Friday, May 6, 2011

Dylan Dog Case Files by Tiziano Sclavi

"I can read the Bible, Homer, or Dylan Dog for several days without being bored." - Umberto Eco

With Dylan Dog: Dead of Night currently showing a score of 31/100 on Metacritic, I feel compelled to use this week's book review to come to the defense of the bestselling Italian comic book that inspired the film. Begun in 1986 by author Tiziano Sclavi, the comic tells the ongoing story Dylan Dog, a "nightmare investigator" living in London with his assistant Groucho, a delusional Groucho Marx impersonator (for legal reasons, in the English version Groucho is called "Felix" and has had his mustache removed). Dark Horse Comics has translated a handful of stories and published them in The Dylan Dog Case Files. In your average issue, Dylan is approached by a beautiful and desperate woman who pleads with him to help her with whatever supernatural mess she's found herself in. They bumble around, finding clues and falling passionately in love, until everything comes to a head, Dylan just manages to pull their fat out of the fire, and their love is tarnished forever. Groucho, meanwhile, hangs around making terrible jokes and possibly helping out a little bit at the last second. It would all seem like a sitcom if it weren't so pervasively weird.

First off, Dylan is a tangle of idiosyncrasies. He's claustrophobic, chiroptophobic, and acrophobic. He suffers from terrible motion sickness. He avoids technology and writes with a feather pen and ink pot. He's dirt poor but lives in an enormous house filled with an odd assortment of junk. As mentioned, his assistant is a Groucho Marx impersonator whose delusions have left him permanently in-character. All these frivolous absurdities play counterpoint to the dark
strangeness of the cases Dylan investigates. Case Files starts off with a fairly straightforward zombie story but subsequent passages, pulled from various points in the character’s long history, range from bizarre medical experiments to meta-textual musings on the nature of narrative.

If you’ve seen the trailers for Dead of Night, you will have gleaned that the movie shows a supernatural action hero roaming the streets of New Orleans with his zombie sidekick trying not to get caught in the crossfire between warring vampires and werewolves. This hodgepodge of ideas cribbed from existing American horror media may not appeal, but remember that there’s another, more singular, Dylan Dog out there and try not to hold the comic’s responsible for the movie’s shortcomings. You can see previews of the comic on Amazon or at Dark Horse's website.

~Andrew, Adult Services

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