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Roland Barthes Once upon a time in a North London book shop, long before its management became politically correct about its stock, Story of O by Italian comic strip wizard Guido Crepax could for a short while be purchased as a classy hardcover coffee table edition in French from publisher Jean Jacques-Pauvert.
Indeed the Grove Press paperback of Story of O had a total of 34 pages missing from the original, due seemingly to economic rather than moral censorship. But now the lean years are over. For the Crepax fan yes, but for the general reader perhaps not. Valentina, the sophisticated Milanese photographer pursued relentlessly by sadistic Nazis, astronauts, 17th-century pirates, and leather-booted Czarist Cossacks, made her first appearance in the spring of appearing in the second issue of Linus, an Italian magazine devoted to comic-strip art to which friends asked Crepax to contribute.
Crepax was thirty-two when he created Valentina, a late-comer perhaps, but certainly by then an experienced draughtsman. At twenty-five, he had graduated from the University of Milan with a degree in Architecture. Publicity work followed for companies such as Shell, Dunlop, Terital, and Fujica, then for several years Crepax supported himself by illustrating book covers and record sleeves, particularly for jazz recordings, and by contributing illustrations to magazines such as the medical journal Tempo Medico.
In a series of extravagant and often surreal adventures, Valentina would soon know the rages of bisexuality, autoerotic ecstasy, super-sensual abandon, and the sadomasochistic delirium. Her body given up without inhibition, fragmented on the page and scrutinized in minute detail in a style of syncopated editing which reminded critics of the French films of the sixties, the nouvelle vague, — Valentina would now scandalize many readers in Italy and abroad and be the inspiration for a series of similar sexy and captivating heroines who would keep Crepax busy at his drawing board for years to come.
Acknowledging the daring nature of his comics Crepax maintains his adult audience must be capable of seizing the ambiguities behind appearances, distinguishing the true fantasies from stark reality. The extraordinary things that my poor young girls in love undergo — Valentina, and Bianca, Anita and Justine, Emmanuelle and Madame O — have nothing to do with the treatises on sexual psychopathology of Richard von Krafft-Ebing: they are only visionary exercises, imaginary madness transferred onto paper, deliriums, desires ruled by a purely cerebral mechanism… what interests me more than anything else is that the game never becomes obscene, that it is never trapped by vulgarity.
Have a look at them, the girls on display… however they might be bound, frustrated, constrained, imprisoned, compressed or struck… there is never one single drop of blood. The blow on their skins in the end never leaves more of a mark than a firm embrace.
Time and again Crepax reinvents the layout of his page and in story-board fashion, the pictures tell the story almost to the exclusion of traditional balloon-enclosed dialogue. In the Valentina story, Magic Lantern dialogue is in fact dispensed with altogether. The story unfolds like an adult fairy tale, familiar territory for Crepax. With consummate skill, he takes every opportunity presented by this sadomasochistic literary classic to busy his pages with all manner of menace, stylized violence, eroticism, and sex.
Whips, masks, erect penises, rounded breasts, and marked buttocks proliferate. But here and there this rigid geometry is under threat of collapse, of being sucked into some threatening void which is about to open up in the background, amongst the clutter of opulent furnishings, drapes or architecture.
We are reminded that the progression from Valentina! Pursued through labyrinthian perils, raped, whipped, and entangled in all manner of bizarre Heath-Robinson-like torture machines, they always emerge, however, Pheonix-like from their ordeals. Crepax leaves an indelible impression. Take a look at these long-awaited volumes from Taschen. You might either adore him or loathe him but without a doubt, there will never be another comic book artist quite like Guido Crepax.
I have no desire to serve as a model. My universe is truly my own.
Livro: Emmanuelle (pdf)
EMMANUELLE GUIDO CREPAX PDF