Economy is recessing, the US are panicking, the EU trembles, prices soar, morale drops and moral too, lie is truth, and dreams fade to fears. It's the time for ghosts. Only a scream can save us...
"Ghosteria!", of course. . .
...and a demential laughter will set us free. Let's get to know a book nowadays more actual than ever.
by Emanuele De Sandre
translation by Chiara Martellossi
It was the summer of 1991 and Dylan Dog was still soaring to breathtaking heights when a comet from Hell got on its six. Casarotti, the owner of Dardo publishing company, realized that the multimediatic Gianfranco Manfredi could be the right horse to ride, able to jump on the bandwagon and exploit the current trend in comics.
And Manfredi paid back that trust, pulling out all his talents as a script writer, even while dealing with a medium that was relatively unknown to him.
If you look for details about the genesis of Gordon Link, read this telltale interview (in Italian). Here were will try and understand why this bizarre ectoplasmatic private eye and his ill-assorted gang of ghost-catchers were deemed worthy of being summoned back from the chasms of memory.
|"How come this weird ectoplasmatic detective and his ill-assorted gang of ghost-catchers carved themselves a place in our hearts?"
Between Dylan Dog and Martin Mystère.
Gordon mostly investigates on ghosts, but actually he thrives on whatever weird crosses his path, from zombie cowboys ("Dance with skeletons" and "Condor express") to money-eating imps ("Damned money"), an invasion of violet cones ("The purple disease") the return of Godzilla ("Godzilla"), via assorted spooks ("The lighthouse", "Albatros") and assorted immortals ("Rasputin", "The eternal woman"). Anyway, what with the other dullards that share his house, funds are forever lacking, so there's no much point in being picky. All weirdos are welcome, just as long as they pay cash.
|"One quarter Dylan, one quarter Martin, stirred, sometimes shaken..."
On the other hand, Dylan is a snob; he always mentions being broke, but his approach is such that we hardly take notice. The ghostfinders, instead, grumble about money at length, although everybody knows that in the end they will make do; especially the sensible Helga, who may be perhaps a little too much on the "slapper" side, but is also the only one who always does her utmost, be it either at kitchen brooming or tarot reading duties.
Just like Good Old Uncle Martin, Gordon has one woman. In Martin's case, she's the eternal girlfriend; Gordon instead dates unremittingly his not-yet-former-wife Jessica Pinkerton: they're splitting up, but every chance of postponing is a good one...
All in all, Gordon Link wedges himself out smartly between the two Bonelli characters, inventively picking characteristics from both.
Concentrated of pop culture.
Whereas Dylan and Martin quote milestones in horror, films and literature, Gordon Link crawls with references quoting B- to Z-movies and lesser known literary references:
|"References, columns and gadgets! Outbursts of genius among pop and trash... "
from Christopher Lee and Jesus Franco's Fu Manchu to a quote from the less renowned Gustav Meyrink and his "Helen's House", to the complete unknown Abate Augustin Calmet (1672-1757), author of the mysterious "Discourses over the appearings of Spirits and over the Vampires or Revenants of Hungary and Morava". And should Gordon become just a little complicated or logorrheic, there will be no Java patiently lifting his eyes to the sky, but a boorish Nick ready to truncate the cultural parenthesis with one of his patented: "Understood a fuck".
The columns are a concentrate of cinematographic and literary suggestions, and, should that not be enough, a couple issues reach the stands with four extra pages completely devoted to film dossiers (the topics are "Cat People" and "Godzilla").
Dulcis in fundo in every sense: from issue 9 onwards ("The island of the dead", incidentally) the penultimate page is devoted to the most "famous ghost finders in literature, films and comics". Manfredi manages to avoid the usual names and scavenge in the less-renown genre fiction, even picking out material which has never been published in our country.
Freebies! The editor was no slacker: after only a year special issues appeared (two in a few months' time!) and the gadgets that came along with them were truly impressive. So, in the summer of 1992, the fortunate buyer of <"The mansion of the suicidal" got a Polygram metal compilation, no less, and whoever in the November of that same year awaited for the "Hit Series" issue no.2, ("Phantasmagoria"), was rewarded with Last blood, an A4-sized attachment with the incipits of several sci-fi, horror, fantasy and thriller books. The authors had been carefully chosen: among the others, Greg Bear, Alan Dean Foster, David Eddings, Dean Koontz... a damned bonanza!
To call a spade a spade!
In this unbelievable book, the language mirrors the personality of the characters truthfully: no messing around, a spade is a spade and a fuck you is a fuck you, buddy. The speech is a street slang, with coarse jokes and swearing of every social class, jargon more or less up to date and unrestrained calembours; but that's not the end of it. The most obvious thing that jumps to the eye is the difference from the austere Bonelli conventions: Lei and not Voi used as a sign of deference; the correct spelling is discarded anytime possible, in favour of the phonetic rendition, and the balloons crawl with "holy shee-it" and "aw, hell". Nick speaking with his mouth full is a sight to behold. All this on top of the inevitable exclamations of the hero, a perfect emblem for the marriage between the fantastical and the pub tall story: "Ghosteria!" when aghast and "Of course..." as a closure for a brilliant intuition; as bumptious as Sherlock Holmes and as sly as James Bond...
The Ghost Finders at full ranks! (c) 1991 Dardo
Feelings, nothing more than feeelings...
It was this in the end that drove us to brush on and read again all the twentyfour issues of this title: the human warmth, the presence of feelings, the togetherness that transpired from the book.
|"Lots of sidekicks and an aloft leader: unity is strength!"
Gordon does not have a single sidekick, as the Bonellian conventions would want, but a lot of friends: Helga, Nick, Chuck, Jessica and also Oscar, the openly gay deputy inspector - without forgetting Puki and Kalimba. They're born from both plot requirements and the willingness to describe a sort of ramshackle family, weird, a little hippy, but knit together nonetheless. They all live together (save for the two policemen, even though Jessica...), they always try to help and care for the others, but they often quarrel, even for the tedious chores; they send each other about their businesses and drive themselves reciprocally nuts with their attitudes. All considered, a real ensemble, humane in its surreality.
And this is one of the things that we miss more in today's Bonellian books: the courage to express feelings, to represent the funny everyday life not only as a glossy advertisement, and to depict the coarse edges of cohabitation as an utter den of attrition, abrupt departures and inevitable comebacks...
Just do ourselves more harm, here is the list of Gordon Link issues ready and announced in the various fanzines at the time, and never published. Shall we ever know about them more, see pages, read the scripts? We will knock on Dardo's doors, it's a promise.
n°23 - "Prisoners of the dream", scheduled by June 1993.
n°24 - "Killer clown", by Manfredi and Della Monica & D'Auria. Was to reveal the underhand dealings about the death of Gordon's parents; scheduled by July 1993.
n°25 - "Gone with the wind, the final chapter", by Manfredi & Salvatori and Picerno, Vicari & D'Auria. The arch-enemy Jack Condor returns on the setting of the legendary blockbuster. Scheduled by August 1993.
n°26 - "Little men", by Manfredi and Cimpellin, Crivello & D'Auria.
Serie Hit n°3 - "Pukiland", 112 pages (in quadricromy!) would include also "Limpieza", a short novel by Manfredi with five all-new illustrations by Guido Crepax, and "Aldebaran", a colour graphic novel, written and drawn by Marco Torricelli.