12 October 2006 18 March 2007
Mirada Art Gallery, Ravenna
Con Danijel Zezely, Vittorio Giardino, Raùl, Giuseppe Palumbo, BeccoGiallo, Ramize Erer, Mehmet Çağçağ, Tuncay Akgün, Güneri İçoğlu
CHARACTER / CHARACTERS
by Elettra Stamboulis
The best way to look at the things of this world is upside down.
It’s not been a long time since I have finally understood that we must live with our point of view and that’s it. Keep looking with one eye open and one closed. If in the aftermath of minimalism, post-modern, relativism, scepticism and all –isms trailing behind us there is still someone who relies on the vision of an omniscient narrator (one who knows the story a priori, knows that it will have an happy ending), please come forward without hesitations. I unfortunately have the impression that most people lack this courage. I have the feeling that Alice’s looking glass has been moved: sleep has taken the place of wake and the dream of narration has seized the fertility of reality. We probably live a post-baroque era, where theatricality has long replaced reality. Just add the wigs and topcoats…
Narration, besides, is always in a fictitious relation with to the story told. Everything is misshapen: time, relations, perceptions. Comics expose this falsehood, using a language that is symbolic par excellence, drawing. A useful way to look at things upside down.
The swapping of the role from narrator to narrated, always in the first person, has become a praxis in comics too. Ego rules also in graphic novels, although we know from literary critics that often a narrating ego hides the search for decentralisation, for a distance.
We live a time of very narrow routes: even the scene of reality comics is dominated by the triad Sacco – Satrapi – Zograf (and as for all triads the third may change, as in poetry). Not only for their quality, also because they tend to subjugate their narration to an arbitrary point of view. They are there, on the verge of their cartoon, marking a limit to what they maintain and tell. At the same time their physical presence increases ostentation of trueness, which is however always a relative trueness. A brave reporter saying: “Look, I was there, that’s how it was…” is no longer enough. Unbelief generally prevails. The creation of opinion follows increasingly winding and difficult paths.
In this edition we chose to present very different authors, for their sign and style, who are however similar in their lack of autobiographical impetus. Although different one from the other, they all chose to tell stories that are far from their selves, and their portrait appears only in the rhythm of the story, the choice of lines or their absence. But they do not really tell their own story. They feed on other people’s stories, they follow other trails. They chase the recreation of the atmosphere of a lost Europe (Giardino, Raùl), they reconstruct the suspended lives of metropolitan suburbs (Zezelj), they assemble lost chunks of Italian and foreign news in modes that partly remind of docu-fiction (BeccoGiallo) or simply read our daily life and de-sacralise it (LeMan’s authors). They all use other characters to make their choice in reading reality, guiding us to a different training and evaluation of the arbitrariness of our point of view.
Another one will say:
I bet it’s a character.
The first will answer:
The second will say:
Yes, but only in symbolic terms.
No, in reality; symbolically you have lost.
KAFKA (quoted by G. GENETTE, Figure III, Torino 1976)
DANIJEL ZEZELJ, THE SORROW OF ABSENCE
by Sergio Nazzaro
For half of the year I spoke the Dalmatian dialect,
For the other half that of Sarajevo,
But nobody believed me
Because they knew that I’m always
going where I’m not and
speaking the language I do not speak.
It’s amazing, disquieting and also astonishing. To the bone of Zezelj’s art. No tricks nor treats, down to the essence of the critic’s burden: indicate what to do.
But how poor is the critic and his words. We are forced to use those words, handle them and put them on paper, gazing enviously at those who master the stave, who discuss without words. Zezelj deserves the same gaze, wordless most of the time. And then the written word should trace, in a limited space, the boundary of absence?
No thanks, I would say.
I sold Danijel books, at many fairs, I did not only read them and admire them. I was surprised by the silence of hands caressing the paper. I always wondered about suspended phrases, trying to say why that book was so important. Whatever the title. An unconditional surrender. A hand passing the money, in general without a smile, not even a Majakovskij smile. Rather an accomplish gaze, saying something like “I know what I’m going to face”. And another bit of absence lost in the crowd.
But what is the sorrow of absence, Danijel? What is it? Pages tower on the reader and, whenever you start thinking that it’s some kind of exercise, melancholy grabs your throat. No, it’s not a joke. You’re not looking for the admiration that is caused by vertigo. Your pages hide an absence, in a kind of dystopic horror vacui, and they highlight it. They show a sorrow that does not always succeed in being neat. It surges all of a sudden, furious, passionate. Could it be that using concepts like sorrow and absence appears as an intellectual game? Yes it could, but only migrating souls can understand the words by the damned, Roger Nimier: “Sorrow, of course, is man meeting his cardinal points”.
Among plates and experimentations, contrasting shades, you carry out an uncertain search for the path leading home. A path to calm the nightmares of those who quit their country. Recreate a world, starting from ink particles.
