Edizioni Delibile http://delebile.com/
In 2013 I managed to visit the Lucca Summer Festival – mainly because of Cristian “Akira” Darstar (Otaku Magazine, Cosplay Gen, Manga Inc, Harap Alb, SEFEU, Geruman & much more) and his extraordinary parents living and working in Italy, not very far from Lucca. Lucca Fest is a demo of how to transform a snug little medieval Italian into a week-long Restaurant at the End of the Universe or Mos Eisley Cantina. Not only that. It’s also a way to get close to innumerable comic book addicts, stacks upon stacks of new/vintage and rare pulp, mingle with huge sweaty crowds and pray to a human-sized Mazinger Z (Go Nagai) robot statue, wink at ragged zombie construction workers and empathize with a tired Hellboy sipping his coffee.
It is also the place to squat inside an entire tent dedicated to obscure and not so obscure indie, horror, high low brow, alternative, DIY, fresh off the mint, artsy, trash, mutant, mondo comic books. In this tent I ended at the Edizioni Delibile stand and did a comic book exchange: one COLOSUS from us – and a MYRIAD comic book by Lorenzo Ghetti & Ugo Schiesaro in return from them. The freshly printed MYRIAD adventure has left an inDelible mark on me to this day and hour, so its high time to try and show why [SPOILER alert ahead!].
Even if they stopped short after Chapter I, Ghetti & Schiesaro have managed to log me into lives at end of time and the internal rhythms of a spaceship carrying probably the last human generation towards an unknown and largely unmentioned mission. So this is a review and a bit more than that, trying to see how this particular comics stimulates us into perceiving cosmic drift and temporal divergence from up close and afar at the same time.
MYRIAD SPACE STATION joins a flotilla of generational Ark/ Galactic Ark with its original & intriguing example (for me at least) of what kind of new societies and rituals punctuate these travels across immense gulfs of time. But before I’ll drift into necessary regression & digression on a wider topic, I will try to zoom in on the particular visual style of this comic book. The moods and aesthetics aspects are essential, and how the graphic feels, how the constant framing and overall texture of the comic book induces the ontological ground of what I would call – being lost and dead-alive in the outer reaches of space.
Ellipsis as well in both its astronomic and its verbal/speech sense might come in handy to describe the mood aboard MYRIAD. The name myriad is an instant reminder of how our notion of enduring lifeform (if we make it that far) in the far future is resonating across the threshold of our past and present predicament: that we now number in the billions and that that life itself has traveled on board spaceship Earth for billions of years.
At the level of individual lives, even as long as ours (compared to other similar-sized non-human earthlings), the myriad is a far away & impossible count, empty number, since even our capacity to maintain contact with others rarely exceeds 120 persons at most, as we are told. I am avoiding those complications issuing forth of the fact that humans are not exactly humans but incredible host and aggregates, swarms of myriads of other minute non-human organisms, mostly unicellular and very very very far related from us, like say several billions of years since the split between our last common ancestor split them. Nevertheless in spite of our bodily proximity the myriad argument still stands, the mind-boggling myriad-strong living & shaking ensemble being called – The Human Microbiome – lies fairly (and thankfully) hidden and invisible within our tissular folds.
MYRIAD allows us as comic book readers the possibility to participate in just a tiny fraction of a gigantic orbit that is only part of 75th revolution. Aboard this spaceship we’re taking part in a fraction of time measured as sidereal time, assisting four successive generations (the old, the middle aged, the young and the unborn), in handing over their clothes, jobs and positions to the younger crew which names the next generation in line for The Passing Ceremony. Somehow all these generations are just each phases in time of themselves. They look, resemble and are very close to each and we are left free to speculate about their affiliation to cloning technologies of artificial insemination. Nothing is mentioned, everything is implied, suggested but never articulated – and this makes it such a great comic, despite its terse and allusive manner.
Cloning was never such an easy process, especially for us multicellular beings. What is here significant is a secondary macro effect of cloning, when in a normal succession of generations you’re able to meet younger or older version of yourself. This allows much more intimate, freaky or not, overlap between various phases and versions of yourself. The crew of this particular ship has been able to watch and meet themselves ad infinitum, at various countless separate moments (fractions of cycles?) during their spaceship ark existence.
We can never see the outlines of the world-ship. We are only getting glimpses of its purpose or its history, only trough marginalia: the rough, polished surfaces of old living quarters, the unwavering dark lines of partitions. The clang and gush of air from pressurized doors and anti-gravitational corridors. The black and white (its a B&W comics and the more effective for it!) underscores and follows the contour of life that is in a sense reproduction as pure maintenance, the pure cycling of organic materials, trailing behind a ghost of a teleology; a final end that has completely deserted the ship.
