The World of Diabolik
Diabolik and Eva’s houses have felt the effects of the story’s evolution the most. In the beginning, Diabolik, when he was still engaged to Elizabeth, lived in a villa in the center of Marseilles, and we all thought that it was his permanent address. He had, in fact, created many secret passages that could guarantee him in anytime an escape or an access to the villa itself, passing through gardens or sewer systems. In this stage, when he’s not “working”, Diabolik can still go around without disguising himself: no one knows what he really looks like. He still isn’t that popular in the crime scene. By the end of “The Elusive Criminal” he’s not able anymore to live in luxurious conditions in only one house. After a confusing stage, when the criminal hides in small mountain houses or caves, the authors brilliantly resolve the problem introducing a new concept in Diabolik’s reality: the Shelter. The shelter is just like a house, but it has precise characteristics: it must be isolated, the basements must have unusual wide walls, it must be accessible by many ways, equipped with many and different possibilities of escape. Diabolik does the rest, he fixes the shelter’s alarm systems, traps, TV cameras, every type of laboratory, safes and any type of comfort that suits his needs. As you read along you see that Diabolik has shelters almost everywhere so he has more possibilities of getting away. It’s practically impossible to count all his shelters, however, you can characterize them: “Operative shelters”. They usually have laboratories for the production of masks, an equipped garage with many types of Jaguars and other means of transportation, a basement with a jail where he hides his prisoners and, finally, an impressive cash reserve. This type of shelter is the one you see the most in the stories, since its characteristics make it a perfect base for the criminal. The operative shelter, moreover, seems the one with more efficient defense systems in case of some intrusion. The “Pleasure” shelters. Very similar to the operative shelters, but they have more comforts. Usually, these shelters are on the beach, built on top of high cliffs. Inside, there are the laboratories for the masks and there’s always a cash reserve. They don’t have jails in the basement but they do have many secret tunnels, including the ones the ocean can offer, they’re a lot more spectacular than the operative ones. Besides the usual big garage, there’s also a dock hidden by the rocks able to hide a big motorboat, sub-scooter and, in some cases, a small submarine. “ Meditation” shelters. They’re usually in the mountains, far from the towns. This is where Diabolik and Eva go after particular stressful experiences ( kidnappings or the arrest of one of the two). It doesn’t have much, a small cash reserve and something else.
“Flying” shelters. It’s not a real shelter, but a small home or apartment, temporarily rented for a specific robbery. In these cases, Diabolik and Eva use an operative one as a support base. This shelter is always abandoned once the robbery is done.
SECRET SHELTERS. They are either Diabolik’s or Eva’s shelter. They don’t tell each other about it. They can be useful when they have an argument and in other different occasions (see “Ginko’s Victory”). The police The shelters are so important for the narrative line of the story that sometimes they have had very important roles in many episodes (see “Ambush at the Shelter” or “The Last Shelter”). In the Last Shelter Ginko, by chance, finds all the shelters except one. Diabolik watches take 30 years of loot and finds himself with nothing, except for one cave-shelter.
TRIPS AND VACATIONS
Diabolik is always on the go; he moves around a lot and goes where the next robbery will be, he goes abroad (usually to the Orient) to get rare drugs or because he has to sell “hot” loot, he moves from one shelter to the other so he can’t be caught by the police or because it isn’t safe anymore (by the way, we wonder: since they’re always running they obviously don’t have time to pack their bags, does this mean they have a complete wardrobe ready in each shelter?). They don’t have a permanent address, moving around all the time causes a lot of problems, especially for Eva (she’d love to decorate her own home). Diabolik tries to resolve, in part, this problem by making the shelters in the most charming places and as comfortable as possible. He builds them in isolated places on top of cliffs, cottages in the mountains, elegant homes in residential neighborhoods. The principal role of the shelters is to make the two thieves relax (Eva begs Diabolik hundreds of times to take her to those charming shelters at the beach). However, our heroes often go on trips for simple leisure (at least that’s what their intentions are at the beginning but they always end up with a robbery). Going on vacation hasn’t always been part of the story because as you can imagine Diabolik doesn’t like it, he’d rather work 365 days a year. This isn’t Eva’s case. When she becomes an important part of the story, she demands a vacation, however, they don’t often go and Diabolik is the one that takes the official decision. Little by little, Eva’s requests become reality more often; so they go on month long cruises on their boat, in desolate places, where no masks are needed, or trips to beautiful summer resorts (usually famous and fashionable ones: recently Greece). Like normal people, Diabolik and Eva don’t deny themselves many luxuries when they’re on vacation (why should they, they have no financial problems): they go to very elegant restaurants, night clubs and casinos. It seems impossible for Diabolik and Eva to stay out of trouble for too long, so during their vacations they always find new jobs. In other occasions, while they’re gone, other criminals incriminate them for other robberies so as soon as they come back they have to get away (see “The Last Move”). Diabolik and Eva usually go on vacation together. In rare occasions, though, Eva doesn’t agree with him and they have arguments. She decides that she won’t wait for him when he comes back from the next robbery and she leaves him and goes to the beach alone (Ginko’s Victory). In the beginning , Diabolik seems relieved (he can finally work in peace!) but then he starts missing her and goes looking for her, proving to the readers that he’s more of a kitten than a mean Black Panther. He looks for her at the beach shelters where he usually finds her and then they finally make up. Ginko and Altea never go on vacation together; a cop like Ginko never goes on vacation or anyway if he does he never has the chance to remain the whole time. Luckily, Altea is an unemployed noblewoman, so she is practically always on vacation, going to the Vallenberg castle and to her friends’ luxurious palaces. Vacations have become a very important part in Diabolik and Eva’s life, in fact many stories have been set during them (“Mafia” and “Tragic Vacation”).
