Saturday, April 13, 2013

My Most Nostalgic Nightmares

Spring for me is a great time to revisit a lot of works that I've grown fond of over my short lifetime.  Maybe it's the state of transition, much like autumn, that makes me nostalgic, or maybe it's the spring-cleaning inventory that one does that let's me see what I have amassed over the years; and beyond that, what is worth reliving as an almost anniversary.  So: Dylan Dog.
Dylan Dog was admittedly a pretty late entry to my cannon, but for some reason i feel like I've spent my whole life with him.  I can't tell if it's just me, but I would venture to guess, based on the worldwide success of the Italian comic, that quite a few others have shared in my experience.  Unfortunately, English-only readers have had to settle for a measly six issue miniseries plus single special issue published by Dark Horse Publishing in the US.  Not that I am complaining, as the collected edition still clocks in at a respectable 680 pages, but Italian fans were treated to over 300 issues!  Granted, I'm not a huge fan of overly-long running serials (in fact, I would rather take a short, strong, finite story over an ongoing series in most cases), but every time I close this book I can't help but want to read more, and despite being set in London, I haven't been able to find any other English language issues being published even in the UK, though I would love to be proven wrong in that reguard.
To give a quick description of the book, Dylan Dog is a nightmare investigator.  Though mentioned only briefly in the English language version (as again, there are only seven out of 300+ issues), Dylan Dog was once a member of Scotland Yard, and though he is now a private contractor, he is often aided by, or himself aides, Inspector Bloch, his former superior in his previous post.  Bloch functions as a rational father-figure, though he is never one to completely disreguard Dylan's supernatural theories or explanations.  Rather, he acts as a starting point for the reader into the more fact or proceedural-based issues within some of the individual cases.  It's through him that we often learn about what is really going on in the concrete sense, and he often acts as a springboard for Dylan's more far-fetched speculations, even moreso sometimes than Dylan's own assistant Groucho (changed to Felix in the English language adaptation, due to a conflict with the estate of Groucho Marx, complete with alterations to remove the character's signature mustache).  If Bloch functions as the rational father character, then Groucho does his best impersination of the comic relief, though his inexhaustable jokes wear on even the characters themselves, while still managing to squeak out a few chuckles from the reader.  The character itself is almost a running joke, as he is on more than a few occassions always there in the nick of time to throw our hero a revolver, saving his life (much like Hellboy always falling through floors, and Adèle Blanc-Sec's consistantly, similarly bearded men).
An altogether not wholly original concept, Dylan Dog manages to stand out on the merit of it's protagonist.  Instead of taking itself too seriously, the stories have a kind of natural comedy to them, and they almost distance themselves from their subject matter; it feels like for every story that is centered around an actual case he is hired for, there are two more that are based on happenstance, and the character is merely a passanger along with the reader.  There are countless pop culture references, from the theme from Ghostbusters in the background, to even the appearance of Dylan himself, admitted to be based on the likeness of actor Rupert Everett. 
Dylan is a hopeless romantic, and like Chekov's gun, if a woman is introduced, Dylan is almost certain to fall in love with her, further complicating things beyond their already convaluted meanderings.  This sense of romance, perhaps is what makes me hold Dylan Dog in such a nostalgic light.  There are hintings of his past and a sense of melancholy and lonliness in his otherwise mundane demeanor, and despite their unwavering, almost casual violence, his tales have a lightness to them that invites the reader back time and time again.  Though there is some carryover between stories, they remain largely stand-alone episodes, and perhaps that's what is so inviting as well.  As much as I love them, I can always skip over stories like Morgana, which, admittedly can give me quite a headache if I'm not in the mood for it.

If you're a fan of any of the other stuff I have mentioned, I would say to give this one a try as well.  For me, Dylan Dog sits at the same table as Adèle Blanc-Sec and Hellboy, with a place card reading "Pulp-Horror Plus".  Each has the excellent ability to transcend genre conventions and become cultural icons in their own respective decades and countries, and all have become inspirations for films based on thier exploits (in fact, Cemetary Man was based on another novel by Dylan Dog creator Tiziano Sclavi and starred none other than Rupert Everett).  To be totally honest, I couldn't make it past the first five or ten minutes of Dylan Dog: Dead Of Night.  From what i saw, it shared almost no similarities aside from a name and a red shirt, and I don't think I missed too much.  Either way, as is almost always the case with cultural icons in comics, skip the film, read this book.

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