COMICS BE­YOND ART, COMICS AS CON­CEPT

All About Italy (USA) - - Contents - Raf­faele Gi­asi

The highly an­tic­i­pated “Spi­der-man: A New Uni­verse” ar­rived in the­aters dur­ing the Christ­mas sea­son. An an­i­mated film by Sony Pic­tures An­i­ma­tion ded­i­cated to Spi­derman ... or bet­ter, to dif­fer­ent ver­sions of the pop­u­lar hero, as it has taken into ac­count the many al­ter­na­tive re­al­i­ties born out of the House of Ideas dur­ing its many years of pub­li­ca­tion. At the cen­ter of the story, is not the clas­sic Peter Parker, but one of his most pop­u­lar al­ter­nate ver­sions, namely Miles Mo­rales, the young African-amer­i­can Spi­der-man who ap­peared as the sec­ond Spi­der-man in the “Ul­ti­mate” Marvel im­print, which rewrote the sto­ries to be fresher and more up-to-date for the pub­lic. Writ­ten by Brian Michael Bendis, Miles Mo­rales was co-cre­ated, by a proud na­tive-ital­ian, Sara Pichelli. A Ro­man artist, born in 1983, who af­ter start­ing her ca­reer as a story boarder and char­ac­ter de­signer, found recog­ni­tion in the Marvel fam­ily where she has worked on the re­launch of the Fan­tas­tic Four, the “su­per­fam­ily” par ex­cel­lence in the world of Amer­i­can comics. With the open­ing of “Spi­der-man: A New Uni­verse” in the­aters, an­other won­der­ful film to say the least, we met Sara Pichelli to ask her a lit­tle more about her ca­reer, her in­spi­ra­tions, and work­ing in the most sought-af­ter com­pany, (by any­one who wants to en­ter the world of in­ter­na­tional comics) Marvel.

Sara you’ve been work­ing in the Amer­i­can mar­ket for sev­eral years now, tell us what was your ap­proach to your US de­but?

My ini­tial ap­proach, I must ad­mit, was sub­con­scious. In 2008 I knew al­most noth­ing about this world, or the comic strip and in part, this “in­no­cence” saved me from per­for­mance anx­i­ety. I started pub­lish­ing with Marvel af­ter be­com­ing a fi­nal­ist (along with 12 oth­ers) in the Ch­esterquest, a world com­pe­ti­tion held by Marvel, and named a fi­nal­ist by C.B. Ce­bul­ski him­self (now cur­rent Vice Pres­i­dent of the pub­lish­ing house). Ul­ti­mately, I cut my teeth on the job while try­ing to un­der­stand it. It was fun and scary at the same time!

What does it mean for an Ital­ian car­toon­ist to work on Amer­i­can comic char­ac­ters and, es­pe­cially for you, to work on the Marvel su­per­heroes?

Work­ing on su­per­heroes, es­pe­cially for me not hav­ing grown up with them, is a way to chal­lenge my­self and get to know a slice of Amer­i­can pop cul­ture. The no­tion of a man with su­per pow­ers was in­vented abroad, and over time brought with it a co­he­sive and log­i­cal world in which these su­per men move and grow. It is a con­cept that ex­presses val­ues, speaks of good and evil at all lev­els and am­bi­gu­i­ties. In the end they are sto­ries about hu­man na­ture, in which we seek to find a sense of be­long­ing that makes us feel less alone with our doubts and fears.

“The world of comics to­day does not just need good car­toon­ists, but new vi­sion­ar­ies”- Sara Pichelli

Now that Amer­i­can comics have shown suc­cess at the movies, do you think these heroes and sto­ries can main­tain the same ap­peal as the orig­i­nals?

The tran­si­tion from one medium to an­other, in­evitably will go through changes. Some­thing will be lost in trans­la­tion so that the film reaches those who do not know the story at all. I have con­flict­ing feel­ings about this new trend of the so-called “Cinecomics” (Su­per­hero movies). While I am happy that the film adap­ta­tion arouses new in­ter­est in comics, on the other hand, I fear that the free­dom of se­quen­tial art is put at risk to make the comic more and more sim­i­lar to the movies be­cause, as you know, that brings in more money.

You, for ex­am­ple, what’s your at­ti­tude to­wards su­per­heroes at the cin­ema? Are you sat­is­fied with the di­rec­tion taken by the Marvel Cin­e­matic Uni­verse, or are you feel­ing a bit weary?

I ad­mit that the last su­per­hero movie I saw at the cin­ema was “Spi­der-man: Home­com­ing”. I do not mind the Cinecomics, in­deed some I par­tic­u­larly liked. But in the long run, I re­al­ize that what I miss most is an au­tho­rial cut in the ap­proach to the char­ac­ters and their story. Many of the films about su­per­heroes re­leased re­cently felt like they were shot by the same per­son, in short, a rub­ber-stamp that some­times makes the prod­uct pre­dictable.

Let’s talk about Miles Mo­rales, when he first ap­peared in Ul­ti­mate Spi­der-man. What re­ac­tion did you ex­pect from the fans, be­ing that Miles was a com­pletely new char­ac­ter and African Amer­i­can?

