Another fine example of European's love affair with everything American and noir is Vittorio Giardino's bande dessinée private peeper SAM PEZZO (pezzo is Italian for spade--get it?) whose stories first began to appear in Il Mago, an Italian comics magazine.
With a dark mustache, high forehead, a smoke jammed in his yap, Sam works the mean streets of a suitably bleak Bologna, a "shitpile of a city." He does collections and other assorted small jobs for various suitably seedy clients. Sam seems to swear quite a bit, but this may be the result of a bad attempt at rendering American tough guy talk into an Italian comic strip, and then translating it into English version I read.
But rest assured: all the familiar props and tropes are here: the Smith & Wesson .38, the office bottle of Scotch, the trenchcoat, the frosted glass office door, the hangovers, the cynical wisecracks, the petty thieves and small-time hustlers who make up most of Sam's world, the babes with lust in their eyes and evil in their hearts, etc., etc.
Maybe it's the spin given on it by being Italian, but what should be a pretty run-of-the-mill read comes off as a lot of fun, even if at times it all seems rather precious. But the artwork, unflinching and precise, a perfect example of the French ligne claire style, brings it all back home.
Sam's adventures first popped up around 1979, in Italian, and have since also appeared in English and French collections, in various black & white and colour configurations. The B&W is especially effective, evoking that whole edgy moody noirt hing. Check 'em out!
Vittorio Giardino is an Italian comic artist who decided, at the age of 30, to devote himself to comics. His first short story, "Pax Romana," was published in La Città Futura, a weekly magazine published by the Italian Communist Youth Federation, and his work still touches on political themes. Sam Pezzo was his first major series character, but in 1982 he created a new character, Max Fridman, who brought Giardino to international acclaim in the comics world. Fridamn was a hardened, cynical former spy involved in the various political turmoil of 1930s Europe. He has since created Little Ego, a young and sexy girl, inspired by Winsor McCay's classic Little Nemo who stars in one-page erotic dream sequences, and Jonas Fink, a young Jew in 1950s Prague whose father is taken away by the Communist police. His work has been translated into numerous languages, and collection in countless permutations, but as far as I know only one volume of Sam Pezzo has ever appeared in English. Too bad...
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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