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The world of Dylan Dog
by Paolo Ottolina
translation by Walter Aric˛

Dylan (6k)
drawing by G.Gentili
In the beginning. In a grey October in 1986 a new comic strip series came out signed from a promising scriptwriter grown in Bonelli, such and such Tiziano Sclavi.In that period the Italian comic strip for antonomasia was the evergreen Tex. Now, 10 years later, after a brief anonymity, that series indeed,became the symbol of a white and black world . Yes, Dylan Dog represents comic strip in Italy: Tex fans, don't bear me , but it's undeniable that Dyd's fame has crossed,with the overbearance of a winter sea-storm, the thin borders of the cartoons, for landing on magazines, newspapers, diaries, case box, role's games, videogames. And still symposia, debates, books, wise, thesis of degree. The melancholy face of a London ex-bobby brings a lot of money to the far-sighted publishing, fame and honors to the genial (and bashful) inventor, dreams, tears and blood to his readers.

Horror... Blood, above all blood: innocent blood, blue blood,ectoplasmatic blood, false blood. Blood in each sauce however, because before each other definition Dylan is Horror.After Tarantino's pulp revolution, the red squirts are ordinary in the fiction (drawn and not), but in the climbing '80s there was not still this hematic atmosphere. Certainly '50s are so far, but the first breakup element of the new series stays in his thematic: the horror. Not a bloody detective story, not a bloody fantasy: no, no, quite a splatter horror comic strip .Maybe that's why the Dylan-bomb could not be foreseen: who threads 96 pages about serial-killer, murders in all the sauces, axe strokes, heads that burst, vampires and assorted monsters. How much? 20.000-30.000 readers. 50,000 to be generous.

...not horror. Instead we all know how it has gone. Skipping (by now) each consideration about the series artistic/literary qualities, the most smooth thought to do is that probably we needed such a comic strip. We needed his cinemas and narrative pastiches,we needed his irony, his power to speak about everything pretending to speak about horror,we needed sad histories but not desperate,we needed a master's and popular comic strip.

Rupert's face and other faces. Or the ingredients of success, part I.
The dragging of the series is Dylan obviously. It's everything appropriate in him, from the face, (now everybody knows, but when he came out, cinema experts apart, who did realize it?) English cult-actor Rupert Everett's one. Not inspired to Rupert. Dylan IS Rupert. Precise. A plagiarism, but a winning plagiarism. Clear complexion, black hair a little bit disarranged,tumid lips, the blue and melancholy eye of beautiful tenebrous. The rest Sclavi put, building adventure after adventure a character second to few others for thickness and recognizability.Ironic and autoironic, na´ve and rash, impulsive and romantic, a shade of boring sadness (but not depressive), a vocation as hero by force (or by love) falsely repressed, one million of mincing ways and of idiosyncrasies. And the insuppressible tendency to fall in love.

The gentle sex: horror and love. Or the ingredients of success, part II.
Dylan and the customers, always or almost very handsome, always or almost yielding. But the beautiful of Dyd, that makes girl-readers dream (beyond to the big blue eyes) and entangles the boy-readers, it is the innocence of a teen-ager in love, the intrisic romanticism in his conception of affection, with which he approaches the weak sex. Light years distant from a misogynist as Zagor, but also distant from a vagabond of love as Mister No, Dylan lives in each episode his history of eternal love, except for forgetting in the following number and fall madly in love with the fascinating damsel on duty.

Dylan Dog's universe. Or the ingredients of success, part III.
Then, it comes all the rest, all what made the series moulded and fascinating beyond of his protagonist. London, meanwhile: never a "true" city has been so fake in a comic strip. The house of Craven Road, n.7, an address by now mythical for Italian fans, more than the "sherlockian" Baker Street n.223. The door's bell that does "UAAARRGH"!. The galleon to finish and already finished. The most demential mail's page in the Italian book industry.The most fatherly and humorous of the commissioners, Bloch. The car with the license plate "DYD 666". Jenkins, Mrs. Trelkovsky, lord H.G Wells, the two-headed infernal bureaucrat, the "bergmanian" skeletal death, lord Chester. Dylan suffering from giddiness, Dylan suffering from claustrophobia, Dylan not drinking intoxicate drinks, Dylan playing "The trill of the devil" on the clarinet, Dylan not going by plane, Dylan suffering from seasickness. Dylan killing the monster with a bullet to the center of the front. But only if Groucho has thrown him the gun.

