Sergio Gerasi: The Creative Hand Behind “Dylan Dog”
“”Dylan Dog” lives in London and he has a Volkswagen Maggiolone, a convertible—old and wrecked—and an assistant, Groucho. He falls in love almost always but never marries. He lives amidst the nightmares of other people, of the world in general.
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He is the emblem of the antihero—beautiful and melancholic.” Sergio Gerasi draws comic strips as a profession. He is the stroke behind one of the most well-known Italian comics, “Dylan Dog”. “From him, I borrow my sketches—he is not a character of mine. He was created in the first half of the Eighties by Tiziano Sclavi.”
La Voce Italiana had the opportunity to interview this young and renowned Italian comic strip illustrator, born in 1978, but who already has 20 years of professional activity since his debut.
Who is Sergio Gerasi in few words?
Sergio Gerasi was a child who grew up in the last century, in the early Eighties. He was shy and introverted—but as is evident today—determined since childhood, dreaming of becoming a comic strip artist. This dream became a reality. Gerasi transformed his dream into his profession, and this year (2020), he is celebrating 20 years of his career. Yes, 20 years have passed since my very first comic was published. It was “Lazarus Ledd” n.81, and since then I have never stopped drawing, every day—almost all day long, except for the evenings.
You’ve told me before that you started talking late as a child, but drawing when you were extremely young.
How funny I didn’t remember I had told you this story, but it is extremely true. My mother says that I started talking when I was three years old. On the contrary, ever since the day I remember I have been drawing. Over the years, I have had many passions: soccer, music and programming with the first computers. All these passions came to an end, or they didn’t find a ground as fertile as drawing.
Tell us something more about “Dylan Dog”, this famous character. How can you put yourself in his shoes? You draw—the script is the work of somebody else. Then, what happens?
The first number, now legendary, was published in September 1986. I stumbled onto this comic strip as a reader some years later since in 1986 I was just eight, too young to read a comic strip like this one. “Dylan Dog” is an investigator—maybe the only one—of nightmares. His face was inspired by a very young Rupert Everett who then interpreted Francesco Dellamorte in “Dellamorte Dellamore”, a cult classic horror movie in Italy based on Sclavi’s novel, which inspired the character of “Dylan Dog”. For me to start working for this team of artists and for such a prestigious publication, it was both a huge honor and a dream that became reality. As a reader, “Dylan Dog” was exactly the comic strip that hit me like a lightning bolt. I am probably able to draw him because I have been reading this strip for 30 years. He is almost a brother to me, let’s say a cousin. Yes, when it comes to the script, it is written by a very heterogeneous team of scriptwriters, since his creator, Sclavi, does not produce many stories now; actually, he had almost stopped writing some years ago. Luckily, it seems he has changed his mind
What does Sergio Gerasi do in front of a blank page? What are the techniques used today?
The possibilities to draw are actually very ample, thanks to digital. I started on paper, when it was yet unimaginable to draw on electronic paper, as it is today on the iPad Pro. I am not an extremist who supports this approach over the paper. I accept all the instruments that allow me to design traits and sketches on paper or digitally. I still use paper and brushes, but I also use the so-called digital tables. All is accepted. In front of a blank page I’ve never had creative roadblocks; on the contrary, the energy that a blank paper gives me is enormous. There is a space for drawing—to see something take form from the absolute nothingness of a white page.
Sergio Gerasi was born in Milan, and Milan became the heart of his trilogy as a complete author. Please tell us about your relationship with this city of immense beauty that is hidden at times.
Milan is the city where I was born and where I still live. Over the years— thanks to the comics and music—I travelled around, I saw many places, and I met many people. But as Kerouac said, you always have to go back home to elaborate a Satori, an illumination—and this was my case. My ideas were always accumulating when I was out of Milan and then once back in it, they were re-emerging. Milan is for sure extremely discrete; its beauty is not immediate and you have to discover it, it is not easily understood. Just keep in mind that some of the most suggestive places of Milan are the internal courtyards, which are often inaccessible. And then, home is always home. When I was a teenager, I spent my summers in Puglia
“Something strange happens when you imagine a story— you draw your inspiration from what you have around you, you mix it with fantasy, you build it and you model it looking at where you want it to go, and then magically, a story is born.”
when the Salento area was not yet a sought-after destination. As I was traveling back to Milan at the end of August, I closed the car windows and under my nose I could smell a nice, fresh, clean scent—the smell of the sea, of the figs, of the red land. As I re-opened the windows in the suburbs of Milan the air smelled bad, somewhat repulsive, but this did not bother me—I was home and I was happy to be back.
My daughter, Aida, but also the title of my new book that will be on the shelves very shortly—the two are unrelated. Something strange happens when you imagine a story—you draw your inspiration from what you have around you, you mix it with fantasy, you build it and you model it looking at where you want it to go, and then magically, a story is born. With this in mind, I think that fully autobiographical stories do not exist. However, all of them may have to some extent something autobiographical.
How and when did the story of Italian comic strips start?
About 120 years ago, if I am not mistaken, we were at the beginning of the 20th century, when the very first character sees the light: it is “Bilbolbul”, which nowadays is the name of an event dedicated to comic strips in Bologna. During these 120 years many things have changed. The language of comic strips changed and became amplified for all modern media. I personally believe that the language of comic strips still has a hidden potential.
American comic strip art and Italian comic strip art.
The comic strip was born in the United States. It is believed, almost unanimously, that Yellow Kid was the very first experiment of a comic strip published. In Italy we started some years later, but both markets are vivid and important. Around the world, comic strips are produced in very few places; you can count them with your fingers: United States, France, Italy, Japan, and Argentina, to be more specific. These are all different “schools” that are still studied today as different approaches tailored to different markets.
What are you next engagements?
Bao Publishing will publish my graphic novel in about a month. With the editor Sergio Bonelli, I have always been working with him on “Dylan Dog”, and during this school year other comic books will be published as well. I recently received news that I will probably also start working on projects abroad, but I am superstitious, I don’t want to share more than this. Nothing is completely certain up until it happens.
Who is a character on your drawing board? What will his/her mission be on Earth?
On my drawing board—now a file with a few megabytes on the cloud—I have many ideas that I write down regularly. This is good, it means that my brain works. The character, or better, the most modern story I have ever done is “L’Aida”, which will be out in a month. The characters of this story projects all of us in a new world, dirty and very real; but at the same time virtual, digital and, if you will, impersonal. But all of this happens in a very critical perspective with respect to the world where we now live.
To know more:
Sergio Gerasi’s official website