SHANGHAI DEVIL - A 18 ISSUES MINISERIES
In 1897, Ugo Pastore, son of Enea, an executive of the Rome-based company Caput Mundi that moved its business in the Far East, follows his father to Shanghai, to help him with his commercial affairs. Young and idealist, Ugo can’t stand the inequalities he’s witnessing in that place, a crossroads of legal, but also shady, business. He will soon choose to don again the silver mask of Volto Nascosto, becoming the mysterious hero that the British will call Shanghai Devil!
Young Chinese actor, a friend of Ugo’s. On stage, he’s a fearless hero who’s able to perform spectacular acrobatic feats. In life, Ha is a mild and very shy young man, known as a person who avoid risks. Or so it seems... but every actor knows that if you play a character long enough, you can find yourself identified with him.
An ill-fated Chinese girl, sold to a Shanghai brothel by her own family. Ugo falls in love with her, and his intervention will avoid Meifong the same dramatic fate of Madame Butterfly. In her, Ugo will find an unexpected and unhoped for tenderness in those war times; while the story develops and their lives become separated, this meeting will also take the value of a nearly impossible utopia.
A friendly adventurer from Milan, Evaristo, (better known as Risto), will develop a solid friendship with Ugo, going side by side with him during his adventures. Risto isn’t the classic comic sidekick, but presents many shady aspects. Away from home for several years, as it happens to many Italian expatriates Risto is now more affectionated to the cooking tradition and his hometown idiom than when he was in Italy. His behaviour is far from crystal-clear, marked by an absolute unpredictability.
Head of the boxer rebels, Chuang Lai is a Shaolin monk. Endowed with a sharp ethical intransigence, he’s not a blood-thirsty character, although he’s a rebel to the core: a great commander and an unequalled fighter, he’s always fighting in the front line, using his bare hands, traditional weapons but also firearms taken from the Western invaders. To mark the difference with the archetypical Asiatic villain, Fu Manchu, we took our inspiration from the popular Chinese actor Jet Li, who also featured in the wonderful movie saga "Once Upon a Time in China".
Lady Jane Stanton
A charming British spy. She’s a pre-eminently shady character, otherwise she wouldn’t be a spy. Clearly inspired by some Marlene Dietrich characters as well as by Greta Garbo’s Mata Hari. But she also has her own personality, very freely taken from some real adventurous, nonconformist and daring women from the past, deeply involved in the siege to the foreign Legation quarter in Peking, such as the legendary Polly Condit Smith, portraited in some historic photos next to some cannons, wearing a sporty divided skirt. Our Lady Jane is prone to other eccesses, shooting, singing, seducing, scheming and showing an enviable leading ability.
During Shanghai Devil’s adventures, our heroes will cross paths with several historical characters:
Kuang Su (1871-1908)
Having ascended the imperial throne when he was only four, Kuang Su was under the tutelage of his aunt Suxi, mother of the former Emperor, Tung Chih, who died at 14. Kuang Su began to effectively rule in 1889. He reformed the state administration, the schools and the army following a European model, launching a modernization project not preconceivedly averse to the foreign powers and their commercial representatives in China. His efforts aren’t destined to succeed. Suxi will prevail again – she’ll have Kuang Su declared insane and she’ll depose him, helding him captive.
Chosen as a concubine by Emperor Xianfeng (1831-1861) she rapidly climbs the ranks of the court until, as the widow of the Emperor himself, she inherits his power although as a regent for her young son, Tung Chih, a weak boy destined to an untimely death. Suxi uses an iron fist to strenghten her power and in 1875 she puts her nephew Kuang Su on the throne, sure as she is to be able to easily manipulate him. When the new Emperor is in the condition to assume the full exertion of power, Suxi – deeply adverse to his reforming inclination – has him arrested and begins again to rule by herself. Scarcely popular and considered as the cause of the end of the Qing dynasty, Suxi, has very rarely been portraited in Chinese contemporary movies, although she had an important historical role and a dark allure to herself. In 1975 she was the center of the historical film "The Empress Dowager" with Lisa Lu, produced in Hong Kong by the Shaw Brothers, while in more recent years, in 2003, the 24th episode of the Chinese TV series "Zhou Xiang Gonghe" ("Towards the Republic", an historical drama in 59 episodes) portraits Suxi in a more benevolent light, at least on the human level.
Sir Claude Maxwell McDonald (1852-1915)
An English diplomat. He took the position of British Minister in China in 1896. During the siege of the foreign Legation quarter in Peking he had a preminent role over the other international diplomats, as a strategic coordinator. He inspired the character of the British ambassador Sir Arthur Robinson, played by David Niven, in the movie "55 days to Peking" by Nicholas Ray (1963).
