Friday, 19 May 2017

The Rise of the Comic Strip

Strip 5
Strip 6

…continued from the previous post.

Silver, how did your passion for comic books evolve?

It was 1965.

A new monthly publication was released in April; a magazine that contained the very best of the world’s production of a comic style that to most people in Italy was as yet unknown: the comic strip. The name of this magazine was, and still is, linus (a tribute to the Peanuts’ Linus van Pelt.)

I’m sure that many enthusiasts – especially those who could speak a little English – already knew what a comic strip was. Despite having no knowledge of English whatsoever, I had also started to become familiar with comic strips, thanks to the fact that my parents read the newspaper Il Giorno, one of the few at the time to devote an entire page to comic strips on a daily basis.

The appeal of comic strips came not much from the characters themselves or the simple, essential graphics, as from their content. It was suddenly and unexpectedly revealed to me that comics could be more than just a form of entertainment for immature and intellectually lazy audiences: comics could help us look inside and outside of our selves, into politics, war, human behaviour, and society.

Most striking of all was the rhythm: strips were over in three or four sequences, supplemented by well-turned jokes, as fast as a ping pong game settled by a deadly smash.

All of a sudden my comic book collection looked like a sad pile of rumpled paper. The main characters – old friends who kept me company during endless lazy afternoons – stare up at me from the front covers, resigned to their fate. Amen.

Peanuts, B.C., The Wizard of Id, Bristow, and Krazy Kat were the stars that shone brightest in my new world. I wanted to draw like Johnny Hart, like Schulz, like Herriman, with those rough lines that appear almost lazy, but with not one millimetre of ink in excess, or one millimetre too little. I had to roll up my sleeves and uncover their secret. It was time I learned how to write, too.


The interview with Silver will continue in next Tuesday’s post.

Above, strips 5 and 6, introducing for the first time one of the McKenzie Farm’s main characters, a big, surly guy who takes his job very seriously: he is the guardian of the farm, Moses, a white Old English Sheepdog (yes, we know he looks like a large bear, but dogs come in all shapes and sizes and they are all beautiful.)

Moses paces around the farm carrying his weapon of choice, a wooden bat, which he uses to protect himself and the residents of the farm. Although if you ask Albert he might tell you that it’s less for protection and more for oppression. Indeed, Moses cannot stand the fact that a wild wolf from the forest and a good, farm-bred chicken could be in love. In this respect, Moses is a dog with a simple, old-fashioned way of thinking: wolf eats chicken, guard dog must protect chicken, therefore guard dog must kill wolf.

Alberto has to constantly come up with new, ingenious ways to get to his beloved chicken Martha’s place. But, as with everything in life, there is more than one obstacle along the way, and, just like dogs, woes also comes in all shapes and sizes… But more on this in the next few strips!

Watch out for new posts every Tuesday and Friday.

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