Zagor vs Hellingen - In the footsteps of Titan: Italian Silver Age

Zagor vs Hellingen - In the footsteps of Titan: Italian Silver Age

Zagor vs Hellingen - In the footsteps of Titan

With the volume Zagor against Hellingen - In the footsteps of Titan, Sergio Bonelli Editore begins the complete re-presentation of the stories that have seen Zagor and his fearsome nemesis, Professor Hellingen oppose, thus allowing historical readers but also neophytes of the Spirit with the Ax to make a real excursus in what, borrowing an all Anglo-Saxon wording, could ideally be defined as the Silver Age of Italian popular comics.

Zagor against Hellingen - In the footsteps of Titan, technology and terror

In the first part of Zagor vs Hellingen - In the Footsteps of Titan (aka Zagor # 11 and # 12), Zagor and Cico arrive in Saint Thomas, a town on the eastern shore of Lake Erie. There the Spirit with the Hatchet runs into an old friend, a trapper, who informs him that the Winnebagos are in turmoil in Michigan due to a fort being built too close to their lands. Zagor then decides to find a boat to get to those lands faster, cutting across the lake, and thus act as a peacemaker while cashing in on Cico's usual grievances.

However, the two will never be able to reach their destination: bad weather in fact makes navigation impossible, so much so as to throw Cico into the water and Zagor with him in the hope of not drowning him. The two castaways beach on an island where they are greeted by a group of Ottawas whose village has an incredible peculiarity: it is fortified.

Zagor is intrigued by the strangeness and begins to investigate learning that the village "adores" a giant self-propelled idol. It is actually an iron giant that the Spirit with the Hatchet immediately understands to have very little divine and much human. But how is it possible that such a prodigy manages to move? Thus begins a cunning hunt that leads Zagor to the base of the nefarious Professor Hellingen, a scientist repudiated by the international community who used his intellect to build that huge automaton called Titan with which he plans to take revenge and who is using the island as a secret base. and the gold of the Ottawas to finance itself. At first extremely surprised by the situation, Zagor ends up as a prisoner, managing to free himself only by the broken headphone and sabotaging the automaton, which abyss itself in the lake, thus bringing peace and tranquility to the Ottawas.

In the second part of the volume ( or Zagor # 39, # 40 and # 41), from Cleveland, Cico and Zagor try to return to Darkwood but are attacked by surprise twice, the second of which risking the worst. Wounded, they are rescued by the Mosolopea. During the days of their convalescence, however, the tribe is restless as their lands are threatened by the Ottawas: why peaceful tribes risking going to war?

Zagor, as always wants to be a peacemaker, and discovers that the waters of the island of his old friends Ottawas have suddenly become stingy with fish due to a mysterious creature of the abyss. Zagor and Chico decide to investigate and end up teaming up with an unlikely captain and his whaler set up in a fortuitous way. But is it really a whale that arrived incredibly in the lake? The Spirit with the Hatchet is not entirely convinced of this, discovering in fact that it is a huge and incredible machine capable of diving, but the surprise is equal only to the horror when, captured, he will discover that behind this new technical prodigy there is his old enemy is Professor Hellingen, who survived the destruction of his previous laboratory.

Hellingen seems to have the upper hand, capturing Zagor and enslaving him to his purposes thanks to a mysterious serum. Only the providential, as much clumsy, intervention of Chico will succeed in making Zagor come to his senses, who at the last moment will once again foil the plans of the perfidious Professor.

The first encounter between the Spirit and the Hatchet and his most cerebral nemesis

The adage is always valid: as great is the hero as important is his nemesis. And in this sense Guido Nolitta senses that his Zagor immediately needed nemesis that somehow catalyzed the attention of readers and reinvigorated the adventures of the Spirit with the Hatchet away from the shadow of the frontier story or from the adventurous one in a broad sense. . Therefore, influenced by a story by Brick Bradford from 1939 and by the Italian cartoon Virus by Walter Molino and Federico Pedrocchi, Nolitta metabolizes and reworks the figure of the mad scientist or mad doctor, a classic antagonist of pulp and 1930s science fiction.

It is precisely in Zagor against Hellingen - In the Footsteps of Titan perhaps that the narrative syncretism, which will become one of the characteristic figures of the Zagorian narrative, begins to plant the first important seeds. In the first part of the volume, mystery and wonder dominate: what is the nature of the iron giant that threatens the Ottawa village? what prodigy and what mind could have created it? The second part of the volume, with the return of Hellingen, on the other hand has a more classically adventurous taste, taking up some atmospheres a-la Jules Verne also thanks to the "submarine" setting.

