Sirocco by Giulio Macaione: our meeting with the author

Sirocco by Giulio Macaione: our meeting with the author

Sirocco by Giulio Macaione

Telling the pain of separation and loss is not easy and could sometimes represent treacherous terrain. However, we had the opportunity to read a graphic novel in which this pain takes shape with extreme delicacy thanks to the sensitivity of the author Giulio Macaione: it is Scirocco, published by BAO Publishing and arrived in bookstores on May 27th. Signing the story and illustrations of Scirocco, Macaione unravels that black tangle of suffering that wraps around the heart when we are forced to say goodbye to loved ones, talking about topics often shunned as unmentionable taboos: illness and the end of life.

However, his is also a story full of luminous hope, dedicated to the passions that make individuals alive, allowing them to fight day after day and improve themselves. Those absolute passions that represent a real reason for living for us and identify us to such an extent that we can no longer define ourselves without them. Giulio Macaione himself told us about himself and his Scirocco, during our meeting, highlighting different aspects of his graphic novel. We tell you about Scirocco and its author here.

From Sicily to a career in comics

The roots of an artist are often present in his works, as well as those of Giulio Macaione, born in Catania and raised in Palermo, who portrayed his Sicily in several of his comics, including Scirocco. Graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts, he began his career as a cartoonist in 2005 in the magazine Mondo Naif, by Kappa Edizioni, also publishing with the same publishing house The Fag Hag and Falling in love in Milan. His talent led him to the creation of several graphic novels, including Ofelia, for Comma 22, I Colori del Vicino, published for Renbook, and Basilicò and Stella di Mare for BAO Publishing.

Macaione's works have also been published in France with Editions Physalis, Ankama and Editions du Long Bec, but the author also has behind him a graphic novel by Boom! Studios for the United States entitled Alice: from Dream to Dream. We find the translation of him Alice: from Dream to Dream in Italy, thanks to BAO Publishing, and we read Macaione with his most recent publication in F *** ing Sakura, for Panini Comics. In addition to making comics, Giulio Macaione also dedicates himself to teaching, at the International School of Comics in Reggio Emilia.

The author's Sicily is present above all in works such as Basilicò or Stella di Mare, however it is makes you feel strongly even in his latest work Scirocco (which you find available for purchase at this link). It tells of Mia, seventeen years old with a passion for dance born and raised in Venice together with her single father and her grandmother Elsa, Sicilian transplanted to Veneto from the past as a sculptor. However, after being struck by a tumor, Elsa had to give up her passion forever, gradually losing an important part of herself with it. She has managed to emerge victorious from the fight against the terrible evil that has marked her: her life, however, always reserves unpleasant surprises.

The tumor has in fact re-emerged and Elsa feels her tiredness grow always bigger. She thus makes a decision: to return to San Mauro Castelverde in Sicily, her native land, to enjoy the last time left in the company of her lost love, Luigi, and of what more than she manages to make her alive. . Mia, meanwhile, is making a great effort to become part of the dance academy of the Teatro alla Scala, but the sudden departure of her grandmother throws her and her father into panic. Both will then leave for Sicily, where they will find an Elsa determined more than ever not to undergo any more treatment, with all the implications that such a decision is able to throw in their lives destroyed by such news.

The story of everyday humanity in Scirocco

One of the preponderant aspects of the graphic novel is the presence of a family, of which the author tells the daily life, affection, support, quarrels, the anxieties. La di lui is a story that, starting from ordinary life, transcends everyday events to tell the strongest relationships and emotions behind each one's choices, with an eye towards Elsa and Mia. Macaione explains what he thinks of the protagonist family:

Scirocco is a “generational” story, because speaking of a family we witness the events of three different generations and from time to time we focus on the experience of the various protagonists. In reality, the real protagonists are Mia and Elsa: their exchanges represent the most important part of the story. Elsa is the pivotal character, the one who prompted me to tell this story. Mia, on the other hand, has an unstoppable passion - that for dance - which guides her in life and partly represents me and my voice when I was a teenager.

The loss of loved ones is undoubtedly the most impactful theme that emerges from the reading of Scirocco, bursting with all the force of its importance, but also with the great delicacy adopted by Giulio Macaione. The result is a story in which the author's urgency to tell a piece of his experience is perceived:

I have had this story in my throat since I lost a very important person four years ago. I did not know what exactly I had to throw out, because I too, like Mia, was "understanding", feeling that I had to witness the drama of another person with deep respect. The hardest part to write was the one where Mia says she is still full of regret for not speaking and not trying to urge a different choice. Making Scirocco helped me to tame a pain that I could not overcome, I dug into these feelings and tried to bring them back to paper. Writing a few pages I cried.

The work behind the drafting of Scirocco

Still on the drafting of the story, in which real elements are mixed with a scenography that draws on the imagination, the author declared:

I admit that in this regard I was a little afraid in addressing a topic that is certainly so delicate that I have not lived on my skin, fearing to be like an author who appropriates the problems of others. Fortunately, from the first reactions I received following the reading of Scirocco I was reassured by those who told me that you can perceive my respect for the disease and my point of view from "outside".

Scirocco is in fact divided in half, between a Sicilian and a Venetian setting. In fact, there is the Sicily of Macaione's origins, which even enters the scene with a different color, and at the same time we also find a large slice dedicated to Venice inside. The author then explains to us what led him to choose the city of the Lagoon:

I have never lived in Venice, but for me it is the most beautiful city in the world and after drawing this book I still have a lot want to tell it. It is a wonderful city to draw: in Venice everything is old or worn by humidity, there are no straight lines but everything is a bit inaccurate, and this is really fun for a designer. In addition, there is water and those who have read my previous books now know that I love the sea and as a Sicilian I have it in my DNA. Then when I discovered that one of the causes of high water in Venice is the Scirocco, a typically southern wind, I immediately thought that combining the two settings would be perfect. From San Mauro Castelverde, the town where I set part of Scirocco, it is possible to see the sea from afar; however, it is not easy to reach it, because the town is located on the top of a mountain. My mother, who grew up there, went to the beach for the first time when she was 5 and this anecdote has always fascinated me. Similarly, Venice is also on the sea, but you don't have the possibility to touch it, so I really liked this parallelism too.

