Brooklyn Dreams: a comic book autobiography

Brooklyn Dreams: a comic book autobiography
In this new appointment in my column, I will not talk about a screenwriter or an artist, but about a comic that now has more than twenty-five years of publishing history: Brooklyn Dreams by John Marc DeMatteis - more commonly known as J.M. DeMatteis - and Glenn Barr.

But first let's focus on the context. Brooklyn Dreams saw the light in 1994 for Paradox Press, an editorial division of DC Comics; the Paradox was designed for all those comics that weren't superheroes or did not fit into the other DC line, the Vertigo. I immediately say that it was a great failure of public but not of critics and that from a couple of comics films were made, I am talking, for example, of A history of violence by John Wagner and Vince Locke which became a film by David Cronenberg starring Viggo Mortensen and Road to Perdition - in Italy better known as Was my father by Sam Mendes with Tom Hanks, Paul Newman.

If you want my opinion I think the Paradox Press was a very interesting idea, like many of the DC, but perhaps too far ahead and poorly supported, like many of the DC. But let's go back to Brooklyn Dreams and to a minimum of bio of its authors starting with Glenn Barr, an artist who has always been divided between comics, painting and animation. In the field of comics, he will work mainly for DC Comics and its labels, both as a cover artist and as a designer.

Two incredible authors for a great story

DeMatteis's career is much longer and more articulated: he has been working in the world of comics since the seventies, he has practically written all the most important Marvel characters and of the DC both at the comic level and for animation projects and is universally recognized for having written some of the runs that have entered the history of comics: Justice League with Keith Giffen where sitcom elements will be inserted in the classic superhero stories, Captain America with some stories that will point to the very heart of the US nation, without forgetting Kraven's Last Hunt.

Personally I would also add Moonshadow, but I think I have made the idea of ​​one of the greatest comic writers, capable of using any narrative register and to be able to blend action with drama without ever forgetting irony. All things you will find in Brooklyn Dreams.

But exactly what is this comic about?

Brooklyn Dreams, a comic life

Mainly it is the biography of DeMatteis himself through his alter ego Vincent Carl Santini and his life in Brooklyn with his parents. Esther, a mother of the Jewish religion, is the victim of her anxieties and fears that she cyclically pours out on her children and her husband Dominick; the latter, a fairly stereotyped Italian American with rough and aggressive ways, is nevertheless capable of gestures that are children of a rare sensitivity. The older sister, Phyllis, completes the familiar picture, a picture that, if you have seen one of Woody Allen's first films, you will be very familiar: there is no filter in what we read, there are situations, quarrels and speeches seen by the eye. of a shy and awake child.

But there is another fundamental character, Bilbo (and not Blackie Junior, much to the chagrin of Vincent's father): a stray dog ​​who will become the new member of the Santini and who it will have a fundamental importance in the whole life of our protagonist, so much so that in the following pages we will see the dog depicted as a guardian angel as if to testify his continuous presence even after his departure. Bilbo will be the reason why the protagonist will want to meet the man behind his father's mask, discover his feelings and love him even more for his human weaknesses.

Time passes and Vincent he goes from a traumatic childhood to an adolescence lived alongside his best friend, Shane, in the eyes of the protagonist who is the true hero of their adventures, until being always in the background becomes tiring and will lead to the formation of one's self in a difficult way ; as always.



Now I don't want to make you a mere list of Vincent's life or the events contained in Brooklyn Dreams, it would be tedious and boring but know that DeMatteis does not hide anything and does not search to sweeten the pill for some of his behaviors and this, thanks also to Barr's splendid work, is rendered with an enviable lightness: the expressions of the characters are worth more than a thousand captions or dialogues, the cuts where an adult protagonist speaks directly to the reader do not break reading or make it more cumbersome but enrich it by making us participants and not spies on the lives of all these people.

Without revealing too much, at a certain point we will talk about death, but we will talk about it with disarming truth, without false pietisms or moralisms and always with a fund of love; if you have seen and enjoyed the sixth episode of the fifth season of BoJack Horseman Free Churro then you will understand what I mean.

The phenomenon of comic biographies will have a great success from the early nineties until today. When it comes to biocomics, the first ones that come to mind are the Europeans The great evil by David B., Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and the Americans You never liked by Chester Brown, Life is not bad, despite everything by Seth and above all the one that, with Persepolis, had the greatest commercial success, Blankets by Craigh Thompson.



The latter is from 2003 so almost twenty years after Brooklyn Dreams and also the total length of the two works is very different. Six hundred pages for Blankets versus more than three hundred for Brooklyn Dreams. Both narrate the passage towards adult life of the protagonist, his family, his loves and his relationship with religion (the Christian one in Thompson's work and the Jewish one for DeMatteis); but where Brooklyn Dreams wins is in telling all this with great irony, sometimes ruthless, but always with love and trying to understand, now that he is an adult, the behavior of his relatives and of himself in a cathartic journey that serves Vincent Santini as for ourselves. It is impossible not to find yourself in some situations, remembering phrases said that we shouldn't have said or things that we should have said or done but out of fear or shame we never managed.

The lightness I find in reading Brooklyn Dreams is not I can find it in Blankets, indeed in some parts I find it extremely heavy but this is clearly my opinion, perhaps spoiled by my love for DeMatteis and therefore also by a certain habit in reading his works.

And being life always bitter, Blankets had a global success, Brooklyn Dreams did not.

You can read the work of DeMatteis and Barr by purchasing the book Brooklyn Dreams

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