Or maybe restlessness means covering up the traces of desertion. The Man from the Balkans started to draw when the party was over, when the night crumbled on the music of desolation. It’s like rural weddings in Eastern Europe: violins and trumpets sing out their folly at first, then they voice sorrow and contemplation. And maybe Daniel started to draw at midnight in the garden of good and evil. Maybe the garden was that of half tones. And as the smoke of a Snagoy piles up in your lungs, so do the traits of his plates. Leaving layers on layers of what will then be lost, absent, but which now makes you cough and breaks yourself in two.
Absence, more presence.
And again I steal from Jergovic the words I can not find in this selfishly personal text, advancing like a forgetful customer in a kocsma: “Sorrow is immortal and continues even when those who suffer have gone”. This is, to me, the sense of Zezelij prose made of images. Of course we could discuss much longer and about much more, but those who are absent would remain absent. The sound of words, spoken or written, cannot cover the awkwardness of the void. And the fact that sheets are covered with geometrics and stories is no use, we know it very well, Danijel and I: but still it comforts. There is a blind corner in each of his stories. Take the underground, for example: any underground would do, in any city, rush hour, crowd, tussle, the clattering of the train mixing with the geometrics of the bowels of the earth. The real clutching of one to the other, nearly without a touch. That’s one of Zezelij’s blind corners, where stories are formed. Empty spaces, real solitudes. Lift your eyes up for a moment: bodies, metal, underground curves, eliminate the colours of the rainbow, only black and white. There seems to be life. Concrete, structures and infrastructure, different races, different clothes and faces. There seems to be life. It’s a mistake: there’s only silence and absence. Lower your gaze and you’ll notice, between the feet, between the hands, empty spaces that avoid touching each other. Spaces that look like balloons. But there is no lettering, never. Someone gets off the underground and whispers: a semitone of reality.
And cursing the funeral address of the nine art, Rex speaks with the words of James Vance: “Fumbling about in the dark trying to care for those you love, terrorised they might realise how scared you are to mess things up, but still you keep going, because someone counts on you… that’s what man does. That’s the only thing a man can do”. And the only thing an illustrator can do, I sadly add.
bodies, metal, underground curves, eliminate the colours of the rainbow, only black and white. There seems to be life. Concrete, structures and infrastructure, different races, different clothes and faces. There seems to be life. It’s a mistake: there’s only silence and absence. Lower your gaze and you’ll notice, between the feet, between the hands, empty spaces that avoid touching each other. Spaces that look like balloons. But there is no lettering, never. Someone gets off the underground and whispers: a semitone of reality.
And cursing the funeral address of the nine art, Rex speaks with the words of James Vance: “Fumbling about in the dark trying to care for those you love, terrorised they might realise how scared you are to mess things up, but still you keep going, because someone counts on you… that’s what man does. That’s the only thing a man can do”. And the only thing an illustrator can do, I sadly add.
by Daniele Bonomo
There are a series of recurring elements when dealing with Vittorio Giardino.
First of all his determination to follow the career of drawing comics, which is something of a legend. Engineer Giardino actually abandoned his profession to devote himself fully to graphic literature, drawing short stories for reviews until the publication, in 1982 when he was around thirty years old, of his first book: Rapsodia Ungherese (Hungarian Rapsody).
From that moment on he chose to devote himself solely to the career of graphic novel illustrator, a choice encouraged by the fact that, already with his first book, he had won important national and international awards.
Moreover, when talking about him his passion for the cinema is often mentioned, the idea that drawings are functional to the story, the fact that he misses the sound and music, in comics, and the way in which he describes History.
History is a subject he loves, and on which he likes to build his works.
He chooses well known historic events, like the fall of the Berlin wall in Jonas Fink or the Spanish Civil War in No pasarán, and he picks an unfamiliar point of view, his main characters being always, in spite of themselves, in a cone of shade of events.
Spain, 1938, a friend who has disappeared, bombs that keep exploding, foreign journalists rushing to look for news from the front line, Max Fridman and his pipe. These are the ingredients of a story that might as well be happening in a much nearer past: it could be happening in the Balkans and describe anti-personnel mines, with much the same power and emotion. Emotion is the first thing that reaches the reader. Direct, simple and in perfect harmony with dialogues, colours and the graphic sign.
The clear lines of the plates of No pasarán indicate a school of drawing originating from the synthetic stroke of Hergé’s Tin Tin and Edgar P. Jacobs’ Blake and Mortimer. That’s why opening an illustrated book by Giardino leads the reader into a world that looks like that of Tin Tin, but with a much more adult drawing and contents for which Hergé’s hero should at least have grown a beard. Is it really only by chance that Max Fridman and Tin Tin share the same hair colour? And that Blake and Mortimer smoke a pipe too?