When we were about to re­lease num­ber one, the pres­sure was off the scale. None of us, nei­ther Marvel nor Brian Michael Bendis (the au­thor of the sto­ries) could imag­ine what the pub­lic re­ac­tion would be. We were sure that we would run into some con­tro­versy, but that was all. The only thing that made us hold strong was our con­vic­tion of hav­ing cre­ated the best of that story. We had put all of our­selves into the story with ut­most pro­fes­sion­al­ism, so in the end, we were im­pa­tient to in­tro­duce Miles to read­ers.

Af­ter hav­ing co-cre­ated the Miles Mo­rales char­ac­ter with Brian Michael Bendis and hav­ing drawn the sto­ries of the X-men and Guardians of the Galaxy, Sara Pichelli also took part in the Fan­tas­tic Four re­launch.

Why a new Spi­der-man?

Why not? The beauty of Spi­derman is that he is a su­per­hero not by birthright, but by chance. Stan Lee’s idea that any­one can wear that mask is the most beau­ti­ful con­cept he could give us.

So many Spi­der-men, many dif­fer­ent sto­ries that are not a mere fac­sim­ile of the orig­i­nal story, but an evo­lu­tion, a pass­ing of the ba­ton and a legacy to the new gen­er­a­tions.

This year you can see Miles in two dif­fer­ent ver­sions, first as a char­ac­ter in the “Marvel’s Spi­der-man” videogame, ex­clu­sively for Playsta­tion 4, then as the lead in the lat­est an­i­mated film “Spi­der-man: A New Uni­verse”. How does it feel to see one’s cre­ation reach such pop­u­lar­ity that it tran­scends the me­dia on which it was con­ceived?

See­ing my de­but cre­ation on film and in video games has been ex­cit­ing.

I still re­mem­ber my­self locked in a small room try­ing to find a face to that char­ac­ter, in­vent a way to dress it, to make it move. Know­ing that the hard work it took to make Miles unique and the pub­lic care for him has made me proud of my work and of be­ing able to con­trib­ute to the project.

Were you in­volved, or con­sulted, in these projects?

I was able to con­trib­ute to the film “Spi­der-man: A New Uni­verse” col­lab­o­rat­ing with Sony Pic­tures An­i­ma­tion. Specif­i­cally, I de­signed one of the end­ings of the sev­eral acts which di­vide the film.

Are you sat­is­fied with the way Miles is por­trayed in the film? Think of the way in which Miles moves or

fights in con­trast to the orig­i­nal Spi­der-man, do you find it in line with what you imag­ine every time you draw him in mo­tion?

Sony has made a per­fect prod­uct from my point of view. The did not be­tray Miles in the slight­est while still mak­ing some changes. And yes, Miles moves ex­actly as I had imag­ined, the way I did it in the comic book.

From one iconic char­ac­ter to an­other, you worked on the new Fan­tas­tic Four. Did you feel the weight, or any re­spon­si­bil­ity, in de­sign­ing the su­per­hero fam­ily par ex­cel­lence? What was the di­rec­tion you gave this re-launch?

This time, prob­a­bly be­cause I’m older, the pres­sure was much lower.

I know that the first fam­ily of comics is in the hearts of many fans and they have been wait­ing for their re­turn for years, and my ap­proach is very re­spect­ful of the tra­di­tion as it is Marvels’ and writer, Dan Slotts’ wish.

Sara Pichelli started her an­i­ma­tion ca­reer work­ing as a sto­ry­boarder and char­ac­ter de­signer for IDW Pub­lish­ing as an art as­sist for David Messina for the Star Trek comic book se­ries.

You have al­ways pro­fessed want­ing to see your artis­tic de­signs in Amer­i­can comics, but re­cently the world of Ital­ian comics has been greatly en­riched,

and there are for­mats that seem to re­sem­ble a lot of the Amer­i­can scene, you think that the time is ripe for a draw­ing by Sara Pichelli in an Ital­ian news­pa­per?

I do not know, it de­pends on the projects I’m of­fered, never say never.

The world of Amer­i­can comics is cer­tainly among the most cov­eted for those who dream of be­com­ing a pro­fes­sional il­lus­tra­tor or car­toon­ist. Who are the teach­ers you think the new gen­er­a­tion should look to? But above all, what do you rec­om­mend to those who are tak­ing their first steps to­day?

The heads of the se­quen­tial art schools are count­less. To name or choose be­tween any one of them would be bor­ing and al­most ar­ro­gant of me. Usu­ally it is the heart that pushes you to­wards this or that teacher.

The ad­vice that I give to the new gen­er­a­tion has changed com­pared to what I would have given a few years ago. In the past I was urg­ing the kids to read a lot of comics and to draw a lot. Now what I would tell those who want to par­tic­i­pate in this world is to ex­pose them­selves to as many stim­uli as pos­si­ble. Not only artis­tic stim­uli such as comics or art­books. But al­low your­self the op­por­tu­nity to en­rich your­self ar­tis­ti­cally through mu­sic, ex­hi­bi­tions, con­certs, a good book, visit parks, new cities, etc. In­creas­ing one’s ex­pe­ri­en­tial tool kit gives fresh­ness to the vi­sion of the world and art re­flects it. In my opin­ion, the world of comics to­day does not just need good de­sign­ers, but new vi­sion­ar­ies.

Sara Pichelli’s ca­reer as a car­toon­ist, as a sto­ry­boarder and char­ac­ter de­signer at IDW Pub­lish­ing and art as­sist for David Messina in the Star Trek comic se­ries.

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