Tuesday, 30 May 2017

The First Ten Strips

Strip 11 (click on the image to enlarge)

Strip 12 (click on the image to enlarge)

…continued from the previous post.

Why a wolf?

This is the question I get asked the most. Well, because if I had picked a pelican, you would have asked, “Why a pelican?”

We expect there to be precise reasons behind each decision authors make; we think authors always make decisions lucidly and consciously – even the most irrelevant ones. It is not always so.

Creativity constantly places us at a crossroads. Choosing which way to go is an irrational process; it is based on instinct. In certain cases it can be rational, but in that case the artistic process is manufactured.

When I was twenty years old I had no idea what it meant to manufacture the artistic process and, to be honest, I still don’t. In order to manufacture something like that you need cross-sectional data from market research, you need skills that you can show off, and, most importantly, a dupe who will fall for it.

At twenty, I had none of that. I only had this stomach ache that just wouldn’t go, made up of bits of Peanuts, some Krazy Kat residue, Pogo crumbs, and an aroma of Wile E. Coyote. And suddenly all these contents were coming back up, up… Until I finally vomited them all out.

One of the many publishers who, at the time, used to make good money with comics, decided to launch a tabloid-size publication (we later discovered that the tabloid format is very unlucky for comics!). A few years before, a publication called Off-side had been launched using the same format, introducing authors like Crepax and Bonvi.

This new publication, which had yet to be filled with any sort of content, was to be called Undercomics, as tribute to the countercultural movements that were developing in those years. Bonvi, who was to be Undercomic’s backbone, told me, “Why don’t you try and do something yourself?”

“H-how long do I have?” I asked.

“As long as you want. Say, ten days.” Ten days.

Ten days.

Ten days to digest and give birth to a whole twenty-year-old baggage of dreams, ambitious projects, unsophisticated sketches hidden in drawers, ideas, notes, stylistic influences, afterthoughts, aborted attempts, and enthusiasm soaked with doubt…

I can still feel the devastating anxiety and can still see that first blank strip of thick white paper, staring up at me sardonically. What happened after that is all here: these first ten strips.

For reasons I ignore, Undercomics never made it to the press. I held on to those unpublished strips for quite some time. Until my very own ‘prince charming’, in the person of Giancarlo Francesconi, legendary director of the Corriere dei Ragazzi, happened to see my strips, fall in love with them, and take them back to him castle.

And they lived happily ever after.


Watch out for new posts every Tuesday and Friday.

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