Drawn and dangerous: Italian comics of the 1970s and 1980s, by Simone CastaldiJournal of Graphic Novels and Comics


Nicholas Diak
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Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics

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Drawn and dangerous: Italian comics of the 1970s and 1980s, by Simone Castaldi

Nicholas Diak

To cite this article: Nicholas Diak (2015) Drawn and dangerous: Italian comics of the 1970s and 1980s, by Simone Castaldi, Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, 6:4, 442-444, DOI: 10.1080/21504857.2014.984875

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21504857.2014.984875

Published online: 16 Dec 2014.

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Drawn and dangerous: Italian comics of the 1970s and 1980s, by Simone Castaldi,

Jackson, University Press of Mississippi, 2010, vii + 150 pp., US$30.00 (hardcover),

ISBN 978-1-60473-749-3

Drawn and Dangerous by Simone Castaldi is an examination of an extremely niche topic of Italian comics. Castaldi’s attempts are noble and informative; however, there are various factors and nuances in the book that hold it back from being highly recommended.

To begin with, there are two major misnomers on the cover alone. The first is that the subtitle, Italian Comics of the 1970s and 1980s, implies that the book looks at two decades of comics. The second is that the cover art, a black-and-white comic of a woman descending into a spiral, from Satanik, depicts what type of comics this book is about. Both instances are completely far from the truth at conveying the actual subject of Drawn and Dangerous.

What Castaldi is really focusing on in Drawn and Dangerous are three publications:

Cannibale, Il Male, and Frigidaire, which were either active or had their golden years between 1977 and 1985, a far cry from the time frame indicated by the subtitle. Castaldi goes to considerable lengths in attempting to define these three publications as new adult comics and explain the historical context in which they emerged, their impact back into Italian society, and the various artists that contributed to them.

The Satanik cover art, per the credits on the back cover, is from 1969, outside the range of years for both what the book claims to be looking at and what the book is actually looking at.

This is important because, while Satanik is a comic, the three publications on which Drawn and Dangerous focuses are more like magazines that have comics inside, and the comics contained inside are not the type of which Satanik would be representative. This would be 442 Book Reviews

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D ec em be r 2 01 5 akin to having a Superman cover for a book on R. Crumb and in turn having a book that claims to be about R. Crumb but instead only addresses his Keep on Trucking comics.

In the beginning of the first chapter, Castaldi points out the difficulty in making the distinction between comics intended for adults and those for a younger audience. He attempts to tackle this nebulous issue while at the same time tracing the history of Italian comics from their roots purely in children’s fare, through the fumetto nero of the 1960s, through the auteurs, and then through the political crisis of the 1960s and 1970s. The history lesson is executed quite well in setting the stage, but the problem occurs in the lack of commitment to a proper definition of what comics Castaldi addresses in the subsequent chapters.

With the term ‘adult’, one is most likely to associate with erotic and sexual comics, of which Italy produced in great abundance: from Guido Crepax’s Valentina of the 1960s,

Milo Manara’s Click in the 1980s to Rossano Rossi’s Ramba of the 1990s. However, these are not the comics Castaldi analyses and instead he relegates Crepax and Manara to ‘auteur’ comics. Castaldi is not exactly retconning what the definition of adult comics in

Italy is, but neither is he exactly positing a new definition. Instead, he half-handedly refers to them as ‘new adult comics’, which he uses interchangeably with ‘adult comics’ throughout his book. As the book progresses, the ‘new adult comics’ are portrayed less and less like comics and more like magazines that have political satire and comics in them (which they truly are).