Another typical feature of Giardino’s drawings is his attention to details: settings are dealt with with the same attention devoted to his characters, everything is in place and nothing is left to chance. Paintings, furniture, buildings and machines, everything is carefully studied, based on the tradition of French bandes dessinées or maybe inspired by the typical fussiness of an electronic engineer.
While for Giardino’s clear drawings the most direct mental association is that with the father of definite lines, it is much more difficult to find a landmark for his way of narrating stories. Maybe we should resort to literature (Graham Greene), to the cinema (Billy Wilder) or to comics (Hugo Pratt), or maybe we should simply stoop looking for who owes what to whom, and think that Giardino is the author we all know thanks to influences o many kinds.
His concentration on the story, besides his attention to drawings, is probably the plus that made it possible to distribute his works in about twenty countries all over the world, including China, Taiwan and Iceland.
Both trilogies, Jonas Fink and No pasaràn, have reached their second volume and have a very adult way of using comics as a true cultural tool. The idea is that of telling personal tales set in a real historical background, while the reader experiences a deep curiosity and interest as to history and its events. Such curiosity is partially satisfied by the introduction to the books, with a short summary of events at the time in which the story takes place. A necessary foreword to help the reader enter the atmosphere of the work in a conscious way, always trying to merge reality and imagination avoiding rhetoric and commonplace.
Well, maybe… Certainly Robert Capa would not tremble like that for a couple of bombs…
And how can you know? Have you ever seen him in action?
No, but I know his photographs by heart.
Well, I know him personally!
This dialogue, featuring a trembling Max Fridman after a bombing, talking to a young photographer, expresses the very essence of Giardino’s narrative skill, his ability to make what he describes highly credible. According to Giardino, Fridman knows the famous photographer Robert Capa, and as Fridman knows Capa then Giardino knows Fridman, his past, his family, in an endless mix of real and imaginary tales that give a great charm to his works.
What is real and what is imaginary merge against an historic backdrop, creating a special alchemy, unfortunately largely underrated by the Italian public.
No pasaràn plates however offer at least a pair of certainties: comics are a cultural product and Vittorio Giardino is one of the masters of the art of telling stories by drawings.
RAÙL: THE PROTEUS OF SPANISH COMICS
by Elettra Stamboulis
The history of Spanish comics is a mirror of the troubled political history of the country: the first graphic novel in Catalan was issued in 1904, and yet comics were marginalised to children’s books until the seventies, with only a few rare exceptions of artist’s works and a mass production with a demagogic and self-righteous flavour. The word itself, tebeo, which together with historieta identifies Spanish comics, comes from the acronym TBO referring to a famous illustrated magazine which was substantially for children. During the Franco regime in fact, the medium of comics was used with a didactic and educational purpose, as a tool for the diffusion of a male chauvinist and authoritative ideology, strongly controlled by censorship.
Whenever we confront this world of comics, we must always keep its young age in mind, in order to appreciate the incredible variety and high quality of authors coming from the Iberian Peninsula. In 2002 an important selection, organised by Miguel Angel Martin, was presented in Naples Comicon. It included exceptional artists, a little locos but certainly with a great character, stylistic virtuosos with many things to say.
The Spanish production has however slowed down considerably over the last few years. Historic review as El Vibora have disappeared, and the market is a nearly absolute duopoly of Marvel and mangas, with a very restricted space for different productions, so much so that Bonelli’s characters have never been successful, unlike what has happened in many other European countries. Paradoxically, it is therefore relatively easier than elsewhere to come across with extraordinary authors like Ràul, with his chameleonic ability to change style and use different techniques and modes of expression without losing his drawing identity. His curriculum goes very clearly in this direction: he has threads on all paths that illustration may take. From a graphic novel written by Felipe H. Cava to animated cartoon for important American majors to comic strips for daily papers. He is a versatile hard worker of illustration, switching in the same book from a French bande dessinée style to pictorial plates that would deserve a place in a museum of fine arts. His craftsmanship is however not mannerism: he does not follow the trail of other illustrators to copy them or show off his ability. His choice is much more intriguing and subtle. He is a blade runner of style as a vehicle of message, something detached from words and from the power of the sequence. His drawings are part of the narration of the story as an element bringing sense, not only images.
The change in signs, colour and style goes along with the action, in particular in a work like Berlin 1931 . In this work there is a nearly schizoid application of style to content: in the first chapter The king of Congo, the hopes and dreams of the two boys in the fragile Weimar Republic are represented by a drawing which, sticking to its pictorial quality, appears to the protagonist’s eyes (enlarged and round, hinting at the style of mangas) as very classic, in the French way; in the second story, Just dreams, Raùl on the contrary verges on Grosz and his cruelty. And the story is ruthless, a nameless fragment without details describing the end of a dream, of hopes. The death of a woman with the tattoo of a bird, “These women, they are often tattooed with birds…”. Only the comments of the police detective and his colleague: “Bolsheviks. Cinema. Just dreams”. “As the tattoo”.
The sternness of the dialogue is countered by the meaning of signs, by what emerges in our gaze when we observe the representation. It’s a process of déjà vu, a visual recognition allowing us to recall, acknowledge and plunge ourselves in the German world between the two wars, a world that comes back trough artistic memory. The Dadaist deformation, the use of collage and etching, in the continuation of the story, turn more and more into pictorial dissolution. They are no longer comic strips, they are true paintings. Each tells a story, as only a painting can do. I might hesitate in defining all this as comics, if I did not thoroughly honour and respect the art of comics. Images turn more and more into shades, figurative expression fades and, in the epilogue, it disappears turning into a black and white aquarelle with acid insertions. Spots that announce a hecatomb that we still find it hard to believe, that of the Second World War.
This mimetic choice of Raùl continues with A window on the west , always in partnership with Felipe H. Cava, the visual diary of a trip to Russia in 1990. Just a moment before the end… there again comes this fascination of vertigo in investigating the crumbling of hope. The end of the path. The portraits made in the streets, markets and shops of this strange country remind the author of his grandparents, his genealogy lost in the troubled history of Spain. Different geographical setting, same suffering. And his sign becomes often tragic, made by charcoal, sometimes voluntarily grotesque. And yet you never forget that its mission is communicating: it becomes symbolic, recovers the style of the primitivists. Maybe to mark the comeback to primitivism of a society on the verge of the vertigo of something new. Abstract signs appear but all of a sudden the figurative approach comes back: Raùl imposes a style that recalls that of a scratch board. We must keep adjusting our eye, keep asking ourselves what is being told and what this proteans sign tell us.
I believe that, over and above all, the most peculiar gift of this extraordinary Iberian illustrator is synthesis. I came to be absolutely sure of that when I saw his illustrations that appeared for many years on El Pais. As a print illustrator he is more stable in style and yet the principle of one sign one meaning is always valid. We know very well how alphabetic writing has accustomed the human sight to symbolic deciphering, the passage from a sign code to a translated image: this type of procedure is defined sequential intelligence . If we look at an image, on the contrary, we make use of simultaneous intelligence. There is no hierarchy, something that must be read before or after, as in the case of sequential intelligence, in which we always have to follow a strict and rigid succession. In his illustrations and in his work with comics, Raùl can be understood only by using not only simultaneous intelligence but sequential intelligence as well. There is always something underlying, a writing that’s like a watermark, a symbolic order that must be followed to understand the meaning of the image that literally tells us the story.
A DARK ROMANCE
by Andrea Plazzi
L’ultimo treno (the last train) is a graphic novel drawn by Giuseppe Palumbo based on the short story Amore e odio gitano a Guernica (Gipsy love and hate in Guernica) by Massimo Carlotto. It is an altogether different form of cooperation as compared to other examples in the field of transpositions of literary works, difficult projects producing a few masterpieces (including Hoffman, Poe, Melville and Maupassant as interpreted by Dino Battaglia) and a long list of failures and absurd operations.
The main character of the original tale is a gipsy, who enrols in the republican army to avenge the extermination of his family, massacred in the Guernica bombing. During the civil war he is involved in a love affair with a tragic epilogue, marking his whole future life and eventually his death.
Massimo Carlotto is a celebrated writer, successful among the large public and well known for his personal commitment. He is interested in alternative forms of expression, besides the written word, and he both approaches them personally (he writes theatrical texts) and by entrusting his stories to others: his texts have inspired movies, plays and various comics (although L’ultimo treno was the first one).
Giuseppe Palumbo has been writing and drawing comics for about twenty years now, he his well known for his versatility, adaptability and professionalism, dissolving the often purely instrumental borders between “artistic” and “popular” (or commercial) comics. He is accustomed to writing texts for a few selected stories and to working with a range of very different script-writers. And yet, even when he works with somebody else, Palumbo always leaves his mark, going beyond his very personal graphic style. He approaches other artist’s works with the utmost respect, which has earned him the esteem of his colleagues, but always makes the stories he works on his own.
In the case of L’ultimo treno the story (but also the script, the words) is strong, passionate. Palumbo adapts it with minimal variations, with a script based on images underlined by captions that come unchanged from the original text. And yet the visual dimension is typically that of a graphic novel, very distant from the written word: in that Palumbo (who must certainly appreciate Borges) adds personal contributions in a relentless interaction of memories and associations. They are not quotations, as Palumbo would never indulge in such a “learned” manoeuvre, it is rather a loving texture of echoes and cross-references, with a faint and disquieting circular nature. A sort of inconspicuous winking, by which Palumbo gives us a chance to trace back his trail.
