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main index © Jeff Matthews entry Sept. 2003
Comic Books & Eduardo De Filippo
Mauro Salvatori &Fabrizio Faina
Maybe an adult reading a
comic book shouldn't have surprised me, nor are his
tastes any of my concern. A lot of people like
comics, and I am aware of their cultural importance
because they say something profound about this or
that. My own Jr. High School book reports would have
been impossible but for the existence of the famous
(or infamous) Classics Illustrated, a comic
book series started in 1947 by a Russian immigrant
Albert Kanter. Number 1 in the series was The
Three Musketeers. (That issue, in very fine
condition, costs $225 on the internet these days. I
paid 10 cents back then. Is there a message in
there, somewhere?) I recall collecting most of the Classics
Illustrated up to about number 100, Mutiny
on the Bounty, when my tastes changed more in
the direction of soft, living non-collectibles who
made you buy them stuff just for one lousy kiss.
English teachers hated those comics. We loved them, and how fondly I recall the epistemological debates that swirled around whether—in lieu of actually reading the book—one should use these comics—which I favored—or a book called 100 Famous Plot Outlines —favored by my best friend, Steve. He is still my best friend, and we have not resolved that dispute to this day.
Comics abound in Italian
culture, and if there is a local, Neapolitan attempt
to bring famous literary figures to life sporting
little balloons above or beside their heads, it is
probably a series dedicated to (from the
cover) "the most significant works of the
great Eduardo De Filippo," (published monthly in
1998 by Elledi'91 s.r.l. in Scafati, near Salerno).
There were 12 issues in all, covering, indeed, much
of the important literary output of Naples' most
famous playwright of the 20th century (see, also, this entry).
I happen to be looking at the issue dedicated to the play, Filumena Marturano, but the format is identical on all of them: 30 x 21 cm (about the size of a standard sheet of typewriting paper), glossy color cover, about 60 black-and-white pages with 6 to 8 cartoon panels to a page. Credit is given in the editorial information to those who adapted the text of the original play, the cartoonists, and those who did the lettering. Additionally, there are some paragraphs of praise from a few people in the De Filippo family who like the idea.
Eduardo, himself, was acknowledged to be the best interpreter of the roles that he created for himself in his plays. Thus, in a sense, he still "owns" those roles, and the male lead in all of these comic versions of his plays is rendered as Eduardo (see illustration, above). Also important if you are not Neapolitan is the fact that the comics all contain some sort of Neapolitan/Italian glossary to help decipher the authentic, densely Neapolitan dialect of the text. Each issue includes, as well, a short written introduction to the work, of the kind that you might find in an encyclopedia of literature.
At the time, the series
claimed to be part of an effort to present great
world literature in comic format, but I have not
seen any others. Maybe they stopped at number 1.