In our community of 400+ cartoonists from around the globe, almost 30 come from Italy. To find out more about cartooning in Italy, we talk to Cristina Bernazzini, Enrico Bertuccioli, Lamberto Tomassini (aka Tomas), Andrea Vitti and Emanuele Del Rosso.
We feature a lot of Italian cartoonists on our website. Is that just our perception or is the cartooning scene indeed thriving in Italy?
Andrea: The cartooning scene in Italy has been particularly thriving after 1968, when the social movements of students and workers were born. This lead to the foundation of important satirical magazines, such as Il Male, Cabalà, Cannibale, Frigidaire and linus, together with some great cartoonists such as Andrea Pazienza or Igort. That period, till the 1980s, was very thriving for cartoonists. Then the 1990s and the 00s were obscured by the growth of commercial TV and a lowering of the general cultural level. All the main magazines were closed and (almost) only commercial comics survived. Now with the web and a more global vision, cartooning is improving again, especially in the fields of graphic novels and graphic journalism, also thanks to new famous cartoonists such as Gipi or Zerocalcare.
'There is a shared idea
that cartoonists are only
drawing 'disegnini' or
This is not a respected
Emanuele: The cartooning scene in Italy is undoubtedly very lively. In a country in which bad politics and social issues are a day-to-day problem, the need for satire is strong. Moreover, Italy has a remarkable satirical tradition: the satirical magazines, some of which are still around, testify the presence of a strong and active satirical streak. The problem is, instead, that Italy is vexed by censorship, so political cartoons and other forms of free thought - quality journalism as well - are not welcomed by the political class.
Is there a trait or style that is typical for cartoonists in Italy?
Enrico: I think there is a typical Italian cartoon, which revolves around one or two characters. In the first variant one character talks about a social or political issue with a speech bubble, sometimes with a caption to introduce the subject. The other variant has two characters having a dialogue with a punchline.
Tomas: I do not think there is a typical Italian style. Actually there is a big difference from author to author. Some major cartoonists strive for high quality in the artistic sense, but some of the younger ones are influenced by a recent trend, inspired by the success of sites like spinoza.it or lercio.it. These cartoonists prefer 'written' satire to 'drawn' satire. So they prefer to focus on the idea, considering the drawn part only as a simple support.
Andrea: I would say mainly inked black and white, but there are many different traits and styles even within the work of single cartoonists such as Hugo Pratt, Magnus or Andrea Pazienza, among others.
What are your favorite subjects to draw about?
Cristina: The arrogance of the powerful at the expense of the poor. The globalization of this phenomenon is one of my favorite topics.
Emanuele: I love to follow the news and draw about anything that happens in the world and deserves a thought. Migrations, politics, sport, war, violence, human rights and so on. I love to draw people with their different facial expressions, that for sure.
Enrico: Generally I draw about the political and social situation in Italy, but also about the international situation if there are important subjects to pay attention to. Often international situations have a direct impact on the local situation. Local and global are intertwined more and more.
Tomas: My input comes from the political news, especially from Italy, but also from Europe and the rest of the world. I think that satire must always challenge authority, showing its flaws and faults to public opinion, which is sometimes too sleepy. Good satire can do this because of its revolutionary, utopian view which shows that an alternative reality is always possible.
Andrea: I'm pretty new in the cartooning world, even if I've always read tons of cartoons and I've been drawing for myself my whole life (travel sketches or surreal scenes). At the moment I'm particularly interested in the subject of migrants and the related social problems.
Are there taboos in Italy? And is there outright censorship on some topics?
Cristina: Italy is a very Catholic country, so the biggest taboo is anything related to the Vatican. There is also a taboo in dealing with the problem of money, even in everyday life.
Emanuele: I wouldn't say that there are taboos - cartoonists can draw about everything, as far as I noticed. But there is a sort of self-censorship by the newspapers themselves, sometimes. The topic of journalism is a tough and complicated one, and involves the funding that the government gives to the newspapers. Because of the money they receive, even if they publish crappy articles, newspapers don't strive that much for finding new stuff or for fostering any kind of public discourse.
‘The fact that the
Vatican State is in
Rome is a problem
Enrico: I think that in Italy the most important taboo is religion. The fact that the Vatican State is in Rome is a problem for cartoonists working in newspapers or magazines. They can be attacked for offending religious believers. Sometimes there is also the risk to be sued for what authors draw and write about politicians. Newspapers don’t want to be sued for the ‘provocative’ work of a cartoonist. Riccardo Mannelli, one of the most important Italian satirical artists, said that the institutional press do not let editorial cartoonists draw what they want. They put limits to the cartoonists ideas.In Mannelli’s words, 'Repubblica, Corriere della Sera, Il Fatto Quotidiano…they dictate priorities. (...) We are tolerated in the insitutional press. We are guests and so we are watched over by the master of the house'.
