New music comics from the continent

Published On October 19, 2017 | By Wim | Comics, Continental Correspondent

Music, and more particularly the lives of musicians, seems to be a neverending source of inspiration for cartoonist everywhere. Recently, two new books were published about artists working in very different genres, but with equally great passion and commitment.

Sempre Libera is the new book by Italian up-and-coming cartoonist Lorena Natarella, about the life and work of legendary opera singer, Maria Callas.  As the iconic example of the diva, Callas’s life gives ample opportunity for gossip and sensation. She was famously charming and capricious, and had legions of admirers at her feet, offering gifts that defy imagination in return for a simple token off affection. And even though these aspects of her life are touched upon, and a whole parade of lovers and admirers passes on the scene, Natarella tries to dig deeper, and find the secret behind the drama that is Callas.

And as is often the case, she finds it in the relationship with her mother, Evangelia Kalogeropoulos, a woman with an iron will and a sharp tongue, who aims at helping Maria perfecting her art, and at the same time prepares a feeding ground for all kinds of neuroses. Callas felt she had a duty to sing, and her music was the most important driver in her life. Her life was black and white, and her passion was always absolute, which is quite fetchingly represented in the black-and-ink palette that Natarella uses in her expressive and dynamic art.

When it comes to graphic biographies, German cartoonist Reinhart Kleist already has a long service record. He previously created biographies of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, along with books about H.P. Lovecraft and Fidel Castro. His latest graphic book, Mercy On Me, delves into the fascinating personality and history of rock musician and novelist Nick Cave.

As is the case with Natarella, Kleist tries to find the man behind the persona, and the ultimate drive behind what he does. And even though biographic elements (Cave’s childhood in Australia and his formative years with The Birthday Party) are present, for Kleist the best way to understand Cave is through his music and writing.  His art is at its most expressive when he brings to life the characters from Cave’s songs,  and when he kneads Cave’s likeness to fit the mood of the scene. As with a Nick Cave show, this book is at once enerving and emotional, comical and depressing, but never boring.

Sempre Libera by Lorenza Natarella is published by Bao Publishing. Mercy on Me by Reinhard Kleist is published by Carlsen. An English version is published by SelfMadeHero and is reviewed here on the blog.

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