The Italian Almanac

Corto Maltese

Italian News - May 31

A new show at Milan's Triennale Museum is looking at the state of comic book art in the globalized world. The exhibition, which runs until September 3, aims to show how the increasingly inter-cultural nature of the comics business has helped it progress into the realm of serious art. "Contemporary comic books do not have the same face they did before because the graphic novel and a wave of Asian publications have changed the scene everywhere," said organizer Matteo Stefanelli.

"The start of the 1990s was a boom period for the (Japanese) manga genre. "Thanks to this, the Western world incorporated new stereotypes into its visual diet, with a fusion of oriental fiction and our own traditions. "This phenomenon is quite recent. Apart from the influence of American products like those by Disney and Marvel, comic books had mostly developed on a national basis in the 20th century up to then". This process is documented at the exhibition with original artwork by Japanese stylists like Jiro Taniguchi, Ebine Yamaji and Junko Mizuno. These exhibits are set alongside works by the Westerners they have influenced. Among them is Frederic Boiler, a French cartoonist who lives in Japan, where he founded the Nouvelle Manga movement. Other western cartoonists whose work is on show are Paul Pope, an American who has worked both for manga publishers and US giants like DC Comics; France's Joann Sfar, and Italy's Igort.

The show also has a section on artists who have broken new ground with their graphic novels. This features Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Art Spiegelman's Maus, the story of the Holocaust seen through the eyes of a mouse. Other highlights are artwork from Alan Moore's and David Lloyd's V For Vendetta, which was recently adapted to the silver screen.

Italy has produced some of the world's finest comic-book artists. These include mainstream entertainers like the late Gian Lugi Bonelli, creator of western hero Tex Willer; Tiziano Sclavi, the father of the cult 'investigator of nightmares' Dylan Dog; and Angela and Luciana Giussani, the makers of black-clad supercriminal Diabolik. Other greats are Hugo Pratt, creator of the Conradesque adventurer Corto Maltese, and erotica purveyor Guido Crepax.