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FICTION/ Comic books in the Internet era

PAOLO MUSSO describes what makes comic books like Nathan Never, which has just come out with its 250th issue, able to survive in the digital age, and not be overcome by the Internet.

Nathan Never Nathan Never

It may seem a small thing compared with the momentous issues that we face these days, yet the goal of 250 issues (corresponding to more than 20 years on the newsstands) reached by Nathan Never, the star of the sci-fi series of the same name published by the Italian publishing company Sergio Bonelli Editore, deserves to be celebrated, and for several reasons.

First of all, this is the nth extraordinary success of the high quality craftsmanship that is the real strength of Italian small and medium-sized enterprises, of which Bonelli has always been, in his sector, a more than worthy representative. To understand the magnitude of his success, which could elude those not familiar with the area, suffice it to say that apart from Bonelli (who also published Dylan Dog and Martin Mystère) there is no other comic book series in the world that were born in the digital age that is so long-lived. There are series of longer duration, but they were all created, and are living on the income of the fame acquired when there was less competition from other media, and partly due to adult readers (oh, yes!), who often remain faithful through the decades to their youthful passion, as fans of Tex (another Bonelli product) know well, in the face of those who think that comics are only for kids.

To be able to withstand the competition of the Internet and video games, for some time Bonelli has focused on high quality, not only of the drawing, which in some cases actually rises to level of real art, but also and especially of the plots, which are not limited to amazing their readers with special effects, but aim to create an entire world, and a believable world as well, not only in the sense of internal consistency, but also one with coherence with the real world (to the extent compatible with fantasy, of course). This requires a continuous and almost monstrous task of documentation by the authors, both historically and in the case of Nathan, in relation to science fiction literature, of which the “band of Sardinians” (Antonio Serra, Michele Medda and Bepi Vigna) have a truly encyclopedic knowledge that flows continuously into the series (always being revisited creatively, of course), which has, in time, reached a level of complexity that one might define a real saga, rivaling the most famous sagas of film and literature.