It’s always nice to see old friends, especially if we shared with them experiences.
In this case, the occasion was a public meeting with three cartoonists by Sergio Bonelli Editore, the major Italian publisher of comics, which was held in early June in the picturesque village of Grazzano Visconti – a borough in neo-Gothic style, built near Piacenza in 1900 by a descendant of the Visconti dynasty, around a true old family castle -. One of three cartoonists, Nicola Genzianella, is a friend of my youth.
I and Nicola met in the late 1980’s at the Beppe Calzolari’s Scuola del Fumetto in Milan. At the end of the course, with two friends, Andrea Cortellazzi and Antonio Mola, we founded the graphic artist group A.L.A.N. (an acronym of our first names) and we realized, on a concept of Cortellazzi, Figli dell’Olocausto, the first Italian post-nuclear setting Role Play Game.
It was an unforgettable experience for us, a synergy of creativity, not only artistic. In fact, you consider that, at that time, there were not all the softwares available today – for example, we edited the text with WordStar, because MS Word is not yet available –, so 90% of the work was done by hand. And this explains the rough graphic layout. Afterwards, every member of A.L.A.N. followed a different path. While I’ve addressed myself to the Architecture and Illustration, Genzianella forwarded into the Comics Business and started a long apprenticeship that led him to become one of the most important Sergio Bonelli’s cartoonists.
First, from 1994 to 1997, he worked for the famous Italian magazine Intrepido – until its closure – drawing the series I Crononauti and No exit. But the most important year for him was 1998, when he arrived at the Edizioni Paoline’s comic magazine Il Giornalino, with the series Jobhel and the history of modern Olympic Games.
Above all, the same year, he was called to Sergio Bonelli Editore (for which he drew in 1990, an issue for the one-shot story series Zona X), to work on the new horror series Dampyr, created by Mauro Boselli and Maurizio Colombo; magazine that has made known him to the public and for which he designed fourteen issues.
In the 2006, Genzianella became known abroad, starting to work with the Belgian publisher Dupuis, drawing the second, third and fourth volumes of the series Bunker, replacing Christophe Bec (a famous cartoonist, author of Sanctuaire and Les Temps des loups), more interested in the screenplays. The second issue has received the prize le Brique, at the festival of the BD of Toulouse, in 2008, as the best science fiction comic book of the year.
Now, looking back to that first experience of Figli dell’Olocausto, I can certainly say that, in those Nicola Genzianella’s drawings, there were already signs of his future graphic style: the interest in historical settings (especially for architectural reconstructions), the accuracy of the drawing and the massive use of blacks.
Let me note that in those years, the more fashionable drawing style in Europe was the ligne claire, created by the Franco-Belgian cartoonist school. It was characterized by the use of constant contour lines, the absence of hatching in favor of uniform shade. Usually, it avoided the close-ups, preferring the long shots. The major authors of this style were Hergé and Moebius and many Italian cartoonists had adopted it. But, we comics reader of 1980’s, still admired the Old Italian Masters, like Dino Battaglia, Sergio Toppi, Alarico Gattia and were discovered (thanks to Eura publisher) the Argentine authors: Juan Jimenez, José Ortiz, Juan Zanotto and above all, Alberto Breccia and its beautiful Mort Cinder. And all of these artists were creating volume and depth in their drawings through liters of black ink.
So, I remember when Genzianella said he had raised the question of creating an own style, combining the drawing style of Giampaolo Casertano (a Sergio Bonelli’s cartoonist, his teacher, a follower of the ligne claire) to the Dino Battaglia’s chiaroscuro.
To be recognizable, it’s a goal that all young draughtsmen should ask themselves.
Another thing was already clear at the time, was the methodical work of Genzianella.
At the Scuola del Fumetto, several students signaled themselves for their creative talent (and their eccentric look). However, they have not become professional designers, because they weren’t able to follow a timetable. Nicola was a discreet draughtsman and a quiet person, but he knew already working with method.
Because a comic artist is a professional who works ten hours a day, every day, to produce at least two boards per week. He’s also a researcher of illustrations, because he has gather informations about much of what he draws. Now we have Internet search engines, but since a few years ago, the illustrators were usual frequenters of libraries, bookstores, museums, art exhibitions. Still today, Nicola’s documentations are books.
Above all, a comic artist, if he wants to be a real author, cannot be satisfied simply to read the script and illustrate it, but has to pass through sketches, layouts and storyboards, to search for more effective visual solution, as if he was a movie director of photography. Here, Nicola demonstrates all his love for movies.
This requires perseverance and endurance. Above all it requires Passion.
These qualities are visible today in the boards of Genzianella and are appreciated by all.
So, I too, not only as a friend but also as a comics reader, got in line to ask him for a sketch 🙂