A man called Marx (the best of the two:-) At page 11 of the n.1 (before Dylan,that appears only in the following page, and this is also an index of the character's importance) "The dawn of the living corpses" a moustached type with Groucho Marx's unforgettable face peeps out of the door and says "Yes"?. One of the few sensible strokes in his life in a comic strip. But he immediately makes up and he won't stay more. In the typical

Groucho (9k)
Groucho in action
(c) 1997 Bonelli

Tiziano Sclavi's humorous style, based on puns, non-sense,calambours and wordy-oral plays and based on a comic priciple as the inversion of the expectations, the moustached type equal to Groucho Marx steals to the best of the Marx also the name and he becomes until from the beginning something more than a hilarious bonus in the interlacements. Sclavi guesses another of the saga's fundamental wedges during the construction: Groucho is just from immediately one of the motives to buy DD, for anyone quite THE motive, like well illustrates the "grouchist" cut of the letters to the editing. Groucho is not a character (about him we only know that he's a comic ex-actor and, from a little, that Dylan has met him during a demonstration), he is only a humorous function (sometimes narrative, for ex: when he saves Dylan), everybody knows that Groucho is not true, that it is another of Dylan Dog's magic, and it's ok. Even if his management has become a problem for the scriptwriters.

Sclavi (11k)
Sclavi's portrait that
made Castelli famous
(c) 1988 Castelli

The other Dylan: Tiziano Sclavi... Sclavi is no doubt an author. Author in his creative meaning, as an artist transposing his personality in his own creations. If Dylan is a master's comic strip (with all the ambiguities of this definition),it is not because his tales are very nice, but because his inventor has marked his tales in a characteristic manner, and so these tales become immediately recognizable for style, thematic, rhythm, situations, characters. Tiziano Sclavi,as knows who briefly read his biography knows, rose from the ranks in Bonelli, working on other series. Zagor, Kerry the trapper and Mister No, above all. And quite in the Amazonian pilot Jerry Drake's tales he wrote, the stylistics choices he will express in Dylan are more evident. Dylan Dog's unloading in newspaper kiosk strikes the public with the power of a maul: winning ambient, but Sclavi's screen-plays are almost like jewels. A cinema and fizzy cut in the dialogues, big rhythm in cartoons direction, quotation's games that titillates experienced readers, explanations are abolished (it was 1986!) we can find these only in the internal monologues, nonsense rhymes hailing death taking many episodes in a painful crescendo, tender, eccentric or delirious characters, but always alive and never untidy, the courage to get down interlacements like Chinese boxes game ("Morgana" and "Tale of nobody").

...and his many magics. Dylan is not a series in continuity. The recurrent or occasional return of some characters is episodical. In the new number, each month, we find a tabula rasa about the previous events. Quite the debut's number is one of the few whose plot (even though in a dark manner) keeps on in the following histories, creating the familiar/oedipal mini-seam that finds a conclusion in the n.100. Dylan Dog's magic don't stays in this saga (little saga). The magic begins to gush out from Sclavi's pen soon, and it won't stay for years. "Ann Never's ghost", "Alpha and Omega," "Memories from the invisible", "Morgana", "After Midnight", "Gran Guignol", "Lost men's house", "The long goodbye", "Jonnhy Freak" (we also praise the good Mauro Marcheselli) these are masterpieces that enter the reader's heart and in the Italian comic strip's history. Other tales (not all by Sclavi) like "Goblin", "Shoot to the witches", "Doktor Terror", "Beyond the death", the recent decennial number drag social themes in the newspaper kiosk popular comic strip with overbearance and consecrates Dylan Dog like series that knows how to speak a language more powerful than that horror in which it could have been confined.

Past, present, future. For the old fans, the irreducibles one, for many of them Dylan has already died. Even if they still buy for habit or for collection this comic strip, they think Dylan has already given everything and today's one is a pale shade of the masterpiece it was. Who writes is not so drastic, even if a choice like Neil Gaiman's one for his Sandman (it finishes with the n.75, because the stimuli had finished) it would not have been as queer for a series like DD. It's clear that such an idea plays like a swearword to the publisher and certainly won't happen. The well to draw for the thematic of a comic strip like Dylan, is not undoubtedly without deep (in difference of other series like Zagor or Nathan Never, for example):too many situations (serial killer, deformed monsters, inversions good ones/bad ones, relationship life/ death/ not-life.) we have seen yet and they begin to stink of stale. Yet the character, the second leading actors, the possible ambient have so much charm so and so big potentiality to make us think to new tales of absolute value. Tales different in the cut, even without the "poetry" that has done the Dylan-myth, even less in the van and more rigorous, tales however to be read without prejudices. Under the nose already excellent tales like "Paper's jail" or "Until death doesn't separate you" have passed and many have shrug their's shoulders again. The doubt I rise is that, perhaps, not (or not only) the quality has fallen, but rather the ability to be astonished, to become enthusiastic of the readers once teen-agers, and now young men. When I was 17 years old I slobbered for things that I now see again with not few sufficiency ;-).


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