Mônica is the most popular children's comics character in Brazil, created by Maurício de Sousa. Maurício started life as a police reporter, but eventually started drawing strips for the newspaper he worked for in 1959. As his popularity increased, he left the newspaper to publish full-length monthly magazines.

Mônica is the leader of a gang of six-year-olds. Always in a red dress, she has two teeth which are slightly too large and happens to be stronger than Superman, but still delicate as a girl-child - when she is not angry. She owns a blue (toy) rabbit called Sansão (Samson) which she either nurses or uses as a weapon depending on the occasion.

Cebolinha (literally, little onion - in English he's known as Jimmy Five) is a boy dressed in a green shirt and black shorts, for some reason one of the few characters with shoes. His hair is shaped like an onion, with only five strands of hair. Sometimes he becomes slightly power-hungry and attempts to take over Mônica's position as the leader of the group. He then devises an "infallible plan" which always fails. Most of the time, he does that with the help of Cascão, his best friend. Also, in the original Brazilian version, he can't speak the "R"s, mistaking them for "L"s (a common problem among young children very noticeable in Portuguese).

Cascão (Smudge in English) embodies the principle of a poor but happy childhood. Despite of his father's financial difficulties, Cascão is maybe the happiest and certainly the smartest child in the gang. He creates his own toys using only recycled material and his ingenuity. Always dressed in yellow and red, he has never, ever showered and he's absolutely afraid of water. That's why he usually carries an umbrella. He's Cebolinha's preferred partner in his "infallible plans" against Mônica, but Cascão usually talks too much and reveals the plan before it's over.

Magali (Maggy) is a thin girl in a yellow dress and Mônica's best friend. Her biggest weakness is food: she's almost always eating or looking out for something to eat. Usually seen carrying a watermelon. Magali supports Mônica when the boys turn against her.

The gang's political fights are only children's plays, of course. Cebolinha's plans range from the absurd to the surreal, and his intent is to take Sansão from Mônica, which he perceives as a symbol of her power (whenever he can, he ties knots using the rabbit's long ears). Secretly, he's in love with her, and stories that show their possible futures always show them dating in college or married as adults. Cebolinha's father himself married a woman whom he used to bully as a child...

The Mônica franchise is much larger than that. Beyond the basic cast of four, there are many smaller personages, like a boy that does everything to distinguish himself from the other kids (walking on his hands, for example, or putting chocolate in the hot dog), a young scientist with a weakness for time traveling devices, a talented painter-girl, and a huge cast of friends and enemies.

The kids are conscious of their condition as comics characters, and are often seen saying things like "This is not in the script" or blaming the artists for their problems. They are even seen walking around the page with no respect for the frames, measuring time in pages or prematurely ending the stories when they are bored. They also go beyond that, walking on the drawing board, talking to the artists and walking around the office, even managing it when Maurício is sick or traveling... kids these days have no respect for the fourth wall, you know.

Some stories are set in entirely different universes, though characters occasionally come across each other, interfering with each other's stories. Piteco (Pitheco) is a caveman usually seen fighting dinosaurs. Horácio (Horace) is a pacifist vegetarian green baby T-rex not belonging to Piteco's world. His stories are short and philosophical and deal with human relationships.

Chico Bento (Chuck Billy) lives in a farm with his poor, hard-working parents. He's lazy but pure at heart. Astronauta (Astronaut) is a lone adult space traveler in a round blue space suit, traveling in a round space ship, fighting monsters and charting planets for BRASA (Brazilian Astronauts, a military organization of which seemingly only he and his boss are members). There's also Papa Capim (Tom Tom), a six-year-old nature-loving Brazilian indian, Penadinho (Bug-a-boo) a ghost living in a cemetery with horror movie clichés, Bidu (Blu) a talking blue dog whose stories are metalinguistic...

Maurício de Sousa is today the president of a small media conglomerate centered on his artistic creation. His company publishes not only regular monthly and weekly magazines for each of his major characters (with a market share of about 85%), but also full-length animation videos, TV specials and comics books for UNICEF campaigns in Latin America. The Mônica brand sells nearly everything from copybooks and pencils to tomato sauce, toys and video games, clothing and telephone cards. There's also a small indoor Mônica theme park. Nearly three hundred people, mostly artists, work under Maurício's direct supervision in his studio in São Paulo.

http://www.monica.com.br/ingles/index.htm (English)
http://www.monica.com.br/ingles/comics/welcome.htm (sample comics in English)
http://www.monica.com.br/ (Main site)

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