Sunday, January 12, 2014

puzzles and paradoxes

Fellini the illustrator
     Federico Fellini loved comics. His first solo-directed film (The White Sheik, 1952) was centered around the Italian fumetti, a kind of comic book in photo strip form. He also kept profusely annotated accounts of his own dreams that were eventually published in a voluminous hardcover tome. His fascination with the comic strip as an art form began in his youth with the works of Frederick Burr Opper (Happy Hooligan; And Her Name Was Maud; Alphonse and Gaston) and George McManus (Bringing Up Father) and continued with the coming of Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon. It was a fascination that remained with him his whole life. Fellini spoke of his "lasting gratitude" to comics and the influence they've had on his films as well as his high regard for James Steranko's book History of Comics in 1970. I think if Fellini had lived to see some of the recent comic book film adaptations (especially the Marvel franchise) he would have been zealously entertained. At least the ones that didn't trade their humor for all this dark-night-of-the-soul business.   

Fellini on the heroes of Marvel Comics:

"Without ceasing to be heroes, indeed becoming progressively more heroic, the characters in the Marvel group of comics learnt to laugh at themselves. Their adventures were advertised with a sort of schoolboy megalomania and carried out in the strips themselves with a kind of mature masochism; and yet there was nothing devious about the result, which was a lively, aggressive, naughty, never-ending story that kept starting over and over again, not giving a damn if things happened to be puzzling or paradoxical. Puzzles and paradoxes, if cheerfully stood up to, never killed anyone. The only thing that kills is boredom. And boredom, luckily, is something that steers clear of these comics."

Joss Whedon's The Avengers (2012)
One of Fellini's own illustrations from The Book of Dreams, pub 2008 (above left); a poster for the 1982 Cannes Film Festival featuring Fellini's original artwork (above right).

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