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The world of Martin Mystery
di Massimo D'Epifanio
translation by Alessandra Murray

GOUM (Good Old Uncle Martin). American by birth, Martin Mystery is actually a world citizen whose unquenchable thirst for knowledge drives him to investigate enigmas and mysteries of an archeological, historical, esoteric or scientific nature.

He earned a degree in anthropology from Harvard University and went on to specialize in archeology at the Sorbonne in Paris, in art history at the Institute of Fine Arts in Florence and in applied linguistic cybernetics at the much celebrated Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is a successful writer as well as the host of an educational television program that deals with scientific matters. Martin Mystery is, most definitely, a "jack-of-all-trades" gifted with incurable curiosity and a very acute spirit of observation and analysis. He is capable of ample and exhaustive dissertations on virtually every subject (the column "Martin Mystery Responds to Everything", regularly published in the monthly magazine "All of Martin Mystery", offers a clear demonstration of this).

He is, therefore, very knowledgeable on cultural matters. This knowledge, however, is not an end-in-itself, rather it is enriched and complimented by a modern and evolved personality. Shaped by universal values such as solidarity, a respect for life and the environment, a sense of the sanctity of individual and collective liberty, and the refusal of all forms of violence and intolerance, Martin is extremely altruistic and available. A lover of company and conversation, he is a fascinating entertainer who is not immune to the excusable and very human tendencies to be verbose and digress. But he is pleasantly conscious of these tendencies. He is very popular with the public and has rather privileged contacts with authority figures and institutions. However, he only turns to these privileged contacts in cases of extreme necessity and with a style and discretion that most certainly should be included among his principal virtues.

Martin (12k)
drawing by G.Gentili

An ordinary man. Notwithstanding the implicit danger of the activities to which he is protagonist, Martin is certainly not a superhero. He knows how to confront risk (which is, of course, an important part of all of his adventures), but he does not appreciate outright recklessness. He keeps in good physical shape, but he is not a body builder and, although able to admirably handle himself in difficult situations, he is reluctant to use force.

The only ties he has with the metaphysical world are his so-called Third Eye, the sign of esoteric initiation that Martin received at Agarthi from Kut Humi, and the Murchadna, the celebrated weapon of paralyzing rays, also given to him by Kut Humi and which only recently reappeared in Martin's life after a long period of absence.

Small manias and common weaknesses complete the definition of this character, making him more lifelike and bringing him closer to the personal experiences of the reader. Like many of us, Martin is chronically late, perennially in conflict with deadlines to deliver goods and services for which he has been commissioned. He is infected by the terrible virus of collectionism: archeological findings, books in industrial quantities, and other bric-a-brac occupy, in fact, every bit of utilizable space in his apartment. His professional activities allow him to conduct a comfortable lifestyle, but his relationship with money is rather unconstrained. From time to time, it is possible to listen to him as he muses with some resignation about his natural and uncontrollable propensity to squander money.

Diana Java Martin, drawing by M.Manara

The female world. Even though his ID card states unequivocally that he is 54 years old, Martin is still a pleasing and youthful man, fully capable of exercising notable fascination on women. His condition of impenitent bachelorhood coupled with a refined ability to flatter lead him to establish appetizing and occasionally ambiguous relationships with members of the opposite sex, exposing him to temptations that he manages with great stoicism to avoid. His sentimental ties with the blond and tenacious Diana Lombard represent, in fact, a very solid and unrenounceable reality for GOUM. The relationship between the two, sometimes unstable and tormented, proceeds over the years through animate discussions, rough arguments and tender reconciliations. If the beginning of the relationship seemed burdened by Diana's intransigent and petulant jealousy, with time their responsibilities have assumed more definite contours and it seems clear how Martin's difficult personality determinedly shapes the serenity of their relationship. Martin lives, as Castelli has observed, "with the unconscious terror that a committed relationship would deprive him of his own vital space", and with the typical contradiction of the man who is profoundly in love with his own woman, Martin suffers Diana's presence only to feel an unfillable void once he has regained his liberty.

Nevertheless, loud rumors can be heard announcing a Martin Mystery on the point of bidding farewell to his bachelorhood! Can it be true?

An "unusual" partner. In perfect adherence to the general lines of the heading, Castelli has given GOUM a partner who is decidedly different from the stereotype of the traditional "side kick". While on a dramatic mission in the Himalayas, among the ruins of the so-called City of Diaphanous Shadows, Martin bumps into Java, a Neanderthal man who has mysteriously survived extinction. After a long legal battle, Martin manages to obtain guardianship of Java and inserts him into the social reality of America. Despite his being perfectly integrated into the modern world, of which he particularly appreciates its most "appetizing" aspects, Java conserves intact primordial faculties which are unknown to common humanity: a profound symbiosis with the forces of nature and a very fine-tuned sense of smell which allow him to catch signals, recognize places and people, even perceive the positivity or negativity of environments with which he comes into contact.

Java's physical appearance corresponds to the current iconography of primitive man: Castelli describes him as, "tall, big, stocky, muscular, slightly hunched, forehead low and receding". Another trait he shares with primitive man is his incapacity to express himself through words: even if Martin is at this time able to decipher with exactness his howls and grunts, Java generally communicates in Amerslan, the American language for deaf people.

