The Comic Strip's Language
The strip has a very personal and absolutely simple language. In Diabolik every communicative form, like the dialogues and the visual expressions, are special:
They follow three main guide lines: the narration, the dialogues between the characters, the superfluous dialogues. The figures have taken the narration’s place. The figures are the “squares” in which you have the strip illustrated and commented on. In the first episodes they had an important role, consequently giving a more static impression while reading it, not a banal story. It sounded more or less like this: “3000 kms away from here, the terrible criminal Diabolik and his beautiful partner Lady Kant are hidden in a small cottage in the middle of the mountains”. Obviously their attempt is to try giving a thorough psychological examination of the characters, cutting off all the possibilities of having not very deep and immature dialogues. The dialogues between the characters is one of the most important elements that characterize the story. They may seem improbable. Ginko describes Diabolik as a “damned criminal” or when he’s really mad a “rotten one”. Diabolik on the other hand says things like “let’s go to the shelter” or “Damn, the police” or That damned inspector is on our tails”. Other times they use very unusual words or verbs like “to narcotize”, “to influence” “to change features” and things like that. Superfluous dialogues are one of the amusing facets of the strip’s serial. This happens when 2 characters say to each other things they should already know, for instance, Diabolik is telling Eva how their supposed to do the robbery right when they’re on the front door of the house where they’re about to do it or when 2 cops are driving the truck full of money and they ask about the safety measures which they should already know about perfectly.
They are fundamental in the strip. They are so important that the third reprint of the series has the title, “Diabolik Swiss”, the typical sound of Diabolik’s dagger.
SWISS Diabolik’s needle-thrower or dagger
SCRIII wheels that screech
STUMPF OR STUNF gunshot with silencer
RATATATA machine gun
TAC device you put on a wall or that goes off with remote control
SBRANG car crash
WROOMMM car getting away
AAHHH scream of terror
MMMHH choked moan
SLAM slammed door
CRASH broken glass
CLICK light switch
GRRR a mean dog’s growl
OH last cry of who dies from “Pentothal”
DRIIING (OR R-RIING) phone ring
SPLASH someone who falls into water
SWHAHAM scary explosion
AH when someone hits their head
FIIII loud whistle
DRIIIN when times up at the jail’s recreation area
SBRANG metal rolling shutter that is closing
TRAC TRAC key turning
KNOK knocking on the door
SCREEEK a car braking suddenly
BIP BIP BIP signaler
WWRRR helicopter rotor
TUM TUM prisoners knocking the door down
BBZZZZZ a long electric telescope
CRRR-CRRR alarm device in the shelters
ZZZZZZ laser ray
The increase of the good graphic quality has made the Diabolik strip so pleasant and dynamic to the point that it seems it has reached its greatest potentiality. The strip started with roughly designed figures that had no “direction”, that is , they were set in big empty spaces and the characters didn’t have enough details. Diabolik and Ginko looked older than they do now, the cars didn’t have a style, the pictures were out of perspective and so were the proportions. When they decided to get new and more capable designers and when the strip went through an evolution, these negative aspects disappeared. Years have gone by and we are used to seeing how this story is directed (like a film) and how the figures are coherent and according to the narrative phase. The characters are better, firmer, and more defined. Their movements are more dynamic, so the story isn’t static anymore. Cars are now like the ones we see on the road, more attention, finally, has been paid to the details giving the strip a pleasant and orderly look. The sounds and the noises are very important because they make you feel really part of the story. An example: the police sirens that seem to burst your eardrums while Diabolik is trying to open a safe.
THE GLOBAL LANGUAGE
In the beginning parents didn’t want their children to read Diabolik. There was a lot of violence, sometimes it was even gratuitous. Diabolik was too ruthless but in the same time he was a hero. It seemed negative for children. Luckily as time went by, people changed their mind and Diabolik changed too, he didn’t kill if it wasn’t absolutely necessary. In many numbers of the strip, the story ends with the triumph of life’s good and positive principles, for instance, when Diabolik saves Ginko’s life, or when he meets a little girl (he shows his loving side), or when he follows the rules of fair play, something he would’ve never done before. Recently, Diabolik promoted a campaign against abandoning pets during the summer; they surely did this to change people’s mind about him. If he was a mean guy before, now his crimes are considered fiction in the strip’s fiction, and parents don’t have anything against him anymore.
LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP IN DIABOLIK
Even if may not seem so, feelings like love and friendship have a primary role in Diabolik’s world. We often see secondary characters that have affairs, they cheat on their rich fiancés with their chauffeurs or with their secretaries thinking they have finally found true love (then they later realize they were wrong). Very honest and above suspicion, bank clerks and policemen often give up on everything they have for a woman’s love getting into big trouble and becoming criminals. The head gangster’s wives have affairs with their right-hand men almost all the time. When Diabolik and Eva disguise themselves as someone else, in more than one occasion they have to face these lovers that they didn’t even know existed (see “The Man from the Fortress”), sometimes they even have to kiss them (but nothing else!), otherwise they could be caught. In most cases, these affairs end tragically ( in many of the stories, the women accidentally kill their lovers thinking it was their husband but Diabolik had put a mask on them). The only relationships that seem to go on are Diabolik and Eva and Ginko and Altea. Infact, many episodes finish with a close-up on Diabolik kissing Eva and recently, even with Ginko kissing Altea. It’s important to Ginko having the Duchess of Vallenberg by his side, she supports him in all the bad times. He would’ve retired a long time ago if she wasn’t there. Altea seems sweet and kind so she deserves having a happy love life (if it could ever be possible with someone like Ginko). However, their relationship hasn’t changed much since the first day: at the start they didn’t feel too sure about it (they don’t belong to the same social status), but now you can tell love has treated Ginko well, he even looks younger (see “King of Terror” and then see the latest stories, if you want to notice the difference). In 35 years Ginko and Altea have never had an argument or a serious problem, perfect individuals, that means, a perfect couple. On the other hand Diabolik and Eva’s relationship has had its ups and down: they’ve gone through a lot of problems before becoming the solid couple they are now. They’ve had plenty of problems: men and women trying to win Diabolik’s heart and making him forget Eva (or vice-versa) or even trying to kill her. Significant titles like “Betrayal”, “A New Love”, “Desperate Goodbye” are some of the best episodes. These numbers were always sold out because many readers hoped, and many feared, that something could destroy their love. Many times you finally think it’s over between them, it seems so real to the readers and to the characters of the story like Ginko. A couple of times Eva even tried to commit suicide. But the happy ending is always assured. Secondary characters are really jealous of what Diabolik and Eva have together. Ginko, at the end of “Diabolik’s Arrest” says that Diabolik is more vulnerable and easier to catch if he has a woman by his side. He couldn’t make a bigger mistake, as the Italian saying goes “Union is Strength”. Otherwise how could they escape from jail all the time if they didn’t help each other. Diabolik and Eva are a lonely couple, they don’t have many friends since they have such a strange profession, but from time to time they meet new people. In “The Witness”, they meet a blind couple, Daria and Carlo Linder. The 2 thieves never had to wear a mask when they were with them. Then they met the writer Saverio Hardy (“The Man of the Fortress”), that, even if he had several occasions, he never told the police where Diabolik’s shelter is, actually he hides it from them. Then there’s Bettina, a nice blond girl, that took many “souvenirs” from Diabolik’s shelter, and many times she tried fooling around with him and Ginko. They are even blackmailed for this (“Mean Blackmail”). Some of these friends still mix with them even after finding out who they really are. The strange thing is that these people aren’t afraid at all of “the King of terror” and his partner: instead they say they’re nice and pleasant people. Maybe because no one like them could ever have such interesting stories to tell.
PEOPLE WHO GET IN HIS WAY
The stories usually begin with Diabolik getting news from a newspaper or overhearing something at a club, many times, though, his plans are ruined because someone gets in the way. Those who already know the strip know that Ginko is the “Diabolik Expert” and other cops are jealous about it and so are the private investigators. All these people don’t have 35 years of experience so they have to rely on their clever ideas if they want to catch him. One of these ideas is to simulate a robbery that would look like one of Diabolik’s, forcing Diabolik to go look for the real culprit but instead he’d just fall into their trap. Ginko uses this technique too, so Diabolik has become very well aware of it and he never falls for it and the culprit is always put to shame in public and so forced to emigrate, at times even to commit suicide. Another original idea is when they use gypsies to try to trap him using their crystal balls to predict what his next moves will be but Diabolik always gets away and finishes his robbery with Eva’s help simply concentrating on another target. Several times Diabolik is kidnapped and the criminals ask a lot of ransom money or sometimes they kidnap and force him to kill other big criminal boss. Unfortunately even honest but poor people help the criminals kidnap him because they need money. Useless to say, in the end few of these people ever survive. Other people fall in love with Eva hoping they could take Diabolik’s place by her side. The same thing happens to Diabolik with women. What is strange is that even if everyone knows that their bond is very solid and stable they’ll do anything to grab Eva’s or Diabolik’s attention. For example, the women walk around the edges of high buildings and get involved in fast getaways. These naive people always end up with a bullet in their chest that was instead directed to Eva or Diabolik. There have been a few of real clever women though. Even knowing that he would never leave Eva, they take advantage of the situation and enjoy a nice cruise with Diabolik acting as though they were married . She won’t win his heart but her friends will die of envy! We wonder how come he doesn’t cheat on Eva having all these romantic situations with other women?