The only place where the outer immensity of space is featured is the cover, and the gray spaceship itself is a fragment of itself, a partial metallic hull that bulges forward into darkness. Infinite space is visible only on the back cover with solar panels and immensely distant meteors or comets (K class?), or something even more ominous flying off in the far corner of the page. The clear and finely corroded pencil art attacks all surfaces and spatial subdivisions, at the same time as it imbues and embosses them with the marks and traces of repeated, recursive usage. Hundreds, thousand, hundreds of thousands of openings and closing of plug hatches and pressurized compartments. I love (and probably you do too I hope), the places where thousand of hands and feet have fondled and modeled surfaces of stones, burial tombs, ancient ruins – mostly motivated by faith and belief in good luck and propitiatory effects during pilgrimages. I’ve seen statues or tombs retaining the repetitive generational touch – deep grooves and orifices – contacts that have altered and changed the form and the structure of the most solid materials (marble, basalt, granite). They are acting as elements, becoming like rain, wind or dust. It’s not destruction or mere corrosive action but an incredible accumulation of gestures & continuities that have all converged and scaled up simple caress and most fragile approach. They all join overlapping animal tracks near an ancient Lakes, like the tracks of dinosaurs in a long dead riverbed. They make visible the cumulative nature of time- amplified repercussions & effects as marvels in themselves. They are acting like anthropic shadows of gradualism – the theory in natural sciences where slow repetitive continuous processes can deliver tremendous if largely unseen changes and transformations.
MYRIAD is an unsettling story, dressed in somber hues and deceivingly simple in its happenings, tempered in appearance and style, yet exactly this dampened event, the circularity of handing over your job, your uniform to the next in line is chock-full of incredible anxieties and acutely depicted cosmic traumas. On the surface everything is ceremonious like the naming of a new mayor in a small city, or graduation day, or a wedding, but we can now witness the echo of remote trajectories, the implications of passage – just on board a comic book Space Station.
MYRIAD is also a floating tomb in space. Yes, MYRIAD is the place where people know when they die, when they have to hand it over to the next in line. One drop of sweat is always visible on the forehead, and foreboding signs abound on the faces of some of the younger characters, all bodily signs that something is amiss, that a burden is continuously present at the turning point. I would like to show how this single (I) chapter comic book cuts to the existential core of being adrift in space by calmly, unceremoniously, dressing off and handing over your uniform and then entering eagerly and gingerly a room full of numbered pods. We never know what these pods are. Could they be a deep sleep facility, a space-slumber or rejuvenation unit for the old and weary?
The other remaining groups are all together. All are able to watch everything trough a big glass separating them from the equally spaced and numbered pods. The new youthful captain is swiping his fingers over some illegible graphic interface and the pods start to lock and close shut.
This is an incredible and overwhelming moment, spread out on 7 pages, totally exceptional in my own comics experience. An interruption has occurred, and this dramatic situation is shifting us away from the strange commonality of convention. A regular event becomes in a matter of panels nothing else than a masked ordeal of necessary euthanasia and re-absorption, the acquiescent and programmed passing away of a generation that has outlived its purpose. There is a malfunction in the cycle that brings out the drama, the moment when the pods do not do what they are supposed to do. Or they do what they do out in the open for a change. This interruption brings everybody into sudden panic and realization of what’s at stake during the reverberative and unfolding life and death cycles – the process of exit out of the cycle, the way members of the 14B – 14C – 14D cycles have to fit into the a larger scheme.
During hundreds or thousands of years, during innumerable cycles, the confines of a galactic ark have started bearing out strange fruits. From a higher dimension, living matter becomes just an isthmus, a way of stretching out scanty material that dots the drift with its own continuous divergence and extendability into increasing orbits of nothingness. For countless recycled generations, for countless passages, the participation of biomass into the circularity of sidereal orbit has become the only route trough infinity, and the only purpose or function was just that: as stepping stones bridging the eons, the immense gulfs that separate points of non-departure and non-arrival.
And I am thankful to MYRIAD for allowing me to gaze into that for even a infinitesimal instant. This being said this comic book one shot is not the only treasure from Italy issued by independent comix publishers Delebile Edizioni, Their stable of young artists from Italy & beyond sports a range of options which I urge you to check. Expect high quality prints with minute attention to detail and a all-pervading sense of true passion for the medium. Anthologies, single issues, one shots, various formats, they have all the gems for your composite eyes, lateral hearts and the sentient fingertips. In an increasingly diversified and expanding comic book galaxy, I am sure Delebile stand out with a solar system of their own.