Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Ink, Cigars, and Mickey Mouse

Strip 3

Strip 4

Above, strips no. 3 and 4. Below, our interview with Silver, the creator of Albert the Wolf, continuing from last Friday’s post.

Silver, you were saying that in the 1950s photonovels were a huge success and largely unavoidable: was it the structure, which sits on the fence between written language and images, that led you to develop a passion for comics?

Not only the structure, but the content, too. It wasn’t just sentimental love stories for bored 1950s’ housewives – there were cowboys, sheriffs, murders, and shiny Cadillacs. And that’s how I discovered a whole new medium, one that uses drawings instead of photographs and could therefore open the door to whole new worlds: comic books.

My American peers were probably luckier than I was, at least with regards to access to comic books. I didn’t have many – there was no money to buy them and most of them had yet to be translated into Italian. But at least I had Mickey Mouse. At five years old, slowly following each word, letter by letter, I learned how to read thanks to a story called, “Mickey Mouse and the Black Orchid”. I may have been a stuttering loser, but at least I had learned how to read.

Thankfully TV was catching up too, supplying more and more American and European cartoons, and I could finally spend hours watching shows that ranged from the Adventures of Pow Wow, to the more educationally-oriented and moralistic Yugoslavian productions, to The Huckleberry Hound Show, The Alvin Show, The Flintstones and The Jetsons, Bugs Bunny and Sylvester the Cat, as well as the dozens of characters created for the popular Italian television cartoon segment called Carosello.

As the supply grew, so did my unquenchable thirst for making up new stories and new characters. Sadly, my drawing and writing skills would not cooperate. And I’m pretty sure I already mentioned that I suffered from stuttering.

On the topic of comic book characters and their authors, where you influenced by any author in particular during your childhood?

Funnily enough, the foreign authors who were behind the characters I mentioned above were very well known in Italy: Walt Disney, Hanna & Barbera, Chuck Jones… Italian authors, on the other hand, were largely neglected; ignored like problematic relatives at a Christmas dinner.

It would have been greatly encouraging to know that in my own little boot-shaped country, at the edge of the empire, lived real-life comic book authors who spoke my same language and could compete with the comic gods from across the ocean. It might have helped me to have a less passive and more proactive attitude. But, alas, I had no such luck.

Although if I have to tell the truth there is one Italian author who refused to be ignored at the Christmas dinner. His name was Jacovitti.

I never managed to tell him – except for once, if I remember correctly, over the phone – that at just over ten years old, he was the physical incarnation of my idea of the perfect, complete comic book author. At twelve years of age, I decided that when I grew up I wanted to be Jacovitti.

I saw myself doing exactly what he did – smoking his cigar, sitting beside a large drawing desk laughing at his own jokes, making funny faces in the mirror to find the right expressions to draw on his characters, spending long afternoons at the cinema watching spaghetti westerns for inspiration, coming up with new, crazy onomatopoeic words like “bànghete” and “zìppete”, signing his comic strips with a cartoony fishbone (I resolved to do the same, but with a nail), writing and drawing his stories without following a plan and going straight for the ink, with no pencil traces.

Jacovitti was everything I aspired to be. But to get anywhere close, the least I could do was learn how to draw. And so I went for it.

…to be continued.

Watch out for new posts every Tuesday and Friday.

For more information please write to info@lupoalberto.it or visit www.lupoalberto.it

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