In addition to being the most beloved wrestler in Mexican history, and one of the top-grossing movie stars of the 1960s and 70s, Santo was also featured in an extremely popular (and long running) series of Spanish-language comic books. In one form, or another, El Santo entertained his youthful reading public for over 25 years.
There have been at least 4 distinct series of Santo comics. All series share a similar format. They feature actual photos of the masked hero (and the various other characters) which are pasted on various background scenes. Some of the backgrounds are also photographic in nature, while others are hand-drawn. The printing tends to be on the dark side and the overall effect is often surreal and atmospheric.
The first series, which began in 1952, was produced by Jose G. Cruz and printed in Mexico. As this series is by far the rarest. The covers were hand-drawn, on a cheap newsprint-like stock and have a flat finish. Each has a yellow banner across the top which states: Ediciones Jose G. Cruz presentan Santo. The early issues were a weekly publication, but by 1954, they had increased it to twice a week. The stories were produced in serial form, with the ongoing plot line continued from issue to issue. The pages were numbered accordingly for example, issue #52 begins with page 1586. This series used images of the actual Santo, wearing his familiar mask and tights. This series continued at least into the late 1950s. The early issues measured approximately 6"x8.5", but by 1955, the size had shrunk to 5.25"x7.25". The original price was half a Peso.
In the early 1960s Cruz Started a second series of Santo Comics. These issues featured a larger format (6.5"x9.5") and had red banners across the top, with the letters JGC appearing in a white area at the upper left corner. The covers were glossy, with some hand-drawn and some photographic in nature. In fact, many of the covers were drawn by Jose Cruz himself. The early issues still featured the original Santo, as did their hand-drawn covers, but by 1974, Santo had been replaced (at least in some issues) by a muscle-bound bodybuilder type who wore an S emblem on his forehead. This second series continued at least into the mid 1970s, with #789 the highest number I know of but the series might have continued on to a much higher number.
The third series likely started immediately after the second had ended. If fact, series 2 and 3 may have even overlapped a bit. In any case, series 3 started on October 4, 1976, with one new issue appearing each week. The glossy covers again feature both hand-drawn and photographic images. Issues 1-52, 107-110, 127-139, 142-286. Issues. All other covers were drawn by Cruz and some are truly classics with bizarre monsters, sexy women, and a naive surreal style. Some of the best Santo covers came from this series, including: #59, which is pictured above, #88 - a Star Wars rip-off, #98 - Santo amidst a hoard of Hammer monsters, including the snake woman from The Reptile and Christopher Lee's vampire from Horror of Dracula, and #119 - which shows a scantily clad young girl, who is clearly masturbating while looking a picture of our wholesome hero. One other note, 107 and 241 share the same photo cover, although the stories inside are different. By now, the muscle-bound guy had replaced Santo full-time, in both the covers and inside pages, with the S emblem still present on his forehead. The third series was printed in Columbia, with red banners across the top, Stating; "Editorial Icavi Presenta: Santo." and Icavi appeared in a yellow triangle at the upper left corner of the glossy covers were glossy. Issues 1-196 measured 6.25"x9.25". Starting with #197, "Editora Vord" took over publication and the size shrunk to 5.25"x8". The last issue I know of is # 286, although there may have been more.
The forth (and as far as I know final) Santo series began in early 1986 and lasted at least 46 issues. For the first time, the name Jose G. Cruz does not appear on the book, so it's likely that he was no longer affiliated with the series. These small format comics (5.25"x8") all feature glossy photo covers picturing the burly Santo stand-in. Judging by the age of the cars appearing in the stories, these issues could be reprints for the first series of the early 1950s. The publisher was Editora Cinco and this series was again printed in Columbia.
While Santo was by far the most popular wrestling hero in comics, he was by no means the only one to star in his own series. In the late 1960s, Huracan Ramirez appeared in, Huracan Ramirez El Invencible. Like the Santo comics, these were photo paste-up books. This title was produced by Juan Rodriguez and ran for at least 48 issues.
Blue Demon had his own comic in the mid 1970s. Like the third Santo series, the Blue Demon comics were printed in Columbia. The first 22 (or 23) issues were of standard size 6.25"x9.25," but from issue 24 on, they were the smaller sized 5.25"x8" volumes. This series ran at least 34 issues and once again featured photo paste-ups, rather than hand-drawn artwork on the inside panels.
There have been several mini comics produced in Mexico, with actual wrestlers as the stars. In the late 1980's a series began called, Sensacional de Luchas. This small format book measured only 4.5x5.75." It featured a rotating group of wrestling heroes who would take turns starring in individual plot lines. These comics told their stories in colorful hand-drawn panels, much like U.S. super hero books. Among the Luchadors featured were, Rayo de Jalisco and Blue Panther. This series was produced by Editorial EJEA, and as far as I know, it is still being published today. (It was up to issue #468 in September of 1994.)
Tinieblas, and his alien sidekick Alushe, had their own series beginning in 1991. These mini (4.5x5.75") books had great, lurid covers and like the Sensacional de Luchas series, they were produced by Editorial EJEA. These comics had colorful, hand-drawn (rather than photo paste-up) panels. The Tinieblas series ran for at least 23 issues.
It is also rumored, that Neutron had a series of photo paste-up comics in the early to mid 1960s. However, I have yet to find a copy nor have I spoken to anyone who has one.
In addition to the masked wrestler comics, two very popular Mexican comic books bear mentioning. Like Santo, Chanoc and Kaliman both starred in a long-running comic series, in which they often faced supernatural foes. And also like Santo, they were each brought to the screen in a series of adventure films.
The above information only scratches the surface of wrestling hero comics. What we know is woefully incomplete, since there seem to be no reference sources to obtain more complete information. We know that the Tinieblas series ran for at least 23 issues, only because we have issue #23. For all we know, it could have been published much longer. Hopefully, as time passes, and more fans get involved in collecting Luchador comic books, we will begin to get a better picture of just what has been produced over the years. But for now, we'll just have to settle for learning a little at a time. We'll keep you posted!