We therefore discover that the betrayed gipsy on the run has been given the looks of the Andalusian artist José Ortega, once a guest of Franco’s prisons and whose life story crossed that of the Palumbo family in the town of Matera. In that same town, in 1975, Fernando Arrabal directed the movie L’albero di Guernica (Guernica’s tree) and there, today, Palumbo finds the traces of the movie set that charmed him when he was a child (and probably learned what Guernica was). A town that Palumbo’s elegant impressionist strokes, chosen among the many techniques he masters, turn into the village of Guernica.
From the Basque Guernica to Arrabal’s Guernica, passing through Matera, where José Ortega, in exile, felt at home.
Jessica Abel, a clever USA artist, defined L’ultimo treno “a dark romance”, a gloomy love story. It’s a beautiful expression, very clear but also difficult to translate into Italian, in its Anglo-Saxon dryness. It provides an emotional key that goes beyond the plot and its personal tragedies.
L’ultimo treno is about gipsy melancholy, Basque fierceness and the strength with which circumstances overwhelm people’s life. It’s about the Spanish Civil War, a conflict which is crucial to the history of Europe, triggering extreme tensions and unruly drives. As any civil war, it split and tore the country. A posteriori, it’s a shared opinion that it did protect Spain against the carnage of the second world war, but the price to pay was a conflict causing a huge bloodshed, a ruthless repression and forty years of brutally fascist dictatorship, cruel towards dissidents, minorities and local identities. The following thirty years of democratic regime only succeeded in starting a slow healing process, uneven and far from obvious, as shown by the persistence of the Basque affair. L’ultimo treno deals with, or at least give us the feeling of, all that, in a little more than forty pages. But it’s probably not enough.
Carlotto and Palumbo themselves must have felt that they only succeeded in telling part of the story, or at least that they still is more to be said, as they are working on it again, possibly to enlarge it and turn it into a true graphic novel.
What we expect is not simply an adjustment to a more interesting format, nearer to publishing standards, but a truly new work, far reaching from a narrative and visual viewpoint, meeting the high expectations that its authors inspire.
WE ALL LOVE PALUMBO!
by Niki Tzouda – Yorgos Siounas
It was way back in 1986.
We had already started, five years before, publishing in Greece the “comics (and not only that)” magazine called Babel, trying to remain as “immature” as possible, sticking to the good old utopia of permanent protest and common dreams for society. And this in a climate of cultural revival, when everything was ending. Really immature!
Himself, Giuseppe Palumbo, had just started to publish on Frigidaire, which we followed very carefully. We considered it a “sister” magazine, we had presented Frigidaire with a special issue, we had long been publishing Andrea Pazienza, Tanino Liberatore, Massimo Mattioli. And among the “young wolves” (that was how Vincenzo Sparagna called them) of Italian comics there came Giuseppe. With Ramarro, his masochist superhero.
We met that year (In Lucca? Or was it Naples, when Andrea Pazienza suddenly left the group of friends and fans to draw on a wall a wonderful horse?). Palumbo was a boy who loved Greece maybe because he had studied classics, he was open, joyful, with a huge talent, charismatic. Luckily we aroused his interest, being Greek and publishers of comics.
We soon discovered that he was a “movement” in himself! With a great will to create, understand and help other people, contribute to collective goals, give. (“Giving” is the key word of his personality). After years and among friends, we gave to this “movement” a name: Palumbism!
He started publishing just when the magazines featuring “artistic comics” were entering a deep crises, which caused nearly all of them (and they were numerous) to close down towards the end of the eighties. (Babel survived thanks to the support of authors like Palumbo and to that “not only comics” feature that gave us the chance to deal also with themes like drug abuse, AIDS, detention, the environment and politics, that is protest movements spawning here and there).
by Viola Giacometti
BeccoGiallo publishers is a brand new company focussing on graphic novels. It was established in Treviso in April 2005 and deals with stories that concern Italian and international current affairs, subdivided into three series: Crime, History and the recently established Foreign Affairs. The common element of the three series is a careful and well documented presentation of facts, entrusted to the language of comics. The original idea comes from the simple consideration that interest in current affairs is growing, especially in TV-shows, non-fiction and in the phenomenon of documentary fact-finding movies, while comics are only marginally affected. As explained by the founders of the publishing company, Guido Ostanel, Federico Zaghis and Max Rizzotto, the publishing project originated from the common passion for literature in the form of fact-finding journalism and documentaries attributing a central role to images. The project is absolutely unique in that it proposes a formula that skilfully joins the analytical approach of reports, the narrative of novels and the visual directness of comics, considered as a unique device providing a hinge to which all the features connect. The ductile and yielding nature of comics, so often misunderstood by high ranking art experts, is constantly resorted to and exploited by the various authors in their reports. The choices of BeccoGiallo are guided by its intention to work on a specific genre of graphic novel, certainly related to the growing success of this type of books in Italy but not only that. The specific genre is to be one in which the historic and fact-finding pregnancy of what is described is entrusted to a personal interpretation of the notion of “narrating by drawing”, in an uninterrupted mixing of genres and visual evocation. Illustrators are often young, almost unknown, working on the chosen theme and more often than not also writing their own script. Each illustrated report is followed by more text and drawings to provide further material on the case: interviews, judicial documents, commentaries by criminologists and a dedicated bibliography for further reference.