Without his disguises Diabolik wouldn’t be Diabolik, but just a common thief. This tells you how important they are in Dk’s universe. In the beginning it was more problematic, the masks weren’t that handy, they were more difficult to make and easier to recognize. Moreover, in this stage, Diabolik is “ruthless”, this is proven by the fact that he always disguises himself as the person he has just killed. As time goes by, Diabolik’s psychological condition gets better, he makes more comfortable shelters and he grows closer to Eva. All this convinces him that it’s not always necessary to murder someone. So he decides he can just kidnap his victims while he disguises himself as them and not eliminate them if not extremely necessary. But before the disguise, they have to single out the victim. He or she must have only one fundamental characteristic: they must be built like Diabolik or Eva. It doesn’t matter if they have strange feet, moles, scars, a French accent or cellulite. If they’re built the same way, that’s all they need! Once they single out the victim, they just spend a little time studying the habits and imitating the voice. If they don’t know how their victim’s voice is, once they’re disguised, they say they have a sore throat and speak very softly. And then, of coarse, they commit the robbery. Kidnapping his victims instead of killing them helps Diabolik a lot. He can question them and get better information. But on the other hand, many times the prisoners try to escape, risking the safety of our two heroes. Luckily, Diabolik’s shelters are full of special devices like trap-doors, secret passages, needle-throwers behind the walls or computerized tiles (“The Torn Dress”). Almost all the kidnapped victims have heart problems. You find out about it when Diabolik questions them in his shelters’ basements; he injects them with a big dosage of Pentothal that makes them talk, but after a few words they die of heart attacks. It’s interesting to see how Diabolik stays calm and cool when someone dies, he’s only worried because he didn’t get enough information from them before they died. When the few hostages that don’t have heart problems survive, the day they’re let go, Diabolik drugs them , puts them in a car and then leaves them out in the countryside, where after a bit the police will pass by. Ginko immediately understands that it wasn’t a normal kidnapping, and once he finds out who the ex-hostage is he puts the pieces together and realizes that Diabolik is to blame for everything. At this point he’s really furious for not having it figured out before but in the same time he admires his enemy’s skills. This technique is Diabolik’s principal weapon, but there are many risks. Even if during the years the masks have really improved, they still sometimes, break or deteriorate and in the worse moments. Ginko has installed new safety measures, he controls peoples’ faces. You must consider that they are, however, synthetic and so easily recognizable. In “A Car to Hell”, for example, a scientist creates a sensorial machine able to tell what substance was used to make the masks. So Diabolik can’t go around as he pleases if that machine is near, otherwise the police could catch and arrest him right away. Usually, during the episode the machine is destroyed and our hero is saved. In “Hot” Diabolik and Eva are caught because of the hot weather. The masks are synthetic and so their skin perspiration doesn’t show because of the mask’s material and all this seems strange since everyone is sweating so badly. Human errors are also the causes of many of their risks: in “Fatal Error” Diabolik can’t personally photograph the person Eva is supposed to disguise herself as so he makes the masks using a photo he got from a newspaper. Only when it’s too late he realizes that the photos were taken on the wrong side. Consequently, Eva is caught because her mask had a scar on the left side of her face but it was supposed to be on the right.
THE TECNIQUES USED TO COMMIT THE ROBBERY
Of course like all the strips that have a thief as the main character, the technique of the robbery has a fundamental role in the story. In Diabolik, many technological solutions are used to give the readers spectacular action . To do this, the writers use their fantasy beyond any limits, sometimes “flying on imagination’s wings”, that is getting to the point where the robberies become more daring, bold and impossible. Diabolik and Kant use their own inventions going beyond the laws of physics. Like for example, thin, telescopic but very resistant stairs that when they are closed they fit in a hand-bag but once you pull them out you can easily reach the fifth floor of a building with no problem. Another example is the radio-controlled car that drives better than the best police drivers. Even if these new inventions are used the readers well know that the “plot” will remain the same: Diabolik plans the robbery, he carefully studies the case (see His Disguises) and then he goes on with the action. At this point, he takes for granted the fact that the robbery will be a success (when it doesn’t go that way, the reader knows that , anyway, by the end of the episode he’ll end up with better loot than he had planned for at the beginning).