Reading Reports

Silvia Ziche and Tito Faraci

Report by Paolo Interdonato

Paolo Interdonato (Monza, 1968) is interested in narratives that blend words and pictures. Since 2006, he organizes and moderates, with Matteo Stefanelli, “Lucca Comics Talks”, a series of roundtables on issues of...

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Isobel Butters is a professional translator; she graduated in Art History at the University of Manchester, and has since earned a post-graduate Diploma in Translation at The Chartered Institute of...

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The story
Hell is the quintessence of prison. To guard and to punish in eternity, regardless of the teachings of Cesare Beccaria. Exemplary punishment, certain and never commensurate to the crime inflicted, from here to eternity. No amnesty, no reduction of sentence, no indulgence. Arranged in evil and inviolable hierarchies, terrible devils impart punishment, aware of their special role in the machinery of endless torture. The executioner, jailers, transporters, bureaucrats and those in charge of keeping the machines of suffering in perfect condition, all are present.

In the midst of all these professionals of pain are the prison guards who escort the condemned to their punishment and prevent them from escaping.

In Faraci and Ziche’s Infierno even the most terrible devils have, however, that degree of sublime roguishness caused by excessive bureaucracy. Investigations, pursuits and attempts at capture follow one another with the pace of a slapstick comedy. Providing the backdrop to the roar of hell and the screams of the damned is an environment immersed in the absurd silence of a comic strip completely without written language.

The characters
Two unnamed devils, one tall and thin and the other stocky, accompanied by a small winged monster led on a leash like a helium-filled balloon. Two down-at-heel cops chasing tenacious fugitives who infiltrate the rules of hell more successfully than they do, thanks to some hilariously funny loopholes.

The language
The comic was created by the coexistence of two codes, verbal and pictorial. In a comic book story there can be a great many words or very few: the only important things are the effectiveness of the story and an avoidance of repetition or excess. ¡Infierno! has no words whatsoever. The two authors, who have often worked together on Disney characters, find a narrative balance that is easily understood even without balloon captions or onomatopoeia. The book combines two stories created fifteen years apart. During this time interval Faraci and Ziche have honed their tools and the huge surprise at the first adventure – which had all the pace of a Mack Sennett wordless comic – makes way for narrative fluency. In the second story the authors show total confidence in the ability of the reader, and they create a tale that forces you to think independently and ahead, making the result all the more humorous.

The public
The two authors refined their narrative weaponry in Topolino [the Italian weekly comic with Disney characters]. This regular contact, combined with comic-writing for an adult audience, has allowed them to perfect a multilayered story-telling technique suited to readers of different ages, with equally humorous results. The book is intended for an audience in search of intelligent entertainment and not so afraid of pictures as to expect them to necessarily come accompanied by reassuring explanations.

Why translate
The absence of words was decided by the publisher for the first part of ¡Infierno! so the book could be marketed abroad without the need for translation, in a series called “No Words“. The two authors, who over time have shown great capacity for adaptation, ranging from popular comic series to graphic novels, accepted the publisher’s demands, indeed cashing in on the opportunity. Added to the absence of words was the will to create a very funny story. The result is an exercise in style that uses all the tools collected during a cartoonist’s lifetime.

Tito Faraci (1965) is among the most prolific comic writers in Italy (Tex, Diabolik, Topolino, Dylan Dog, Spider-Man and many others). He is also a novelist ( Oltre la soglia, Death Metal and Nato sette volte). He has a popular twitter site (@titofaraci) where he has created one of the first twitteratura projects in Italy (#tWeBook).

Silvia Ziche (1967) is a cartoonist whose work appeals to a wide public. For years besides Topolino, for which she creates the opening page and story number, she has contributed to women’s weekly Donna Moderna, where her comic strip Lucrezia appears. Besides the two weekly publications she also finds the time to write numerous graphic novels. Most recent: 100% Lucrezia: Dieci anni e non sentirli (2014) and Lucrezia e Alice a quel paese (2013).

23 December 2014

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