The first volume, Unabomber, which opened the publications of BeccoGiallo, is very typical of its editorial line, reaffirmed by the volumes that followed. The book, written by Igor Mavric, a young author of docu-films, and illustrated by the even younger Paolo Cossi, who won the 2004 edition of the Albertarelli award as best young Italian author, clearly refers to classic crime stories. Mavric’s script is often unrelenting, especially in dialogues between detectives, but also now and then intimate, with silent images. Cossi himself offers at least two stylistic registers: the sequences concerning the two detectives are clear, the drawing is clean and genuine and there is a definite contrast between black and white, light and shade, while those depicting the mysterious Unabomber and its victims are gloomy, with a blurred tract in which grey dominates and the approach to the page is nearly pictorial. Pordenone, the province of Belluno in 1933, Milan in the post-war period, the town of Correggio in Emilia are a few of the locations featured in the Crime series.
The first volume, Unabomber, was followed by I delitti of Porto Alleghe (the Murders of Porto Alleghe), illustrated by Gianluca Manconi, winner of the best illustrator award at Torino Comics in 2004, and written by the author of documentaries Andrés Maraviglia. The authors set up a very well structured narration, alternating pages full of dialogues with moments in which the image stands alone, tending to a low and flat horizontality, or on the contrary expands to occupy all the available space, offering urban landscapes seen from above or the close up of a terrified face.
In the volume La saponificatrice di Correggio (The soap-boiler of Correggio) Erika De Pieri carefully and meticulously reconstructs the story of Leonarda Cianciulli, a second-hand clothes and home-made cookies dealer put on trial in 1914 for a series of horrible murders. Published in full colours, the book is an intense visual interpretation of the story, on the verge of the horror genre. This is the author’s first illustrated report: she has produced very well drawn plates, full and crowded, where symmetry and regular contours are often lost in favour of an overlapping of characters. The result is that of crowded pages that are nearly visionary, with a trembling and ashy light that reminds the light of candles.
The story of Rina Fort, written by Max Rizzotto and illustrated by Andrea Vivaldo, is told from various perspectives. The tale of the crime of passion, perpetrated by a young woman from Milan in the winter of the year 1946, is based on a meticulous reconstruction of the echo of her case on the media. In this book as well, the visual rendering is extremely effective. Vivaldo skilfully interprets the glossy images of women’s magazines of that time, replicating hairstyles and poses of divas, accelerating and slowing down the rhythm of narration by cutting the sequence in thin slanted slices or focussing on a moment, a dialogue or an expression of the face that suddenly invades the whole page. He also plays with the various fonts of that time, so that letters themselves become illustrations.
The series of History chronicles is dedicated to collective memory. As for Crime chronicles, the working method is very rigorous, marked by a philological study of facts. Some stories offer a nearly personal interpretation of the author, leaving only a small space to facts and their journalistic narration. The series starts from the region Friuli then moves to Bologna in the aftermath of the notorious train-station attack and narrates the episode of Chernobyl accident.
Il terremoto del Friuli 1976 (Friuli earthquake 1976) is the first volume of the series. Written and illustrated by Paolo Cossi, it reconstructs the dramatic event that caught up the inhabitants of the Friuli region in May 1976, in particular those living in the village of Gemona del Friuli. The author describes the tragedy in a simple and participative way by telling the story of some inhabitants, with the same experimental drive used for Unabomber, looking for new graphic solutions for each page and each sequence.
Paolo Parisi, author of various plates for Selfcomics, Donna Bavosa and others, wrote and illustrated Chernobyl, di cosa sono fatte le nuvole (Chernobyl, what clouds are made of). Leaving facts in the background, the author creates a few characters, all irretrievably involved in the tragedy: the boy Sasha, the journalist Aleksandr Lukasuk and his friend doctor Petr Kovalevnko and Nina, a woman that is now all alone and cannot accept the death of her two children. Parisi has a stern way of narrating, with just a few dialogues and long wordless sequences marked by his light and slender trait.
One of the latest volumes of the series of History chronicles, with an introduction by the writer Carlo Lucarelli, is the one dedicated to Bologna massacre, La strage di Bologna, written by Alex Boschetti, author of the novel Nera Neve (Black Snow), and illustrated by Anna Ciammitti. The book is a reconstruction of the train-station terrorist attack of August the 2nd, presenting and developing all the investigation theories taken into account.
This book as well reaffirms the importance of the painstaking work of BeccoGiallo publishers, in which facts-telling comics find a definition and the strength of a “chronicle” (literally: concerning time) in reconstructing, telling and understanding.
