The bright and insightful humour of the anonymous cartoonist offered people of all ages a hilarious boost – as it always has.
Despite – or maybe because of – having experienced over a decade of a hard-hitting financial crisis, Greeks managed to retain their sense of humour during lockdown. When Greece went into Lockdown in March, people quickly complied with the government’s demand to stay home and stay safe. For a country often erroneously and stereotypically described as undisciplined, disorderly, and lazy, the country became exemplary to the world for taking such fast and immediate Covid-19 prevention measures and managing to keep its death toll to as low as 150 cases.
Arkas’ Cynical & Uplifting View
Some of the brightest quality of humour, familiar to the country since the ‘80s when he began drawing cartoons for Vavelmagazine, came from the mysterious cartoonist Arkas.
He is the only existing ‘anonymous’ persona in Greece and his offbeat, intelligent, satirical, and thought-provoking humour reaches a public of millions daily. Since 1981 when his famous rooster cartoon was featured in Vavel magazine, he has shaped the humour and mentality of generations of Greeks. Indeed, his work may be so amiable also because he so accurately captures the psyche of those who read him.
Arkas’ bittersweet cartoons, sometimes bitingly cynical and other times soothingly uplifting, have for over 40 years presented several by now legendary characters such as the lisping little boy Thanassakis, the sparrows, the rooster, couples, families, the grim reaper and more. It’s no exaggeration to say his art has become a nationally treasured brand retailed on T-shirts, prints, watches, and bags alongside series of books (translated into nine languages) that people collect with a tongue-in-cheek sense of pride.
A year after his work hit the public, Vavel magazine wrote of the artist that “Many readers have persistently requested a presentation by Arkas… We believe that’s a reasonable and fair demand. But Arkas is too reserved for the individual to accept any kind of appearance or self-promotion.”
Beyond the evidence of his personal observances reflected in his art, snippets of ‘insider’
information and statements over the decades have revealed that Arkas is a multi-faceted artist. There are many theories about his real identity and his life. He’s thought to have studied Architecture and History in Thessaloniki and to have collaborated as a set designer at Stoaand Karolos Kountheatres. He’s also thought to have presented an art exhibition titled “Ora” (Time) in 1980. In 1996 he wrote a libretto titled “The Tango of Garbage”, which was presented at the Athens Concert Hall, and has also written three plays that were staged in Athens’ theatres.
The only people who are thought to know of his true identity are the former publisher of Vavel, George Bazinas, the author Petros Hatzopoulos and publishers Anna Pataki and Vangelis Trikeriotis, as well as the author Petros Martinidis, who has written two books about his work. There are theories that his pen name is based on the area of Arcadia, from where he is said to originate.
Regardless of the many theories surrounding him, what has always mattered most and will continue to be of importance is that the artist, not overshadowed by his persona, continues to provide humour and perspective to his readers old and young alike. By stating through his cartoons what we are as a society and what life is, focusing on something as mundane as personal identity becomes obsolete.