Two settings represented in Scirocco with two totally different two-tone colors: black and blue for the Venetian part, black and yellow for the Sicilian one, thus communicating the contrasting emotions of the protagonists of this story as strong as it is tender and full of life . Here too for Giulio Macaione the choice was precise:

Rather than wanting to represent the colors of the places, I chose these two colors for a matter of light, to suggest an idea of ​​the atmosphere and lighting of the place in which the story is set. I also wanted to reflect the emotional atmosphere of the chapters, so the Sicilian one, in which Elsa decides to blow everything up and enjoy life to the full, is yellow and more joyful. For Venice, on the other hand, I chose a very aquatic blue, which in the last part becomes lilac to suggest a more melancholy tone.

Talking about oneself, through comics

But what is it like for an author to write about pain and represent the pressing entirety of one's feelings about it? Macaione uses a few, but profound and suggestive words:

I believe that writing Scirocco helped me to metabolize the pain of loss, even if a pain can never be erased but can be tamed and accepted. It must be said, however, that since I have the book in my hand, I am almost consoled: I was able to create something beautiful from this pain.

Many other details emerge from the meeting regarding the realization of the work, such as the time spent in building it and the attention adopted in representing a bit of himself in it:

I drew the second half of the book in three months, I think it took me less than two years for this book, from when I started writing it to when I finished it (working on other projects at the same time). I am very critical of myself, every time I reread the script it seemed to me that I was not up to the task. I did the last rewrite when I was already drawing the last part of the book and transforming that pathos into images helped me to externalize the emotionality of the story. Surely Scirocco is a story about family and illness, but it is also a story about passions: there is a part of me in this book, especially in the character of Mia. It is the love for dance that prevents her from stopping and that allows her to gain strength despite what is happening around her, and after all I too am still that little boy with his personal passion for drawing who never stops. to grow up.

A script written with a “cinematic” slant, which emerges from the construction of the tables and their sequentiality. Macaione himself confirms his eye towards a sequential and never static realization, similar to that of a real director:

When I think of a scene, I do it as if it were a film: I don't imagine a table, but the movements of the room, the soundtrack, the background noises. This helps me in the storytelling, in the framing, in the direction of the pages. It's something I do spontaneously, without too much research. As for the soundtrack, I included songs in the book first of all because the cartoonist's work is rather lonely, so I listen to a lot of music and in my case it always ends up inspiring me, and then some of them come from my own experience. Umberto Bindi's, "Our concert", for example, is a song from the 60s that my father listened to and I wanted to include it in the Sicilian setting also as a tribute to my family.

And more:

I have concentrated a lot on the mimicry of the characters, above all because I have realized that the strongest passages of a comic are often those without dialogue. You entrust everything to expressiveness. I feel the protagonists of Scirocco more alive than those of the previous books, they are more realistic. Graphically, my intent is not realism and I have always been influenced by manga and its essential approach, but I try to keep myself in balance between a more synthetic representation and a more classic European one.

In this regard, the Japanese influence in the author's style is undoubted and is evident above all in the depiction of human figures. It is therefore interesting to note what were the influences, which authors inspired Giulio Macaione as an artist and as the author of Scirocco:

The mangaka who formed me belong to my adolescence, certainly Ai Yazawa, Fuyumi Soryo, Masakazu Katsura . Other authors who influenced me as an adult are Craig Thompson, Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, but also Italian authors such as Vanna Vinci or Andrea Accardi. Today, however, in addition to looking at all these authors, I also take a lot of inspiration from literature, music or travel.

What Scirocco left in us

Talking about something beautiful and delicate is not easy, as you risk dissecting and analyzing something capable of transmitting deep emotions without too many explanations. This is the Sirocco by Giulio Macaione. A graphic novel in which pain emerges, powerful, merciless, and yet without being shouted or described vehemently, but with all the sensitivity that real life and personal feelings really require. In it, we find a crescendo of emotions that slowly unravel until the final climax, that blinding loss that inevitably forces us to tears, leaving us unable to understand and at the same time with a new understanding of what life is and needs. The conclusion, however, does not end only with the end of an existence, but with the beginning of a new life full of joy and hope for the future, which will certainly keep a deep cut in the soul and yet will treasure it for draw strength and determination from it.

The delicacy in Macaione's touch is also evident in his illustrations, made with care and precision, in a style that communicates elegance, light and soft. In it we certainly find the influence of the manga, but at the same time the lines closest to the European trait; what is also striking is the use of two different colors for the two settings in which the plot takes place. The "blue" melancholy of Elsa's life in Venice contrasts with the shining joy of her return to Sicily, with a yellow in the shade of wheat that recalls the sun and the fields of the island. An original choice that is certainly not seen every day and accompanies the reader in the perception of the feelings narrated also through the visual impression. Finally, one cannot fail to appreciate Scirocco for its ability to describe the family with its daily exchanges, fears, uncertainties, but also the support and support it offers, masterfully inserting LGBTQ themes that flow fluently with all the naturalness with which they should be accepted: pure, beautiful, surprisingly real. As with the dance steps on tiptoe performed by Mia, light and refined but decisive and full of passion, so Scirocco tells us about everyday life and life, its end and what it leaves in the lives of those who remain and have loved until at the last moment.

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