Man of deep culture and witty intelligence. Diabolik decided to apply his crime virtues with particular attention and dedication, to “robberies with skill”. This idea isn’t surprising. Arsenio Lupin or Fantomas had already made themselves well-known as the charming “black” or negative hero. Diabolik isn’t an innovator, but only a copy of already well-known heroes. Maybe his secret is right in this reassuring continuation. In the beginning Diabolik is represented like a criminal in all his features: he robs, kills, kidnaps, slaughters, cuts throats and stabs, and all this doesn’t upset him at all with a total contempt for other lives; he’ll do anything as long as he reaches his prefixed aim. During this stage Diabolik doesn’t appear much in his stories and maybe this could be a precise choice of the writers, to confirm the “image” of the diabolical character, a ghost, different from normal humanity. During the narrative evolution the character Diabolik has many aspects. Besides sharing his life with Lady Kant (first appearing in “Diabolik’s Arrest”) you can slowly uncover his private life, the way he pays careful attention to the evening news, his passion for art and expensive jewelry, his skill in electronic technology ( his abilities in miniaturization would make the Japanese green with envy), his passion for the Jaguar, but above all his capability in taking care of his psyche to the point of becoming a “normal” man. Infact, if the first Diabolik, like we’ve seen is a psychopath, Diabolik in the middle stage and “maturity stage” is without a doubt a sensible man, that loves his job, appreciates his enemies’ capabilities (Ginko, among all), loves his woman and fights organized crime. He naturally continues using men as if they were puppets, but if before he would’ve killed them to take their place, now he just hides and drugs them in a basement, and then frees them unharmed once he has reached his aim. This vein of humanity is surely the result of different factors: man’s maturity, his relationship with Eva, the continuos and tiring struggle with Ginko and life itself. Together with this evolution, his presence in the story becomes prevailing and even excessive. We discover that Diabolik shaves with razor blades, at the gym he prefers the rings, Eva and him sleep in separate beds, he doesn’t sleep much, he spends whole days fixing up his jaguar equipping it with famous tricks (changed directly from another legendary car, 007’s Aston Martin DBS). He often goes on vacation at the beach with his lover. He looks for new houses to transform into “shelters. In short, the mature Diabolik seems all in all like a serious professional about 40 years old, with a home and a job but in this case with a shelter and robberies as a job. During the years Diabolik refines his technique that was a bit “rough” at the start.
The disguises become perfect, unrecognizable and when they’re not usable (Ginko controls the faces more often) he has to change some features with paraffin so he can’t be caught. The tricks he uses for the escapes become even more clever and they can count on a showy use of the newest technology, always able to stop and surprise the enemy. If taking someone else’s place could be improbable or thoughtless, we can see that the “criminal” has developed remarkable psychological techniques. This allows him to condition his victims transforming them in involuntary accomplices in his robberies.
DIABOLIK AND DRUGS
Since the beginning, drugs have appeared in the strip. Diabolik has to deal with drug dealers, he uses drugs but never for personal use, only if they can help him reach his purpose. You would think during the story that Diabolik thinks positive about drugs. Not only does he deal drugs to make money, but he also fights as hard as he can against gangs that sell them. Of course his only aim is to get hold of the bag full of money but when he gets the drugs he destroys them so they can’t be sold all over again. Doing this, the drug dealers want to make him pay for it but they don’t know they have no hope against Diabolik. He achieves three important goals: the robbery, he destroys the powerful organization and he wins Ginko’s admiration who reminds everyone that Diabolik isn’t a normal criminal. In “Heroine for Ginko”, the police inspector is paid back for showing his high esteem; Diabolik and Eva detoxicate him from heroine dependency that a band of criminals caused him. A literature exists on the substances Diabolik uses. The usual ones are Scopolamine and Pentothal, used on a regular basis to “make” someone talk or to lead to impotence ( the suppression of an innocent’s will that is guillotined instead of Diabolik is a typical example). Scopolamine (more present in the first stage) and Pentothal (present during the “mature” stage of the strip) have become legendary in the Diabolik universe. Besides this we know the criminal often goes to the Orient to get new drugs. You get to know Krusion, the drug that simulates death (Diabolik saves himself in “Buried Alive”) and a plethora of other small drugs more or less created for each situation during the episode (see “Murder Delirium”, in which a specific drug appears that makes you forget what happened in the last 24 hours!). Furthermore, Diabolik uses, almost thoughtlessly, gas (narcotic and cyanide among all) and poisons when he has to get rid of his enemies once and for all (see “Same Destiny for Two Opponents”). There’s also the case in which Diabolik himself is victim of attacks from chemical-bacteriological substances.
