Friday, 8 May 2009

Jorge Zaffino

Jorge ZAffino

I have already written about him in a previous post, but I'd like to spend some more words on this great and prematurely gone artist.

Jorge Zaffino was born in Argentina in 1960 and, according to the sites I have visited, lived there all his life.

At the age of 16, he began working as an unpaid apprentice at the comics studios of Ricardo and Enrique Villagran.

He's been introduced to american audineces with Winterworld, a fantasy saga (that from what I read seem to share some story element with the french-belgian "Niege" saga) written by Chuck Dixon.
With Dixon, Zaffino will realize the majority of his american work.
He died of an £Heart attack in 2002, aged 42.

Ok, this was his bio. But what I want to talk abut is his impact on me.

For starters, I did not like his art at first. In 1994; aged 14, I was exposed to one of his best works. It was a 45-page one-shot for Epic,the creator-owned division of Marvel comics, featuring material aimed to a mature readers, called Seven Block.

It was publihed in Itlay on the pages of the anthologic Star Magazine published by Star Comics.
For accuracy's sake, I should point out that issue 17 of StarMag (as called by its readers) dates back to 1992, but I became a regular reader only by issue 18.
I bought #17 later in a comic book shop, and my attention was all for Sub-City by Todd McFarlane, published in the same issue.

(Sub-City was McFarlane's last Spiderman story before he left Marvel to create Spawn, the shortly lived Image Comics and the succesful McFarlane Toys).

Time did justice: I regard now Sub-City as one of the dumbest things I'v ever read. Worse even than MacFarlane's debut as a writer: Torment, where at least he tried to create a style and to a convey sense of, well, torment.

I'm trerribly off-track now.

That to say that I skipped Seven Block entirely and did not read it for another year or two: no super heroes, acid colors, too dark, too realistic.
I liked bright coloured comic books where heroes where clearly defined.
I liked John Byrne, Neal Adams, John Romita, Kevin Maguire, Mike Zeck...
I could appriciate The Last Hunt of Kraven or The Dark Knight Returns because they featured my favorite heroes. But Seven Block? It looked like the art was xeroxed several times: gritty, rough and black.

Then came Cyberpunk. Cyberpunk was a role-playing game from the '90s. the setting was a distopian urban future, a cocktail that blended all apocaliptic visions of the future of authors like Philip K. Dick, Williams Gibson, Rod Serling, and a plethora of films like Blade Runner, Mad Max, Escape from N.Y., Soylent Green, The Terminator, as well as mangas and/or animes like Akira, The Ghost in the Shell and so on.

I used to play this role-playing game with my friends and we spent hours and hours pretending to be hitmen, clandestine doctors or drug dealers in the near future, where guns and women were available for a reasonable price.

Andrea S., who as game master had essentially to come up with all the plots, organized a whole series of story arcs worth of a prime-time TV series; those story ideas, combined with our style of playing (we were keener on acting than on rolling multi-faceted dices to see who would win a fight) did the rest.

Am I off track again?
Maybe, but let me continue.

The rest I'm referring to is the realization that if put down on paper, our adventures would be relly fun to read. I came to this realization after a prticular tense scene: my friends had to kill one of our team in order to save me (well they did non have to but...).
The gruesome resolution to that scene had potential for a great comic book moment.
I started putting down on paper the chronicle of what happend to us and a lot of the anecdotes that made our playing sessions memorable and started taking seriously in consideration the idea of submitting the material.

I do not know if what we had was good, but I'm still convinced it could be a fun story to read.

At one point I had to figure out what the art should look like.

The kind of story we were playing, more than to mangas or Mad Max, made me think to The X-Files and Pulp Fiction.
I also envisioned a non-linear storytelling in order to create as many plot twists and cliffhangers as possible (I would say that the thing that now comes closer to it would be LOST), but I needed a style to match.

Our characters were not square-jawed paladines, but flawed cinics who did a lot of mistakes (and yes who could also do very cool stuff).

Looking for references I went throught my collection of comic books, and that creepy looking story by Dixon and Zaffino called Seven Block came to mind. Even though I never really read that story, those panels somehow grew on me.
I slipped the magazine out of the shelf and digged in to the story.

Boy, was I mistaken the first time around!

The plot itself is very much like an episode from the first season of The X-Files. A confined location, a lot of atmosphear, little gore (it may be filmed on a shoestring budget, and I mean that as a compliment) a creepy ending.

