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.
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.
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.
Thanks to The Thrilling Detective for info on UK issues.