An example is “Police, the Accomplice”, where during a robbery his will is suppressed fortuitously by his own gas. “The Human Guinea Pig” in which he is injected a terrible poison that makes his courage disappear (by the end of the episode an antidote is found) or when he undergoes a very strong dosage of radiation, leaving Eva a hard duty in “purifying” him. So, if on one hand taking people’s places makes Diabolik invincible, on the other his skill in the chemical-medicinal drug field enables him, in more than one occasion, to carry out robberies that would be impossible to do or get out of delicate situations. All this is to remind everyone how he’s against any form of drug addiction.
DIABOLIK OR EVA IN PRISON
It could seem incredible, but the situation that sees Diabolik or his accomplice arrested and put into prison is recurring, almost a regular appointment. He usually gets to this point after failing a robbery, when Ginko uses the necessary safety measures to make Diabolik fail in his attempt. So, he’s arrested and put into prison where he closes himself in complete silence, laying on a folded bed with his hands behind his head (the only exception is seen in “Ginko’s Victory”, where Diabolik confesses to his opponent the dislocations of his shelters). Generally, in this stage Diabolik’s psychological picture has two possible configurations:
• Trust: his lover Eva is surely out there with an infallible escape plan.
• Depression: he doesn’t see a way out and so he thinks “It’s really over this time” or “Ginko made it” or a lapidary “It’s over”.
Logically, being executed at dawn would be Diabolik’s destiny, but of course this never happens. It could never happen, it would be the end of the series (in spite of this, the authors and the readers like imagining a hypothetical victory by Ginko, end of Diabolik, Eva’s death, ambushes at the shelters, and the terrifying sentence the sergeant would say to Ginko, “Diabolik is dead”. Diabolik usually escapes from prison thanks to Eva’s help, she disguises herself in policemen, photographers or executioners just to save her beloved. When the tricks don’t work anymore, the two criminals count on an unforeseeable number of slave cops of the game, warders, heroine addicts or corrupted nurses. They become more or less willingly accomplices during the escape, allowing Diabolik to become free again in spite of Ginko’s impressive safety measures. Things are different with Eva. Once she’s imprisoned, she’s always confident that Diabolik can free her (except, maybe, the first time in “The Train of Death”, in which she thinks that he’s in love with another woman). Moreover, she’s always put into female prisons where there are less safety measures a more easily affected staff. Even Ginko is more indulgent with Eva, justifying her crime as if they were consequences of Diabolik’s negative influence on her so, Eva never risks to be guillotined and this obviously gives Diabolik more time to put his plan into practice.
Diabolik would’ve never been the successful criminal we know if he didn’t have by “his side” his famous automobile. Whoever read, at least once, a Diabolik adventure, knows that his car is the legendary and rigorously black Jaguar and above all, equipped with devices and tricks that even James Bond would envy. Diabolik’s Jaguar scares everyone like a real criminal would; everyone, from Ginko’s policeman to his naive secretary and to a famous drug boss perfectly know that getting too close to Diabolik’s car could mean dying. Even Eva respectfully calls it “his car”. Everyone is afraid, because if the Jaguar’s aim is to assist Diabolik and Eva during the robberies and get away, it’s also equipped with devices that would prevent any stranger from using it against Diabolik. For this purpose the car has two devices:
• Anti-theft devices that signal Diabolik if someone has pried too much into the car; they are like the ones the 2 criminals place near their shelters. they are typical warning lights, usually, put in not very visible places (for example under the motor, so it’s immediately visible for them when they come out of the sewers).
• Devices that knock-out whoever tries stealing the car.
Among the most drastic plans is the self-destruction device, which is masked behind an apparently harmless button; others are the different needle-throwers and narcotic gases that are activated with a simple lighter or the window wiper switch: others imprison you inside the car. One thing is for sure, Diabolik’s fantasy has no limits in inventing new tricks for his car. In many occasions it transforms itself in different means of transportation able to face the sea’s depths (sealing himself perfectly from infiltration‘s), to fly (thanks to helicopter rotors), to move around on a lake (thanks to special skids and a boat motor), to go along train tracks with special train wheels and so on: there are no limits for Diabolik’s Jaguar. Besides being a great car for his escapes, his Jaguar is also an unreplaceable mobile support base for Diabolik: he uses it to carry thousands of necessary devices for the robberies, to bring heavy gold ingots to the shelter, but also to go around and follow their future victims spying on them with directional microphones that they shoot on the cars they have to follow with magnet signaler. Diabolik considers his car like his shelters dependence and like them it has many escape devices, used to get rid of the cars that chase him, following a recurrent scheme: Diabolik drags behind him the police cars, avoiding or running over blockade posts thanks to the front armored bumpers and four wheels (that never get flat even if you shoot at the tires) and if he doesn’t stop the chasers with lasers that burn down the motors or bumpers, he drags them into traps. Once they’re there, Eva and him push buttons on the remote control and then anything can happen: Ginko and the cops suddenly have rocks, tree trunks (real or in plastic), nets, trap doors, that stop them. To prepare these devices and equipment, all these cars (he destroys practically one in every episode), Diabolik has to spend a lot of time in the garage: So you presume that even if he’s not a normal person Diabolik has small or big hobbies that normal men have, during the week-ends he repairs his car and takes it to the car wash as if it was his favorite toy. His personality is reflected on it (the Jaguar is fast, always and only black, lethal just like the owner). But we have a doubt: if Ginko knows that Diabolik drives a black “E” Jaguar, why doesn’t he check out all the owners of black ”E “ Jaguars?