But the art! The art was simply beautiful. Being an art student by then, and having to deal with drawing from life every day, I was the able to see what Jorge Zaffino was doing with his rough, sketchy style.

What stroke me was that compared to a lot of other argentinian or italian artists who drew with a similar "impressionist" technique where the shapes are defined by shadows and light rather than by lines, he had a "solidness" a presence I usually did not associate with this style.

I think of Hugo Pratt, Venturi, Ivo Milazzo.
The only fair equivalents I could find were John Buscema (when he did Conan) and maybe Alberto Breccia, but both were a lot more "baroque". Maybe Al Williamson, who inks in a much more polished way though, or Tanino Liberatore, who is a lot less skilled in composiotion and storytelling.

One last artist that comes to mind would be Danijel Zezelj, but im my opinion his art is a lot less lively than Jorge's.

(Do not get me wrong, I love all of the above and I think they all are great artists, but on some lenghts Zaffino seemed to beat them all -still in my opinion)

Jorge seemed to have it all: a solid classic background, knowledge of anatomy and realism, a fresh style, not caged by pointless nice artistic gestures, an uncommon sense for composition (the balance in many of his pages is worth being studied) and amazing stoytelling craft: what happens is very clear on the page.

The sketches I relized for that old project were not reminiscent of Zaffino. The project itself has been put in to an artificial coma for years now, awaiting the right moment to surface (as we get closer to the year the story itself was set).

But a similar thing happened again, when I bagan to toy with the idea of another project (with Alessandro Q).

At first I ordered some of his works on Amazon. then I started looking for news about him on the internet, only to find out he sadly passes away already seven years ago, leaving two sons and a wife.

This is may late tribute to an artist's artist. Someone who may be shamefully forgotten, beacuse of a relatively small body of work, but who left a strong impression on a lot of other artists.

On his website (still on line) you'll find some word from other artists who worked with him and who do remember him fondly.

I leave you with a drawing from his last little story for DC (once agin by Chuck Dixon) that you can find on the first volume of Betman Black and White.

This 8-page jewel is a perfect example of what I mean.

Batman and a never-so-beautyfully-drawn Commissioner Gordon look new and classic at the same time. He capture them is realistic poses, without taking the magic away from them. A trick only David Mazzucchelli managed to succeed into in Batman Year One.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Codename: VIRGA (part 4)

Questo è in Italiano. No è che negli altri port voglia fare lo sborone, ma questo è un lavoro che sto facendo in collaborazione con Peter, uno scrittore belga, e con lui comunico in inglese.

Siccome lui questi lavori li ha già visti, il post non è per lui.
Mentre per il progetto con Ale l'ispirazione è quel genio di Jorge Zaffino (autore sconosciuto ai più ma amatissimo da chi lo ha scoperto, specialmente dai disegnatori) per questo progetto qui è Euletieri-Serpieri, disegnatore italiano famoso per il suo Sci-Fi Hard Core Druuna, una vera e propria festa di carni esposte.

Vi rimando alla Mansarda di Miele per alcune bellissime gallerie di suoi disegni (ad alto contenuto erotico).
In realtà molte delle pagine che vi ci troverete non dovrebbero trovarsi lì. Si tratta di materiale coperto da diritto d'autore.
Ma forse un'occhiata veloce può farvi venire voglia di andarvi a comprare i fumetti in questione, tra cui una Little Ego di Vittorio Giardino (autore che non amo particolarmente ma di indubbia bravura) e anche Il Gioco di Manara.
Lo segnalo perché qui è presentatuna scena eliminata dalle attuali versioni Mondadori e che io lessi solo edizione per la collana "Totetm" dell'editore Del Grifo.
La scena in questione (che a dire il vero non mostra molto) coinvolge un ragazzino appena pubescente che si ritrova assalito dalla signora Claudia.
Sarà il fatto che la lessi per la prima volta avevo tredici anni ed ero praticamente un ormone con le gambe, ma questa scena è da semre in cima alla mia personale classifica di capolavori del porno (non dico erotismo per un motivo che spiegherò prossimamente).

Nel prossimo post `vorrei rendere omaggio al grande Jorge Zaffino.
E poi spiegare perché l'Italia non merita più la mia attenzione.
E fare alcune riflessioni su Dio.
E dirvi perché la TV fiamminga non é che sia vergognosa, ma comunque è di qualità piuttosto bassa...