Tomas: Obviously, the presence of Vatican City in Italy heavily influences politics and culture. So the most common taboos are the ones that concern the field of religion. The situation in Italy is very different from countries with oppressive authoritarian regimes, where satire faces violent censorship attacks (although, paradoxically, these attacks can contribute to make the satire stronger). Here, more than risking censorship, satire tends to become weak. Cartoonists, in some cases, afraid of losing their good jobs, consider themselves like mere employees of the newspapers and accept the limits of the editorial line, through a self-censorship which betrays their vocation to intellectual freedom.
Andrea: When it comes of satirical cartoons, I think the only real taboo is about swearing against god, all the rest has already been drawn. Of course newspapers, magazines and media are generally not free, but always aligned with political parties or religious and ideological movements, so I think in the media there is a kind of internal censorship for what is not aligned with the main orientation or ideology.
In most countries, it’s difficult for cartoonists to make a living. Are there a lot of places for a cartoonist to publish in Italy? And if so, do they pay?
Emanuele: Few pay, as far as I've seen. And if they do, surely what they give is not enough to live with. So far, none of the magazines that asked me to contribute talked about money. There is a shared idea that cartoonists are only drawing 'disegnini', that is, 'little drawings', little pictures, that anybody could do. This is not a respected profession here - my mentors, Toti Buratti among them, and others, told me so many times.
Enrico: No, there are not so many places for a cartoonist to be published. At the moment there are no satirical inserts in magazines (weekly or monthly) and no satirical pages in newspapers. There is Il Nuovo Male a monthly independent satirical magazine. Another one is linus, an important monthly paper magazine founded in 1965 and still alive. It publishes comic strips and illustrations from Italian and international artists, with an eye also for the political and social problems through essays of well known writers, journalists ans satyrical authors. A magazine like Internazionale gives space to editorial cartoons or political comic strips, but institutional newspapers have their own cartoonists and they don’t want to take any risk trying to launch new artists. I know that big newspapers give a fee to their cartoonists (I’ve worked for the Sunday satirical insert of Il Fatto Quotidiano and they paid me) but there are few cartoonists that live of their work in Italy. So satirical cartoonists seek refuge in the internet, where everyone has the possibility to show their work, to launch projects or to collaborate with web magazines. The Internet offers many opportunities, but finding paying work online remains a problem for cartoonists.
'In recent years,
the possibilities to publish
have dramatically decreased.'
Tomas: In recent years, the possibilities to publish have dramatically decreased. Many newspapers have decided to stop the production of satirical inserts. In addition, the authors who work in newspapers and in TV networks are very few and are always the same for years, hindering the possibility of a real generational change. When an editor decides to give space to little-known authors, it's very unlikely he is willing to pay them. Many young people who wish to undertake this activity often agree to give up their work for free, hoping to be rewarded with visibility. And that's an attitude to be absolutely avoided, because it helps to maintain the status quo.
Are there many young cartoonists?
Tomas: There are many young people in Italy who are trying to work as a cartoonist. I think they are enticed by the fact that satire is an important way to communicate ideas. Moreover, satire is always present in the first page of our major newspapers, where it is used as a strategic and effective weapon (a cartoon reaches its target in an instant, while an article needs to be digested and assimilated by the readers).
Emanuele: There are many young cartoonists, but sometimes they lack the political awareness that is needed to be an editorial cartoonist. In any case, the graphic novel field, for example, is in steady and fast expansion.
Andrea: The rise of new genres, such as graphic novels and graphic journalism, has lead to an increase of younger cartoonists, born in the 80s and 90s, such as Zerocalcare.
Are you positive about the future of editorial cartooning in Italy?
Cristina: I see more possibilities for comics than for editorial cartoons.
Emanuele: It's difficult to be positive about the future of a free-thinking-people interest, because of the Italian censorship, lack of money and lack of investment in the field. But things are moving, and networks with abroad are built. So yes, I try to stay positive!
Enrico: No, I’m not so positive about it. I don’t know if there is a young audience really interested in the art of editorial cartooning: spaces to be published are very scarce I’m not sure that Internet could be the lifeline. There are not so many projects like Cartoon Movement around.
Andrea: Italy is an amazing and very complex country, a place of deep contrasts. II think we're passing through a bad identity and cultural crisis. But crises are moments of change, where new spaces are created, and I'm positive about the Italians' attitude towards creativity. Moreover we are more connected to the world and to Europe than ever, and I see this as a positive challenge to widen our horizons. So, I'm trying to do my best with my creativity, to try and make things better.