A very able assistant and collaborator, Java frequently reveals himself to also be an affectionate confidante, constituting for GOUM an irreplaceable point of reference and compensating, with atavistic instinctivity, Martin's rationality.

The antagonists. The definition of the world of Martin Mystery has over time achieved a high degree of focus through the development of a punctual and coherent continuity within which an elf and a group of variegated villains move.

SERGEJ ORLOFF: or rather, the unexpected and incomprehensible end of a splendid friendship, born during the course of their studies and cemented daily through their shared love of art and archeology, their mutual enjoyment of culture and passion for beautiful women.

Orloff (6k)
puppet by Molo94
For many years Sergej Orloff wore the uncomfortable clothes of Martin's evil alter ego. He used his knowledge and intelligence negatively, committing acts of brutality and serial crimes but conquering, nevertheless, a very respectable social status. He is, in fact, the owner of a powerful multinational company, "S.O. Communications", and he enjoys the unconditional esteem of public opinion, which considers him a generous patron and benefactor. His physical appearance is rendered particularly threatening and sinister by a metal mask that covers part of his face, which was disfigured in a fire, and an artificial arm in which is affixed, like a modern Capitan Hook, a lethal version of Martin's Murchadna.

But Orloff's character has recently acquired a new and extraordinary dimension. In "Xanadu" (giant album n.2), after the umpteenth violent encounter in the course of which Orloff loses his mechanical arm, Sergej and Martin discover that they each have inexplicably erased from their minds some very important events: Orloff, despite the fact that plastic surgery fully restored the integrity of his face, unconsciously continues to wear his protective mask. As for Martin, he has not used his ray weapon and, after having hidden it in a waterproof container located in his aquarium, he nearly forgot about it. Between the two men, signs of friendships, never fully erased, begin to return slowly and the comparison with their old teacher, Kut Humi, opens the scenario of a new existence to them: "you have life ahead of you. As always, as in every instance of your past lives you have the possibility to choose´┐Ż With one advantage, compared to most humans: destiny has given you the ability to reflect on yourselves and on your relationships. You are now ready to choose for the best. I only hope that you have understood.".

MEN IN BLACK: known from the earliest times of civilization, they constitute an obscure sect whose goal is to destroy historical relics, testimony, documents and anything else that might disrupt the order on which societies, economies and power have been founded for centuries.

The careful insertion of many of their members into the most important political, industrial, cultural and religious organizations favors the operations of the sect rendering it substantially invulnerable. The very nature of the mission, blindly aimed to eliminate everything which does not coincide with what normally is accepted by science and other official disciplines, places the Men in Black in an ideologically polarized position to Martin because what they represent is contrary to the evolution of humanity and history.

MISTER JINX: this mysterious and original "technological devil" with his Mefistofelian pointy beard and his refined dialectic, is able to realize, thanks to his highly advanced computer knowledge, to his innate entrepreneurial gifts and his total lack of scruples, the most secret and prohibited aspirations of man: from the ability to choose and pilot one's own dreams to the possibility to create unlimited time or relive happy moments of one's existence.

The fascination and seduction of the services offered by Mister Jinx to his incautious and wealthy clients are equaled by their dangers: it may happen, in fact, that the biological processes of some unfortunate victim undergoing treatment might be altered irreversibly, causing unpleasant consequences.

DEE & KELLY: every two summers, as punctually as death and taxes, we find on GOUM's path two very nice and clumsy swindlers. The corpulent one with the mustache is John Dee, who maintains that he is descended from the same John Dee who was a necromancer, mathematician and astronomer in the XVI century. The other one, small and awkward, is Edward Kelly: his ancestor, a grave robber, medium and swindler, curiously would have been an associate of the 15th century Dee.

Busy systematically elaborating their wicked and machiavellian plans, they have an authentic dislike for the "contemptible nerd" (to use Kelly's definition), motivated by the fact that Martin, even without desiring to, often and willfully interferes with their activities. The adventures of these two characters are rendered more precious by the soft figure of Angie, a sensual and ingenuous stripper who is candidly unconscious of her personal erotic potential and, to add to that, very capable of getting herself into trouble.

In these episodes, willfully placed in a tragicomic key, Castelli finds a way to uncover an irrefrainable satiric vein: the epiteths and lines that Dee coins for his colleague are absolutely exhilarating and worthy of appearing in an anthology on humour.

Martin a Lucca (24k)
Castelli, his author, presents Martin Mystery as incompetent... about comics!
drawing by G.Alessandrini, MM Extra n.6 (c) 1997 SBE

A multimedia character. The character of Martin Mystery has progressively extended itself well beyond the confines of the regular series, confirming a great ductility of this character. The extraordinary credibility conferred on him by his creator, Alfredo Castelli, clothes GOUM with virtues and defects that are profoundly human (and even very autobiographical), even in his inevitable and unbounded superhero moments, soliciting in the reader a process of identification that, in my opinion, can prove to be very formative. Nor should it be reproachable that Martin at this time represents an ideal testimonial for those initiatives that, from time to time, offer an occasion to bring together the comic medium with social efforts, respect for the environment, the broadening of cultural horizons. The frequent contacts that Martin has had with the world of school are particularly successful and productive when examined from this perspective.

Martin Mystery is waiting for you at his official site!!! www.bvzm.com.


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