Miguel Montenegro was the first portuguese to draw for Marvel and did over a thousand storyboards for many multinational companies in the advertising industry. He has, also, done work for Image Comics. He started publishing his own narratives with Psicopatos (Psychoducks – a twist on the word psychopaths, since ducks means “patos” in portuguese), a books series that depicts psychology in several short and funny stories. Psicopatos was published in portuguese and french (Les Psychocanards).
After Psicopatos, Miguel Montenegro started publishing dystopic stories in several portuguese magazines like Apocryphus or Bang!. Later on these stories were gathered in a collection called Futuroscópio (Futuroscope). As hinted by the title, the stories in Futuroscope depict possible futures – dark and ironic. Some of the stories touch the border of the politically correct in order to play with psychological concepts – Miguel Montenegro is also a clinical psychologist and uses his academic knowledge intertwined with dark humour to constructed several societies.
From story to story, Miguel Montenegro explores the future, picking some present concerns and developing them into the extreme – the extreme of vigilance, the extreme of mass ignorance and mass stunting, the detachment from science or the opposite, the total surrender to technology. Each society is depicted in a disengaged manner and each story is centered in a particular conflict that gives us the feeling of each reality.
In one story, in a peculiar society, to read is a crime. The death of the last reader is heavily celebrated. But the truth is … he is not the last reader. A young girl has experienced the act of reading and to be cured of its side effects must undergo a stunting process – she cannot have the ability to think and the happiness of ignorance is forced into her.
Another tale takes us to a place where medicine is based upon fallacies. There is no scientific method and strange believes are used to cure people. Or to fake cures. When a boy complains publicly about the current state of medicine he is taken to court, but instead of being imprisoned, he is converted into their ways and end ups fattening with the luxury life of doctors.
In some societies, happiness is imposed upon all – sometimes using superfluous elements. In others, life is degraded. Or kept at all costs. Forever. The succession of stories show us several dead ends – societies where humanity’s abilities regress. It is a scary portrait as it can easily turn out to be our future.
Miguel Montenegro also explores, sexuality and gender, creating societies with profound gender differences. In one of this societies, to want gender characteristics is considered treason. In another gender traditional roles are inverted – women are condescending and violent whereas men take care of the house and children.
You can agree or disagree with the depiction but by taking several trends to the extreme Miguel Montenegro gives us food for thought. The several realities in this book are ironic, concealing a critical tone and a heavy perspective of the future.