Shanghai Devil’s world
Shanghai, China, 1897. That’s the place where we find Ugo Pastore (the hero, and also the "heir" of the silver mask that belonged to Volto Nascosto) at the beginning of the miniseries Shanghai Devil. A particularly interesting place and historical time was chosen by Gianfranco Manfredi to tell his new saga: at the end of the 1800, Shanghai already is one of the main Asian ports, a place where the Western and Eastern cultures meet. And where they sometimes clash, due to the different tradition and customs and above all to the business – legal or not – of the many companies that fight for a dominant position in the spice and cloth trade, and also in the trade of less “noble” materials. A few years later, climaxing in 1900, the Boxers, independentist rebels who fought with their bare hands following the teachings of the ancient martial arts schools, surge against the foreign powers who placed a foothold in the main cities and are increasingly expanding their commercial properties. At first, the uprising is aimed against the Christian missions, but it’s soon clear that it has more ambitious targets, threatening the very foundation of the Empire, already ravaged by the economic crisis and harsh dynastic struggles. It’s in this scenario that, seemingly out of the blue, a strange masked hero with a handgun enters the stage. The British call him Shanghai Devil and see him as one of their harshest enemies. The silver mask of Shanghai Devil is hiding none other than the young man from Rome, Ugo Pastore, who, faced with many injustices can only get involved, trying to right wrongs.
Shanghai Devil’s creator
Gianfranco Manfredi was born in Senigallia (Ancona) and is living in Milan, where he graduated in History of Philosophy. In 1978, he published an essay titled "L’amore e gli amori in J. J. Rousseau" (Mazzotta, 1978), while his debut in fiction writing was "Magia rossa" (Feltrinelli, 1983/ 2nd edition, 2007 Gargoyle Books). Feltrinelli published his following novels "Cromantica" (1985), "Ultimi vampiri" (1987) and "Trainspotter" (1989). His subsequent works were "Il peggio deve venire" (Mondadori, 1991) and "La fuga del cavallo morto" (Anabasi, 1993); more recently, his “Una fortuna d’annata” (2000), “Il Piccolo Diavolo Nero” (2001), and “Nelle tenebre mi apparve Gesù” (2005) were published by Marco Tropea, while for Gargoyle he wrote "Ho freddo" (2008) and "Tecniche di resurrezione" (2010). Multimedia author, Gianfranco Manfredi (above, in a portrait drawn by famous theatrical actor Arnoldo Foà) also wrote more than 300 songs, many movie and TV scripts, and essays of musical critic. His debut in comics was the creation, for Dardo publishing house, of "Gordon Link", an ironic ghost-buster (1991). Manfredi has been working with Sergio Bonelli Editore since 1994, writing scripts for Dylan Dog and Nick Raider. In 1997 he wrote for Bonelli a Western series, Magico Vento, that features horror and magical elements. In 2005 Manfredi debuted as a writer for Tex, with the episode “La pista degli agguati” (Maxi Tex 2005). After the success of Volto Nascosto, a thrilling graphic novel divided in 14 episodes, published from October 2007, now it’s time for the sequel, Shanghai Devil, that will be at your newsstand’s with the first of its 18 episodes, in October 2011.
- The collaborators
Gianfranco Manfredi, writer.
Giuseppe Barbati, artist.
Stefano Biglia, artist.
Raffaele Della Monica, artist.
Roberto Diso, artist.
Corrado Mastantuono, cover artist for the entire series.
Alessandro Nespolino, artist.
Darko Perovic, artist.
Paolo Raffaelli, artist.
Bruno Ramella, artist.
Massimo Rotundo, artist.
FAQ Gianfranco Manfredi answers
“SHANGHAI DEVIL” IS THE SEQUEL TO “VOLTO NASCOSTO”: WILL WE NEED TO KNOW ALL THE DETAILS OF THE FIRST MINISERIES TO UNDERSTAND THIS STORY?
If you approach the new series after reading “Volto Nascosto”, you’ll be able to find a known face in the pages of “Shanghai Devil”: that’s Ugo Pastore. As for the other things, the new series, though in principle linked to the one before, is a completely independent and different narrative, beginning with the setting and the fact that it features a single main hero. Though Shanghai Devil features many characters, it will be less of a “team” story.
AFTER THE TRAGIC AND DOOMED LOVE WITH MATILDE SERENI, UGO WILL FIND A NEW FLAME IN THE REMOTE SHANGHAI?
The charming femmes fatales like Matilde won’t fail to appear in the new series as well: from the young prostitute Meifong to the intriguing English spy Jane Stanton, and others... Will Ugo be let down and defeated by love as in the other series? I’ll leave you with the pleasure to find out...
WILL THE HISTORICAL SIDE BE IMPORTANT IN “SHANGHAI DEVIL”?
The setting in a peculiar historical context surely will be an important and determining trait for the new miniseries. But the readers shouldn’t fear to be confronted with an academical lesson on China at the end of the 19th century/beginning of the 20th. We are producing entertaining comics, and in our stories we try to underline the adventurous, mysterious and exotic elements, beside the historical background.
WILL WE BE ABLE TO READ EACH ALBUM ON ITS OWN, OR WILL THE SERIES HAVE A STRICT CONTINUITY?
Using the miniseries "format", I like to tell stories as episodic novels. Each single album is strictly connected to tthe others, allowing me to create, at the end of the 18 issues, a great narrative picture, that can be dynamic and with an increasing pace.