TURKEY LAUGHING: AN INTERVIEW TO THE EDITORS OF THE MAGAZINE LEMAN
curated by Elettra Stamboulis
This is the result of an interview with one of the founders of the turkish magazine LeMan, Mehmet Çagçag, and somehow also to another master of the same magazine, Tuncay Akgün. I thought it would be unuseful to present also questions as far as from the answers you can understand the contest. Reading, you will see it is the story of a comics magazine, but at the same time it offers a view of turkish society in the last years.
I was born in 1959. I studied at the fine arts faculty of Mimar Sinan University in Istanbul. During my education I started taking my caricatures to the world’s third biggest humour magazine: Gırgır. That magazine was a phenomenon in Turkey. It had a circulation of 500.000 copies weekly. As it had been read by mostly high school-university students, young people; these people left the magazine after they finished reading, at the cafes, in the classrooms, on the tables…So, according to the researches, at least 2 500 000 people were reading the magazine each week.
The magazine, which was 16 pages, reached the peak during the military junta. Because while no one could oppose, we could draw the junta generals on our covers. While the newspapers could not write one single word, we could draw characters resembling the generals and oppose, criticise in the hardest possible way. And we could do that with funny jokes, in a very entertaining way.
Being the caricaturists at the best positions of Gırgır, there was something limiting us. The magazine was being read by the whole society : from kids to old people , from conservatives to democrats… Everybody read it, so the magazine had to please everyone , respect everyone… We started a little getting bored of not being able to draw the things we want to draw.
The fight for freedom was not only against the junta for us. Oppose against fachists, radical islamic communities, taboos, feodality, political and cultural imperialistic elements… That could not be possible in Gırgır So in 1986, we as a group of caricaturists, decided to seperate and established a new magazine Limon , which today keeps living under the name LeMan
We were marginal compared to Gırgır, Gırgır was main-stream… But in time, Gırgır vanished slowly, we survived. 5 years with Limon, 15 years with LeMan, we became an “ecole” in 20 years after Gırgır.
Our style is sweet-bitter, entertaining opposition, critisizm.
3rd page of LeMan contains criticism about events, news, people, activities. Two writers write articles (mostly) about political issues , critics, researches, literature, sociology, history…
The rest is social humour with drawing and writing. Our humour generally contains state and condition of turkish people: family, youth, older people, conservatives…And characters based on the popular figures… And particular caricatures…
The last page of the magazine is our source, fountain of new caricaturists. Young, amateur caricaturists meet the readers here, their development can be observed and some of them jump into the magazine from here and become professionals.
LeMan has a activist , actionist attitude too. Turkey’s biggest civil society activity “Sürekli Aydınlık için Bir Dakika Karanlık” was initiated by Can Yücel in LeMan Cafe . He turned the whole lights off first. (that was an activity like turning off the all lights every night at 9 o’clock in 1997 . And was very succesfull. Can Yücel was a very important poet. He wrote his poems in LeMan in his last years. We lost him in 1999).
In Limon’s first days, The Junta General became the president of republic, a character named “netekim” created in Limon (“netekim” was the one word the General used a lot to combine two sentences and he pronounced it wrong. İt meant “as a matter of fact”) And the book of this character was the best seller of those years. On the other hand , the immigration from rural areas to the big cities was starting to speed up in those years.The collision between the culture of city people and the immigrants’ culture during the process of urbanisation was the other subject to work on for Limon. Our fight was to enlarge our space of freedom in a period of pressure. What we wrote and draw became subject to thesis’of universities in those days.
The caricaturists like to tell the stories by using characters. That is the skill, talent, mastery part of the work. A good caricaturist create a character in time and by this way he/she forms a better contact with the reader and can impress him/herself better to the reader.
The characters, the heroes of us dont have the super-over natural powers but the ones who has the power makes fun of the american heroes.
This is a character created by Ahmet Yılmaz.
This is a man : opposing, positive conservative, sceptic to the new values, very respectful and protective for the old values but, on the other hand , dreaming of turkish people to go to outer space one day . Sitting with his undershirt and underpants all the time with a glass of tea, he is the most typical turkish father.
This is a character created by Kaan Ertem.
This is a heroic character with super powers. He is against the stupidity, cunning, evil… He has many original methods of punishment. He generally ends up the punishment by throwing the evil to the outer space. Non of the ideas, thoughts,opinions from human-beings can surprise him. Everything in the universe is normal to Erkut Abi, all the humans are abnormal.
This is a character created by Tuncay Akgün.
He is slow, he is calm. He always sat or lie down over his cushions with his cats and his water pipe (nargile). He is a cheer up, relief for people who feel defeated against the speed of our time. He is an activist, an actionist too. He is intellectual but we feel this not because of his talking but because of his actions and his attitude against the events. “Bezgin Bekir” is now and adjective in daily language to describe a certain type of people.