Zagor therefore finds himself facing an enemy with whom he cannot, at least initially, compete on the physical plane. It is an absolute "novelty" for him so much so that in both encounters / clashes he is captured and must rely on all his physical and mental energies, as well as the help of his allies including the trusted Cico, to free himself and foil Hellingen's plans. However, the most interesting aspect of the comparison between Zagor and Hellingen is how it is, ideally, underlying that between nature and progress. In fact, if the Spirit with the Hatchet represents the perpetual search for peace (both personal and in a broader sense understood as justice) and communion with nature, Hellingen instead represents the aggressiveness of progress understood as domination over the elements but also over other men. , guilty in the specific case, of having ridiculed him. In an inconspicuous way, the figure of Hellingen also brings with it the deplorable element of racism, making him a deplorable antagonist and anything but tragic.

Guido Nolitta sets up two scripts very different in formulation and development in which, however, it is easy to trace in the comic or semi-comic element of Cico the spring that triggers the tension charge. It must be said that if the second part of the volume is more fascinating and engaging from the point of view of the plot, its development is a little more cumbersome and finds its reason for being really only in the last action-packed act. . The first part of the volume, on the other hand, is more balanced, perhaps accomplices of the premises and a more traditional development, in which, however, the tension is growing, managing to really "deceive" the reader before its spectacular resolution.

Gallieno Ferri and Franco Donatelli, two historical designers "in comparison"

The legendary Gallieno Ferri and another historical Bonellian designer Franco Donatelli share the tasks at the drawing board. What immediately catches the eye in reading the volume is how both designers are still deeply connected to the construction of the 3 × 2 table (the scheme that builds the page with two boxes always arranged in three horizontal rows) derivation of the strip register that at the time of the release of these stories were still regularly published (for Zagor it was the legendary Lampo Necklace) and then reprinted in the "giant" version, as the books were called in the traditional 16 × 21 cm format, or rather in the Series Zenith.

If Ferri is more loyal in respecting the so-called Bonellian cage, opting as a diversion only for solutions that have 3 smaller squares or a single horizontal that simulates a long shot, Donatelli tries to obtain greater dynamism in this sense changing the size of the two panels thus giving a false sense of irregularity to the page. In this sense, the substantial difference between the two designers also lies in the positioning of the figures. Ferri often uses American tops, filling the table more with the physicality of Zagor in the first place, Donatelli instead prefers the close-up or foreground which, as easily understood, highlights the drama of the sequence more.

This is also the figure to better highlight the difference between the two designers. Gallieno Ferri has an extremely personal style, his Zagor is long-limbed and with nervous muscles while the expressiveness of the characters is linked to the upper part of the face and therefore to the eyes that become a vehicle for the emotions not only of Zagor but also of Cico for example.

In Franco Donatelli, on the other hand, the influence of the American classical school is more evident. His Zagor is more beautiful and more statuesque, the emotions are more accentuated through the whole body language of the various characters and even the action is more direct and choreographed. If Ferri knows how to manage his style well in all situations, Donatelli suffers in some situations especially from the anatomical point of view with some less successful and precise passages.

The volume

Sergio Bonelli Editore (you can see the news scheduled for August 2021 thanks to our dedicated article) packs a full-bodied paperback volume in black and white with its traditional uncoated paper and excellent binding that allows easy reading without affecting the rib too much. The graphic design is simple and elegant: the cover of the volume takes up that of the legendary Zagor 12 - Sulle Orme di Titan register, which obviously also gives the title to this volume, while the Zagor contro Hellingen logo is, both on the front and on the back, highlighted in gloss against the rest of the cover which is opaque.

The rib bears the number "1" and it would seem that once the necklace is completed a single image is formed. From an editorial point of view, the curator of the Moreno Burattini series does not spare himself. First of all, the entire plan of the work is indicated in the fourth with the titles of the 7 volumes that will be published, inside instead a detailed and exhaustive introduction presents the genesis of Professor Helligen. Also noteworthy is the indication of the original books contained within the volume, obviously including authors and publication dates. The only noteworthy absence is that of all the covers of the aforementioned original books that would certainly have embellished the volume, but it is certainly a venial "lack".

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