I have never been a fan of comic books or magazines. I’ve always felt that there is something dark about most comics–perhaps it is because the protagonists rarely age or change with each episode. It is as if they are stuck in limbo, doomed to go on endless adventures for our entertainment. Maybe it’s the same reason that I’ve never enjoyed the Peter Pan novel, with its depiction of children stuck in eternal childhood. Something not quite right there.
Having said that, I am a fan of Tintin, even though it suffers from the same problem (the characters never change). Perhaps it’s because the stories are slightly less fantastical and there is no horror or ‘adult’ content.
Recently, an Italian friend gave me an old copy of a horror comic magazine called Dylan Dog. Of course, left to my own devices, I would not even have given such a thing a second glance. However, just to humour my friend (and also for the sake of overcoming my prejudice), I decided to give it a try.
The comics are about a strangely-named private investigator called Dylan Dog who specialises in cases that involve the occult or unexplained forces (“indagatore del incubo” or “nightmare investigator”). He lives and works in London, together with his assistant, who seems to be a full-time Groucho Marx impersonator. I didn’t even know who Groucho Marx was before I read this comic. Each story involves Dylan trying to solve a mystery involving some supernatural forces, usually accompanied by a different woman each time. A sort of James Bond of the occult, if you like.
When my friend explained some of this to me, I assumed that the comic was an Italian translation of a British original. However, I was surprised to discover that it is in fact completely written and published in Italian. I wonder why it couldn’t be set somewhere in Italy–then again, perhaps the idea of ghosts and monsters sounds more believable when set against a backdrop of old London town than classical Rome or fashionable Milan. Who knows.
Having read two of the comics now, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, the stories are actually good, though on the other I dislike the ‘nightmare’ side of it. Some of the drawings are quite horrible to look at and can in fact give very real nightmares if you are of a sensitive disposition.
My friend has cheekily promised to bring me more copies, so it seems I am bound to be reading more Dylan Dog soon. In fact, we may even visit the Café Dylan Dog on Craven Road in London, which is built on the spot at which the protagonist lives in the comics. Sherlock Holmes on Baker Street eat your heart out.