also highlighting the strength of the project of Galician autonomy before the war.