Turma da Mônica (Monica’s Gang) is a popular Brazilian comic book series. The series was created by Mauricio de Sousa, who signs his work as “Mauricio”. Plots are centered on the adventures of a group of seven-year-old friends in the fictional neighborhood of “Bairro do Limoeiro” in São Paulo. The neighborhood was inspired by the neighborhood of Cambuí, in Campinas.
The four main characters are Monica (Mônica), Jimmy Five (Cebolinha), Smudge (Cascão), and Maggy (Magali).
Mauricio began his comic universe in 1959 with a newspaper comic strip titled Bidu, printed on Folha da Manhã, the newspaper where Mauricio worked as police reporter. Cebolinha followed in 1960. The character Mônica first saw the light of day in 1963. Comic books featuring the characters started appearing: Mônica (1970), Cebolinha (1972), and many more. The stories have been translated to several languages and sold in dozens of countries. The series has been running steadily for over forty years, and generated uncountable spin-offs in the realms of merchandising, animated cartoons, video games, theme parks, and more. Mauricio employs a large staff on his company Estúdios Mauricio de Sousa to execute these projects.
The characters are drawn in a simple cartoon style and the stories often finish with a happy ending. In the end of each comic book, there are three panels with a quick joke, such as newspaper strips. Compared with the Peanuts characters, Monica’s gang is less reflective and a bit more fantastic, less psychological and more active.
Characters often break the fourth wall, acknowledging they are performing or even talking to the writers from inside the papersheet. In some stories, they go “behind the sets”, as if they were filming a TV show or a movie. The main characters also make fun of other characters by being secondaries (Sunny, a yellow-haired boy is the one that is most mocked by being a secondary character). Other is a recently returned character called Manezinho (Little Foul in Brazilian Portuguese), that is referred by Smudge as “the new secondary character”).
To avoid any copyright problems, when referring to any person, company or band, Mauricio writes something similar, resulting in word plays. Examples: Coca-Cola = Tota-Tóia; Michael Jackson = Maicou Jeca; Titãs = Tantãs; and so on.
Another interesting fact is the appearance of clubs popping up, which are named after references from this cartoon (see comments). When the women want to have a womens night out, they sometimes call it Clube de Luluzinha and when its guys night out, its Clube de Bolinha.
For those looking to learn Portuguese, sometimes you have to start with the basics (cartoons). There are plenty of Youtube videos of Monicas Gang online and also an offical site where Im sure one can find many comic strips.