The creator of Dylan Dog reveals the secrets of the Investigator of Nightmares
On Wednesday, the American movie based on the famous Italian comic book created by Tiziano Sclavi 25 years ago, will be in cinemas throughout Italy. Here is the interview with the writer, who now lives immersed in the green of the “Parco Pineta”.
The American habit of making great movies, full of special effects, based on comic characters, has now come to Italy, too. Not only Spider-Man, X-Man and Iron Man. On Wednesday, 16 March, Dylan Dog, a super Hollywood production, based on the exploits of the comic book character created by Tiziano Sclavi no less than 25 years ago, is going into cinemas.
The exploits of the ironic investigator of nightmares, a rational character in an irrational world, have been made into a movie, set in New Orleans rather than in the original London. The main actor is the Superman actor, Brandon Routh, and not Rupert Everett, whose features were taken by Sclavi as inspiration for Dylan Dog.
Today, Sclavi lives in Venegono Superiore, in a house surrounded by the green of the “Parco Pineta”. He is very reserved, despite the international success his creation has brought him. The comics, of which the 300th story will be publish this year, have even sold one million copies per issue. Despite this fact, Sclavi hardly ever leaves his house. In Venegono, his only public appearance was in 2005, when there was the ceremony when he donated 8000 books to the town’s public library. Also on that occasion, he spoke very little, because he was deeply touched. Today, however, Sclavi has agreed to answer a few questions, not because of the new movie (which he prefers not to talk about), but because of the 25 years since the “birth” of Dylan Dog.
Tiziano Sclavi, you’re a legendary figure for many people, but you have the reputation of someone that doesn’t like to give interviews. Why not?
“I think it’s a question of character, I’m naturally reserved. Quoting Petrolini, I’m ‘horrified’ by myself.”
You’re originally from near Pavia; why did you decide to live in Venegono Superiore? What do you like about this town?
“It all began twelve years ago. My wife and I lived in Milan; we decided to buy a small home, a retreat, and we started house-hunting in the area of Appiano Gentile. One day, we ended up near Venegono, in Pianbosco, in the ‘Parco Pineta’, and it was love at first sight. Initially, we only came at weekends, but then, as we always found it heartbreaking to go back to Milan on Monday morning, we decided to settle here.”
After years of working in relative obscurity, Dylan Dog is the character that made you famous throughout the world. Did you expect this success when the first issues came out?
“Of course not, and I didn’t want it either. I was hoping to sell at least 50,000 copies, to be able to continue and not have to close (it was a time of crisis in the Italian comic industry). We managed to sell one million copies, and I’m still astonished today.”
Did you first create Dylan, or his assistant Groucho? Why did you choose the horror genre?
“I created Dylan first, in fact, in the very first project, he was a solitary hero. Groucho was introduced afterwards, because of the need, almost a rule in comic books, for a “stooge” for the main character, someone that Dylan could talk to and share the progress in the various investigations. And Groucho’s funny side also stemmed from a need to reduce tension, and to play down the often serious content. What made me choose horror was my passion for the genre, a passion I can’t explain, that I’ve had since I was a child, when I used to prefer scary stories, full of blood, to princes and princesses.”
Investigator of nightmares, the paranormal, irony and sarcasm. What do you identify most with in Dylan Dog?
“Certainly, with his irony. Sarcasm is nasty, and I never hope to be nasty. Paranormal events fascinate me a lot, but only as a topic for invented stories. I don’t actually believe in paranormal events; I’m a member of “CICAP” (the Italian committee for control of statements about paranormal events), which has battled against supernatural claims for more than twenty years.
There’s a film that’s about to be shown in cinemas, an entirely American production based on Dylan Dog. What do you think of it? Were you involved?
“I’m sorry, but I’d rather not talk about that.”
This is not the first time that a film has been made of one of your stories. It also happened with “Della Morte dell’Amore”, which was played by Rupert Everett, the actor who inspired you for Dylan Dog. It wasn’t a Dylan Dog film. But it became a cult film in the horror genre. Did you see it? Did you like it?
“I’ve seen it many times, and I like it a lot, although I shouldn’t say so, as it’s based on one of my novels. And it’s good to repeat that it’s not a Dylan Dog film, also because the book was written several years before.”
Your stories are full of film references. What are your favourite films, books and even comic books?
“My favourite film is “2001: A Space Odyssey” (and all of Kubrick’s films, in general). It’s difficult to say what my favourite book is, the list would be endless. But if I had to choose an author, today, I’d say John Grisham; he’s a great master. As for comic books, I admit that I don’t read many. Basically, I always read the same ones, Tintin, Asterix, Blake and Mortimer, Jeff Hawke and Dick Tracy.
What is your relationship with writing? Is it difficult or natural?
“Fortunately, writing has always come naturally to me, more so than speaking. Except when I get writer’s block, of course, when the white sheet that expects to be filled becomes a nightmare. But writing is usually very easy, I often produce the final version straightaway, without the need for corrections.”
Over the past few years, you have written several novels. Today, do you consider yourself more a comic-strip writer, a novelist or a storyteller?
“I started writing novels when I was in the second year of high school. Then I wrote some songs. And many years later, I became a comic-strip writer. Finally, I wrote scripts for TV and cinema. I just call myself a writer; that covers everything.”
If I asked you about your future projects, as one often does with young artists, what would you say today? What would you like to do?
“I’d still like to write something else, I don’t know what exactly. But, I must admit that my main project has nothing to do with youth: I’d like to enjoy my retirement.”