The character’s past is one of the most unknown and discussed subjects of the whole DK saga. This criminal, like we’ve already said, doesn’t have a name, he doesn’t have a precise age, he certainly doesn’t celebrate his own birthday, he doesn’t have a nationality, he doesn’t have relatives or parents. It seems like he’s come out from nowhere and this makes him even more mysterious, sinister and charming. On one hand, if all his non-existent personal data has contributed positively to his image, and on the other, as the strip went on, he started showing his limits and most of all, it seemed like the writers themselves didn’t have a clear idea on how to give explanations on the character’s past. So, they began giving hints on his past and here comes a new series of episodes that were made to calm down the reader’s curiosity, giving a “taste of the past”. This operation reaches it’s best in the legendary “Diabolik, who are you?”, where Diabolik and Ginko, apparently condemned to die in short time, have a last, intense and sincere conversation. At this point, the inspector with no delay says the words that give the title to the episode, asking, directly, Diabolik information about himself. That’s when the readers find out that Diabolik doesn’t even know about his own identity, he only knows that he was the only survivor of a shipwreck saved when he was very little by a gang of outlaws that had their base on a secret island. On this island he learns all the techniques and knowledge that characterize his criminal talent. The young survivor, obviously, uses his own personal qualities and soon becomes better than anyone else on the island and so his rescuers become his first victims. On the island, he gets the idea for his “name”. Infact, Diabolik is a black panther’s name from which his style and personality are inspired from. Besides “Diabolik, who are you?”, his past comes out on certain regular terms on the strip (for example the most recent “Threats from the Past”) but it’s never completely resolved: We agree with the author’s choice, mystery is Diabolik’s fundamental component, furthermore, we know that the writers have a complete dossier on his past. We just have to wait and be patient.
It’s very difficult to cause Diabolik crises: he has a strong temperament, an iron will and a lot of luck. And yet, in some rare occasions he looks lost. Even if in rare circumstances and however different from one another, if you exclude all the circumstances in which Diabolik was hurt, it’s worth remembering some episodes. In a dramatic episode, (“The Human Guinea Pig”), they use Diabolik to study the effects of a gas that destroys courage; this is very difficult for Diabolik to understand since he started being afraid in the most common situations, even suicide crosses his mind. Eva tries her best to infuse courage into him, but only the antidote saves him. In a recent episode (“In the Tunnel of Insanity”) Diabolik has to put up with one of his old victim’s revenge: Sweet Elizabeth, Diabolik’s former lover that had reported him to the police (“Diabolik’s Arrest”). Diabolik gives her an atrocious treatment (he made her become almost insane), she then decides to pay him back in the same way; when he’s totally out of his wits, Elizabeth kidnaps and torture him slowly, then sends Eva the photographs. But in the end Diabolik’s lucky star saves him before Elizabeth kills him. “Shadows from the Past”, one of the best episodes, reveals, at last, Diabolik’s weak human spot. The criminal doesn’t bring to an end a robbery because years before, during the same robbery, he had accidentally, almost, stabbed to death a little girl. Diabolik never forgot the terrorized and surprised look on the little girl’s eyes. He has psychological problems and he refuses to talk about it even with Eva. But Eva’s determination finds a solution getting to the origin of the problem, making him face the subject. This represents the only time that Diabolik doesn’t have control on his will, and not because of a drug or hypnotic effect. “Shadows from the Past” gives us a hint on Diabolik’s mysterious past, putting another piece to the puzzle, that however remains incomplete. Ginko can’t even imagine this side of Diabolik’s personality, that remains a unique example in all the criminal’s history, his own woman realizes that if she ever betrayed her man he could kill her or make her go mad (like he did with Elizabeth, his first girlfriend when she reported him to the police). Once because she hadn’t obeyed him, he put his hands around her neck and tried strangling her. But Diabolik’s love for her is stronger than his anger (see “Desperate Struggle”). In the beginning, Lady Kant was never usually involved in Diabolik’s robberies, she waited for him at the shelter, terrorized at the idea that he could be arrested or fall into a trap. Even when she participated, later, in her first robberies, she only did because Diabolik had forced her to. You could tell she didn’t have the skill or the ready wit that will characterize her later on, instead.