Friday, June 23, 2006

"Just call me Dylan. Mister Dog sounds pretty stupid."

I shifted uncomfortably in my seat and peered sheepishly over the pages to find what seemed like hundreds of pairs of eyes staring in my direction. A grown woman reading a comic? Had I have been in Italy of course, nobody would've batted an eyelid as I was reading Dylan Dog, one of the most popular comics in Italy.

Created by author and journalist
Tiziano Sclavi, the comic made its debut in October 1986 with ' L'alba dei morti viventi' (Dawn of the Living Dead). The stories are intelligent and funny, appealing to both adults and children. A cross between Magnum P.I. and the X-files, Dylan Dog is an 'investigator of nightmares' taking on cases of the inexplicable and paranormal, often having to deal with serial killers, werewolves, vampires, zombies and even pink killer bunnies. The first artist to work on him was Claudio Villa basing his looks on actor Rupert Everett and his name comes from Sclavi's passion for Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.



Dylan is a teetotal ex-cop and ladies man who always makes time for a romance during an investigation. He drives a Beetle, plays the clarinet and makes model ships at 7 Craven Road, London (homage to director Wes Craven) where he lives with his assistant Groucho. Dylan suffers from Claustrophobia, and vertigo and is afraid of flying. In every series, he wears the same red shirt, black jacket and blue jeans which he bought several sets of after his wife died.

Groucho was once a Groucho Marx impersonator and his character became his own personality. He makes the tea, reminds his boss when their finances are bad and always annoys Dylan (and his clients) with his bad jokes.



Another character who makes a regular appearance is Inspector Bloch, Dylan's boss when he worked for Scotland Yard. Bloch is like a Father figure to Dylan. They often work together on cases but Bloch being more rational than Dylan, often disregards his supernatural explanations.

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My favourite issue is called Johnny Freak about a boy found abandoned with his limbs and organs missing. Dylan befriends the boy who is mute and can only communicate through drawings to try and solve the mystery. A story of absolute horror unfolds as Dylan discovers the truth. It's a really sad story, touching in many ways and I can read it over and over again.

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In 1999, Dark Horse comics gave North Americans a rare treat by teaming up with Italian publisher Sergio Bonelli to translate and publish six issues of Dylan Dog (along with other titles Martin Mystere and Nathan Never, also popular in Italy.

"Dawn of the Living Dead" (No. 1, March 1999)
"Johnny Freak" (No. 2, April 1999)
"Memories From the Invisible World" (No. 3, May 1999)
"The Return of the Monster" (No. 4, June 1999)
"Morgana" (No. 5, July 1999)
"After Midnight" (No. 6, August 1999)

They're not the best as Groucho became 'Felix' and lost his moustache - they did this to make him look less like Groucho Marx; a shame, as that was part of his appeal. But it does give English speakers the opportunity to get lost in Dylan Dog's surreal world where policeman are still called bobbies. They're apparently really hard to get hold of, but if you can, give them a try. You won't regret it.

Free Image Hosting Thanks to The Thrilling Detective for info on UK issues.

17 comments:

* (asterisk) said...

To my shame, I've never read Dylan Dog, despite often seeing it being read on the beach in Italy. I should some day...

Dark Horse Comics was my fave comic publisher back in the day, so it's no surprise that they should have been the ones to translate and republish these books. That Groucho change does seem a bit arbitrary, though... Perhaps copyright problems? Italians seem to get away with a lot of weird copyright/licensing things.

a.c.t said...

It must be to do with that as they also altered his appearance slightly to make him look less like him. I can't find any info on it though.

Travel Italy said...

Dylan Dog, my kids read it all the time.

hangthedj said...

Amo "Dylan Dog"... il mio zio che vive a Milano usata per comprarmeli per quando stavo imparando l'italiano. Sono un piccolo arrugginito comunque, poichè questa grammatica mostra!

Susan in Italy said...

Reading comics was whar I did to improve my Italian when I first got to Milan and wasn't up for novels yet. I love Dylan DOg especially as a graphic (I mean the visuals). You see people walking around all the time wearing Dylan Dog t-shirts. Gotta get me one! BTW, how do you get these comics? Are they for sale in England?

a.c.t said...

Travel Italy, you should try reading some of your kids' copies, you'll be surprised.

Hang the DJ, ma parli Italiano? Che bella sorpresa!! Non sei arruginita per niente, la grammatica e` perfeta (la mia invece fa schifo!)

Susan, do you mean the English ones? I found one English language version on US ebay but apart from that I can't find any anywhere. If you speak Italian anyway you might as well not bother with them and stick to the Italian ones.

Susan in Italy said...

Hi a.c.t. I just meant the Italian language ones, actually. Do you get them in Italy on visits or do they actually sell them in England?

a.c.t said...

Oh I see Susan. I always buy them in Italy, you can't get them here/ You can only get the big special edition albums in the 'Italian bookshop' in London, but I prefer the normal ones. I've just finished reading the March 2006 'L'ultimo Arcano' and it was one of the best - You should read it.

Byron said...

"After Midnight", what a masterpiece of surrealism! "Golconda" is another favourite and there was I remember one called "La Dama in Nero", which has a follow-up issue the title of which escapes me - also a brilliant (scary!) story, wonderfully illustrated.

It is a shame that graphic novels are not as popular in this country as they are in Italy. Have you ever read any of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series? A must for any Dylan Dog fan!

PS: Forza Azzurri tonight!

hangthedj said...

Sì parlo italiano. Ho imparato quando avevo circa sei anni. Il mio zio vive a Milano, in modo da lo ha insegnato. Lo adulate, io sono terribili!

a.c.t said...

Byron, no I haven't read them before but it looks pretty good, I'll have to give it a go. The game's on at the moment, I can't bare to watch. It's the first time I've wore my Italy shirt in the tournament, I hope I don't bring them bad luck.
Impiccare il DJ, non dire scemate, e` proprio un talento essere capace di parlare e scrivere in un altra lingia. Cerca di non diminticarlo.

Martha Elaine Belden said...

Oh man... I've got to find this. It sounds AWESOME!! And I must say... you should be a book reviewer (if you are and I've somehow missed this, my mistake)... this seriously sounds awesome, and I love your summaries.

a.c.t said...

Thanks Martha, hope you had a nice trip. That's really nice of you to say, especially being a writer yourself. Unfortunately I'm not (yet) a writer but hope to be one day. I've just finshed writing a short story, once its edited I'll forward it to you if you're interested.

Martha Elaine Belden said...

I'm definitely interested... forward away.

* (asterisk) said...

I've just read Johnny Freak for the first time, and it's renewed my faith, since the one I read before it was awful!

a.c.t said...

Really! It's so good isn't it? Which one did you read before?

* (asterisk) said...

"La clessidra di pietra". Awful. Now I'm reading "Feste di sangue". Seems good so far.