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Crepax began drawing these albums in the late s and continued through to the s he died in , and they can be seen as either a celebration or a critique of the bourgeois pleasures available to young Italians. The albums were sexy and surreal, embracing the dreamlike possibilities of the comic art form. Instead of living in a hut on the edge of a forest however, and without the traditional iron teeth and long nose, this incarnation was an thin older woman with a penchant for bondage living a comfortable life in Milan.
It was this comic book story that formed the basis of the movie Baba Yaga, directed by Corrado Farina. She is intelligent, talented and alluring, so naturally leftist intellectuals want to sleep with her. On her way home from a typically swinging party Valentina is almost run down by a car. The driver is none other than Baba Yaga, as played by former Hollywood sex symbol Carrol Baker and therefore far more attractive than in Crepax's drawings.
It appears that fate has brought them together, or so Baba Yaga thinks. On her first visit to Baba Yaga's house Valentina masturbates in the attic.
Could it be that she is already under the witch's spell? It is the sight of a female doll dressed in leather that 2 Intensive: Cult Media Review Smith, Adrian A Fatal Attraction seems to have awakened her sexual urges, denied earlier at the party.
As a fully-grown woman played by Ely Galleani , this living, mute doll is a striking image, perhaps one of the most memorable from this period of Italian cinema, particularly when she kisses Valentina tenderly whilst the latter is wearing Nazi uniform.
There is a permeability of reality to these sequences.
Either way the doll is given the power to kill and wield bondage equipment. The Golem could then be used for good or ill depending on who is controlling it. Valentina and her boyfriend Arno played by Italian horror regular George Eastman watch the silent film version of The Golem Carl Borse, Paul Wegener, in a cinema, finding it disturbing. Valentina is afraid of this big, deep hole, despite Baba Yaga's calm reassurance as she covers it with a rug.
After using his drawings to get as far inside Valentina's sexuality as he could in Baba Yaga, Crepax opens his heroine's entire life story up for readers to view in Ciao Valentina!
Beginning at the moment of its heroine's birth, it chronicles her psychosexual development in virtuosic and affecting detail, tracking her sexual propensities back to their root points, corresponding images flying back and forth across the years, building a up a web of connections that spreads throughout the book.
Crepax replaces the helpless female leads in the problematic torture scenes of newspaper-comics greats Alex Raymond and Lee Falk with his own, fully capable preteen heroine, who twists the misogynistic narratives of the previous generation's comics to suit her own newly discovered desires. It's a beautifully stated rebuttal to one of comics' most unsettling facets, and yet it's only a minor part of the narrative.
We watch Valentina struggle through a teenage bout with anorexia, willingly give her virginity to a much older man, and, in the best scene Crepax ever drew, burst into tears at her first glimpse of Louise Brooks on the silver screen before going home and shaping her own haircut into Brooks's signature bob.
The book ends with Valentina setting out to her first meeting with Phil Rembrandt -- her first appearance, closing the narrative circle begun seven years previously in Neutron. At the end of Ciao Valentina! After this point, Valentina's eyes are the eyes we see the comic's every panel through, and Valentina's feelings are those that every sex scene summons up in her readers' imagination.
Crepax is the only cartoonist to have stripped the male gaze from pornographic comics entirely, to have denied access to the beautiful woman he draws as a sex object and forced readers both male and female to take her viewpoint during every sexual encounter she experiences. It's a watershed moment for the medium. From here, there was little for Crepax to do narratively but lay out the path Valentina's life would take after the material in Baba Yaga, which he did masterfully.
Valentina has a son by Rembrandt and allows a strong element of concern for him to temper her pursuits of sexual ecstasy; an undercurrent of worry runs through the increasingly far-flung scenes of fantasy, providing some narrative tension to what otherwise becomes a vehicle for Crepax's increasingly formalist explorations of the comics form and the abstract idea of eroticism.
Perhaps because Crepax knew his audience, Valentina's daydreams often utilized the tropes of genre comics though the heroine's readings of Raymond and Falk in Ciao Valentina! These genre-based explorations were less exercises in manipulating those tropes than excuses for Crepax to add them to the psychoerotic equation he had created for his character, however, which might explain the limited success Heavy Metal's translations of the spacefaring Riflesso di Valentina and the high-adventure oriented Valentina Pirata met with in introducing the artist to an English-speaking audience.
Crepax's art only grew more devastatingly beautiful with each new book, however, and the genre-based work, though minor in terms of story, is more than worth tracking down for its addition of profoundly gorgeous color to Valentina's pages. To truly understand how special what Crepax created is, one has to start at the beginning and read straight through, which necessitates confronting some of the most aggressively uncompromising sex comics in existence.
Because of this, Crepax will probably never be accepted as canon, but for readers willing to follow his instincts toward the hardcore and the abstract to their end points, there is the completely wordless Lanterna Magica , "translated" into an English-language edition as Magic Lantern.
If Ciao Valentina! Its pages do little more in the way of narrative than provide Valentina as a main character and one of her masturbation fantasies as the context; the meat here is in seeing a master cartoonist play with form as only he can.
Settings switch abruptly, human figures flicker in and out of existence, sexual combinations flow wildly into one another, characters grow and shed both male and female genitalia as easily as they do their clothing. In its own way, this book is as much of a triumph for Valentina the character as Ciao is; where that story dug as deeply as possible into her conscious recall of the past, this one gives us the present as it occurs in her subconscious, flashing brightly through sheets of physical ecstasy.
Valentina herself is the only anchor that pulls readers through the raging torrent of imagery, a body whose pleasure we cling to for comprehension as much as its owner does for sensation. For the comic to work in any way, the reader is forced into accepting Valentina's pleasure as their own.
It's as close to a transcendent, out-of-body experience as the comics form provides. Throughout the book, Crepax's manipulation of sequenced imagery is absolutely astounding.
His tight grids and frequent superimposition of pictures over one another easily accommodate more than ten panels to a page; though there's enough visual information in Lanterna Magica to fill three books, the overriding impression is one of vast, open space, the erotic imagination put forth as a true frontier, free of boundaries and borders.
Each panel isolates its subject with a crystal clarity, stripping away all excess information before bringing the content to life with Crepax's inimitable pen lines, by now often clustering together in thick strands to describe contours or areas of shadow, as if a single line simply isn't enough to convey how available these things are to be felt.
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