Daral & Timsah:
These are characters created by Mehmet Çagçag.
These characters’ names are used as an adjective in daily language too.
Daral is the son of a ver rich father who is searching for the meaning of life. His mother died when he was a child, his father raised him. He has a huge gap in his soul, he can’t fill it, he is very much bored and he does not know what to do.When they meet, in spite of the truth that they have nothing in common, Daral gets connected to Timsah very strongly. Timsah is broke but to jump to a higher class he likes to live like a bourgeois. He is not intellectual, his world is set on trade marks, luxury and sex. He is a Casanova. This character Timsah has became one of the most popular characters of turkish youth. In the first years I created Timsah, he was extreme and imaginary. But today this character has no originality because there are millions of young turkish people like him.
This is a character created by Mehmet Çagçag.
He is a taxi driver. He is ignorant, rude, vulgar but courageous and aggressive. He is coming from the village and insisting living in his rules in the city. He is immoral but he is very moralist.He has a girlfriend: Şehriye wearing, covering her head with scarf (turban) and he has a tansvestite lover: Fethi. He runs into a different adventure each week. This is one of the most entertaining characters.
This is a character created by Güneri İçoglu.
This character is an old Istanbul gentleman, a musician, a “neyzen” (reed flute player). He lives in an old Istanbul district placed on Bosphorus, surrounded by old wooden houses. Gönül Adamı and his french friend Jean Pierre always argue about theWest and the East . He throws simit (tukish round bread with sesames) to the seagulls while travelling the bosphorus by boat (vapur), helps the old style fishermen, runs to help if there is an old wooden house on fire…
There is always a tear drop on his eyes because he cant stand to see the big buildings taking place of the old houses one by one.
Gönül Adamı too, is an adjective used in the daily language, to describe certain type of people.
Recently Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, opened a lawsuit against me. As the owner of the magazine 13 000 euros and as the caricaturist 13 000 euros , total 26 000 euros. Conservatives are allergic to criticism. This is the 4th lawsuit to the caricatures from the prime minister. The legend magazine Gırgır had a legend editor that all Turkey knows: Oguz Aral. He once said “God saves the drunks and the caricaturists”.
Untill now of course there has been caricaturists that god could not save . The period during military takeover in September 12, 1980, a caricaturist killed by fachists. Two people from our crew have been sentenced to stay in prison, Güneri has been put into prison, Tuncay lived a fugitive life for 15 years.
LeMan is distributed in Germany too but the new generation’s turkish cannot understand us. We use a very deep, poetic and street language . Some of the words can’t even be understood by the young people here. At one of the university panel discussions (which we participate often) , one of the readers talked to the youngest caricaturist among us : “ you are using too many old turkish and ottoman words, I can’t understand it sometimes” So it’s impossible to understand for young people in Germany. They can possibly enjoy LeMan translated into german. On the other hand there are some young turkish-german people who regularly read LeMan and come visit us. They are mostly rappers like: Ceza, Panzer Fuat, Turbo, Ayben…These young people are from the new generation from Germany… One of our caricaturists draw their biographies in LeMan.
Caricaturists are free to form their style for drawing. Interference is rare. But caricaturists are humorists first, drawing comes second for them. They see drawing as a tool to express what they want to tell. They are trying to develop a new language, style of their own. The resemblances are common among styles because there is a lot of interaction . They work side by side, all together, like they work in an atelier. That is a tradition of us. Only the masters and the ones over 40 years old send their work through the internet.
The humour magazines I know are: Mad, U Comix, Eco de savanes, Harakiri, Strapazin, Pontiki, Charlie Hebdo, Fluide Classical, Linus, Metal Hurlant.
We have a little of all these, but the least Mad, mostly Harakiri and a little Charlie Hebdo. English Viz has inspired us with it’s characters too. For example there was Altan in Linus, if he lived in Turkey, we would definitely had him in LeMan. It would be pleasure to have Manara drawing stories like “will continue next week”. There are many Manara fans here. I have seen his work in an exhibition in Germany (or Austria, I don’t remember).
In my world and my style of humour, one of the caricaturists that impressed me when I was young, was Reiser. When I grew older and mature, I was impressed by Wolinski. Two french humourists… Vullemin hits me by his expressionism.
Tuncay eats alittle, I eat a lot.
Tuncay is slow hardworker, I am fast hardworker.
Tuncay is cautious, I take the risks.
Tuncay can’t sit and work, Once I sit and start to work I can’t get up.
Tuncay talks little, I talk a lot, Güneri talks 5 times more than both of us.
Tuncay and I, we both don’t wake up before the noon.
We both prefer home made food, we both hate fast food.
We like to have our holidays in the same places, we like the same cafes .
We both have been to Italy before but not together at the same time.