Fantasy-Faction World Tour of Wonderment – Italy
Hey folks. I recently found myself packing up my piece of crap car and moving from England to Italy and so, I decided that my next article had to be about why this new land is so incredible. I couldn’t figure out how to do it though, until it hit me. When most of us think of the fantasy genre in relation to nations it’s easy to think of the classic British writers such as Blyton, C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and modern American greats such as Peter V. Brett and Sanderson. But what about the rest of the world?
Therefore, I would like to welcome you to the first stop on the Fantasy Faction World Tour of Wonderment: Italy!
Italy is the birthplace of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment and home to the Catholic church, The Vatican, and arguably some of the finest foods and wines on the planet but what about fantasy? Well, perhaps surprisingly, Italy can be argued as the greatest fantasy producing nation on the planet and here’s why.
We all know Pinocchio, that lovable wooden scamp from the Disney movie who gets up to all sorts of naughty hijinks and causing his father, creator (and some say lover), Geppetto, untold worry.
Pinocchio was created in 1883 by Carlo Collodi an Italian author who is famous for his allegorical stories through which he would vent his own opinions and ideas. Like Van Gogh, Collodi was never famous in his own lifetime and Pinocchio never truly came to life (see what I did there?) until years after Collodi’s death.
So what influence has Pinocchio had on the world other than the animated Disney movie? Well the obvious answer is the Shrek films, but there’s also A.I., the Spielberg film about a young robot boy who wishes to be real (not to forget the atrocious Bi-Centennial Man), and perhaps more surprisingly, the Japanese manga Astro Boy is noted by the author to have been directly influenced by the story of Pinocchio. Yet, of all the places Pinocchio has influenced, for me, my favourite is a very short and sweet Family Guy side-cut which I won’t embed here but I urge you to Google.
Fun Fact: In the original The Adventures of Pinocchio, Pinocchio’s hat was made out of bread yet didn’t go soggy when rescuing his father from the whale. For me, this is proof that the Italians have the recipe to the ancient elven lembas bread. Perhaps someone could suggest the sale of this recipe as a way to fuel Burlosconi’s womanising…ahem…I mean, to end the national debt.
Dante, the protagonist from Devil May Cry has, along with his kick-ass swords, fathered four of his own video games and even starred in others such as being my favourite character in Marvel Vs Capcom 3. He…
Ah, I’m joking. Although the half-devil, half-human, demon killing Dante from the games is named after the Dante I’m going to talk about here, the subject of this section is not so radical, at least not by modern standards anyway.
Dante was a key writer during the Enlightenment and here in Italia, he is genuinely considered to be the ‘Father of Italian language.’ Much like Collodi, Dante found a vent for his personal opinions through allegorical story telling. His finest work, considered to be one of the greatest poems ever written, is the huge Divine Comedy. I won’t bore you with how historically important it was that it was named ‘comedy,’ but I will tell you that the story (for those in the cheap seats at the back), is about Dante’s personal journey through Hell (Inferno), through Purgatory (Pergatorio), and finally through the Heavens (Paradiso) where he eventually meets God. Heavy stuff.
Not only is the Divina Commedia considered a tour de force of literature but it has also had a massive influence on popular culture. Those of you from the Brit Pop era will most certainly know the Divine Comedy as a band who not only dueted with Tom Jones but also wrote a song about riding on National Express (UK) buses. The Divine Comedy has directly influenced games such as Devil May Cry and the atrocious Dante’s Inferno game of 2010. It’s main influence though is arguably of that on legendary writers from Chaucer to C. S. Lewis and beyond. In many ways, we have Dante to thank for some of our greatest literary classics.
Dante. Cool name. Kinda a big deal.
Okay so anyone outside of Italy probably won’t know who Paperinik is. The Americans did try to brand him as PK but that flopped, so Paperinik is now known across the world as, Duck Avenger!
By day, Donald is your run of the mill mutant duck dressed like a sailor saying phooey a lot but by night he dons a cape and captures crooks. A quick Wikipedia search will tell you that Duck Avenger started life as a vindicator rather than as a superhero, which he later became in the official canon, but what it won’t tell you is just how similar he is to another Italian original called Diabolik.
Diabolik is one of the original anti-heroes. Long before we had Mark Millar’s Nemesis comics (which you must read if you haven’t), the people from the land of spaghetti gave us the ultimate cat burglar. He will traverse vertical walls, steal your jewels and seduce your wife.
Ok, so you may say he isn’t fantasy as we know it, he’s just an impressive human, but for the 1950s he was fantasy. Captain America was the peak of human physicality, Batman had all the gadgets to help him become super human, and Diabolik combined the two. Above this, Diabolik also had super life-like masks that would shit all over Spidey foe the Chameleon’s masks or even Snake’s mask in Metal Gear 4.
Diabolik is huge in Italy and has had quite an impact on the rest of the world, although, you may have missed it. Diabolik has had video games, trading cards, and even a gen-u-wine Hollywood movie. Yeah, so the movie bombed but who cares, it still happened and not only did the film totally influence the video to The Beastie Boys “Body Movin” but scenes from the film were actually used in the music video. Not too shabby.
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Before my final point, I would like to share an anecdote with you. A couple of months ago I was talking to a friend who has just had a baby and called him Leonardo. I asked this friend:
“So where did you get the name Leonardo from? Did you name him after Da Vinci?” Already pretty sure that I knew what the answer was going to be.
After a long, blank look she eventually replied, “No, I named him after Di Caprio, you know the guy from Titanic and that In-contraception film where…”
Sufficed to say that as she continued to describe Inception, my soul quietly sighed and said to my brain, “I told you so.”
“Who’s Da Vinci?” She eventually asked. Before I could reply she continued. “Wasn’t he one of the Ninja Turtles?”
Please don’t judge me by the stupidity of my friends…
Yes folks, Dante, Pinocchio et al may be great but my favourite Italian influence on fantasy is that of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Ah okay, so they were an American creation, but Splinter nurtured them and turned them in to the lean green fighting machines we know and love and he named them after his favourite Italian painters, Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael. Sod all of their fantastic paintings in The Vatican, the Ninja Turtles are the true legacy of these great painters.
Notable mention for Italian fantasy has to go to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. May his noodley appendages protect us all.
So there we have it. Italia, not just famous for pasta and Romans. Also, I would just like to say that before you explode in the comments demanding why Paolini is not in this article, please note that he is an American, you moron.
You can visit the other countries in our world tour here: