Written by Monica Landro
Photos by di Luca De Nardo
Giancarlo Berardi is a peak figure in the world of Italian comics and his name is inevitably linked to Ken Parker and Julia, his two greatest characters among the many who came to life from his mind and his pen.
We are in truth facing a multifaceted artist whose artistic sensitivity emerges in different fields and does not stop only at comics. Berardi, born in 1949, has always been involved in the field of theater and music. He is in fact an excellent singer and guitarist. Its versatility leads it to be from the 70s to today, a point of reference for fans of art and comics, in Italy and in the world.
What inspired you to become a cartoonist and how did you start your career in the comics industry?
At four or five years old, I learned Neapolitan songs from the radio and repeated them, without understanding their meaning. At that time, Rai went to schools and I was chosen to proclaim a poem. It was followed by the debut in a student theater, in the role of the protagonist. In high school, that experience also saw me in the role of author and director. At the same time, I dabbled in drawing, assiduously frequented cinema, literature, comics, and a broken guitar.
Those who have so many talents struggle to choose one.
In fact, I continued to cultivate my passions, until fate imposed on me Ivo Milazzo as a bench mate. He drew better than me, I wrote better than him. We formed a close-knit duo and chose to express ourselves through the talking clouds.
Could you succeed immediately?
No, the start from the bottom was long and painful. I wrote stories for Disneestro, for Sylvester, for Tarzan, for Diabolik … In short, I learned the trade. Meanwhile, I was performing with my group “beat”, The Scorpions, for which I composed the first songs.
You even managed to graduate…
With a thesis on the sociology of the detective novel. And I had begun to travel, staying in Britain, the United States, France, Spain. I gave exams between starts. Let’s come back to your experiences in the world of theater and music. How did you experience these artistic aspects of yours?
They were preparatory to the profession I chose. The experiences of director help me in the scripts; the attitude to acting allows me to verify the naturalness of the dialogues; the sense of rhythm is fundamental, otherwise the narration is stretched out.
What is your creative process when it comes to writing a comic book story?
It depends on how I wake up in the morning, whether in a major or minor tone. But above all I dedicate myself to the characters, of which I must know everything: age, birth, origins, studies, relationships, activities… When I have these elements very clear, I just put the character in a situation and he carries on the story himself.
How much importance do you give to the text and how much to the illustration, within a story?
They must be complementary. Readers expect a compelling episode and the drawing must accompany its development, presenting realistic settings, recognizable physiognomies, natural expressions. A difficult job, requiring high specialization.
What are your sources of inspiration?
I consider myself a true storyteller, so I take my cue from life. I am interested in mankind. I study physiognomy, characters, reactions, and dialogues. Each person wrote his own story in his face. My job is to translate those stories into words and images.
How much does cinema, literature and real news have to do with it?
Quite a lot. Every day I dedicate an hour to reading newspapers, but my cultural background is peppered with cinema, theater, literature, music. I have seen thousands of movies, which I now regard thanks to a collection of 3500 DVDs. I learned to read on” The Last of the Mohicans, ” by J As a child, however, I discovered the stories of Sherlock Holmes, which in 1980 I transposed into cartoons with drawings by Giorgio Trevisan.
Ken Parker was released in 1977.
I thought of it in ‘ 74. It was supposed to be a single issue, but when my editor saw the result he wanted me to continue. So, in twenty-five years, I’ve produced a hundred stories.
Julia Kendall is one of your best-known characters. How is it born?
In 1994, Ken Parker was at the minimum of the sales. Sergio Bonelli invited me to propose something new. Julia was born. A female protagonist, symbol of the female emancipation that distinguishes our era. Beautiful, elegant, cultured, determined-the quintessence of the modern girl.
Julia practises as a criminologist and teaches at the university.
I call her a” detective of the soul”, because in addition to bringing criminals to justice, she tries to understand – without judging – the deep drives that push them to commit crimes. To prepare for the series, in 1996 I attended the criminology course at the University of Genoa.
It first appeared in 1998. Her face is inspired by Audrey Hepburn: why did you choose her?
I saw her in “Sabrina”, around the age of six. Smiling, with almond-shaped eyes, a slender figure that exuded vitality and sympathy. It took my heart away. Today, on Julia’s 25 ° anniversary, I still receive hundreds of missives in which readers claim that Hepburn is their ideal model. I’m glad, but also a little jealous: Audrey was a dream of mine.
From the 70s to today you have created and contributed to the growth of many characters that have become a cult in the world of comics, but Ken Parker stands out above all. What did it mean to you?
Ken was a friend, a son, a brother, a father. We grew up together, both torn apart by the failure of the sixty-eight utopia. Through him, I was able to express my thoughts, my disappointments, my hopes, my outlook on life. It was a mirror in which I recognized myself, a sounding board that gave concreteness to my ideas. I owe him so much. And he repays me with the esteem that he still collects in the world.
Will we have the opportunity to read new stories of your beloved character?
In 2015, I made a final episode to close the saga. But in life there is nothing certain.
Is there still some project or some character in your drawer?
I have an unpublished novel, a television project, and a dozen sprouting stories. In addition, I am working on my fourth CD and I bring on the stages “The Jimi Hendrix Revolution”, a theatrical show that engages me as a director and actor.
For the cover of Art & Glamor you have prepared an image, designed by Claudio Piccoli, in which you appear with Julia intent on leafing through our magazine, surrounded by works of art.
It takes up a corner of my studio, but the painting is the work of Emma Hepburn Ferrer, and the sculptures of Thomas Pucci.I met both of them in Citta di Castello, where an exhibition was dedicated to my career. Emma was the godmother. A very sweet girl, with a grandmother’s smile, a passion for painting, and an equally talented boyfriend – Thomas. I thought it would be nice to surround myself with their creations.