The story of Diabolik is as if in a time warp whereas Diabolik and Eva never grow old, they remain 35 or 40 years old. You can’t say the same about the geographic surroundings, especially during the first episodes. Obviously, Diabolik lives in France, at Marseilles, where he has a beautiful home. Policemen wear a classic uniform like the one seen in the film Pink Panther with Peter Sellers. Low life and all walks of life are predominately found at the city’s port. In this country they have the death penalty (the guillotine) and many of the characters’ last names are French, especially the noblemen’s’: Duke of Belmont, the Count Derasé and Esmeralde Radié. Little by little, when the characters’ personality became more obvious, even the geographic setting was better defined. The typical cities where Diabolik lives or steals are Clerville and Ghenf, small villages with a lake that we presume are in Switzerland or France. During the first episodes you have the details that describe how the cities are in reality but later on the settings change according to the story line: in one episode Clerville is near a lake where Diabolik runs away from the coast guards; in other episodes there’s a river not clearly defined. Along its banks there are large boats which give hospitality to old folks and the needy. Clerville is full of green hills from which Diabolik surveys his next victim’s house. He’s surrounded by mountains with steep and winding roads along which Ginko and his agents hopelessly try to catch him. The names of the roads are unreal too: Platinum Rd , Polar Rd., Jasmine Rd. and so on. But now let’s in every detail the two main cities. Ghenf doesn’t appear much in the story but usually it’s near a lake, where there are very elegant houses and luxurious clubs. So it should be a typical high-class resort with many jewelers, casinos and people on vacation. But there’s a harsh clash in all of this: Ghenf has a jail, a peaceful and elegant town shouldn’t have one, because having a jail means having criminals that could escape and hold people hostage. Clerville, instead, is a very big city that has the same characteristics of a metropolis: it has outskirts with residential and industrial areas, but also bad neighborhoods with drug dealers and prostitutes, there are also seedy hotels and clubs (the Roxy Club). But it’s also a modern and rich city with a train station and an international airport. The hospital must be really big because in one episode Diabolik was kidnapped and they had reserved an entire floor for him; the public park is where young couples go when they want to be alone but also where criminals go to attack young girls. There’s a museum and luxurious hotels with the most common names (Excelsior, Splendor). Clerville has many cultural activities also and this is what interests Diabolik most: jewel and rare antique exhibitions and other events where rich women go to. Naturally there are schools and colleges and an elegant avenue with beautiful shops and boutiques where Eva does her shopping. Clerville, though, unlike Ghenf, is a city where common people live (not only rich people or criminals), there are supermarkets and banks where common clerks work with their calm and quiet secretaries. Clerville’s newspaper, “The Gazette”, and the TV keep the people informed on the main crime and news; the local radio instead, transmits only Ginko’s news and bulletins. Moreover, Clerville is the main town of the province where the car’s license tags begin with CL12345, but the city has only state and province roads, where Ginko has road blocks ready. There’s a court house and a jail cell used for capital punishments (for Diabolik) and to keep common criminals in, that are many, sometimes a prisoner has to be taken to another jail because its too full (“Tragic Destiny”).
The last setting is in the city’s sewer system: those who already know Diabolik know that his favorite way to get around is using the sewer (except when he’s with Eva because it’s a very inappropriate place for a “Lady”). Naturally Diabolik uses the sewers of every city where he plans robberies. He uses it when he has to get away but also when he has to get to his target: a museum, a bank, or a house that naturally has a manhole. It may seem incredible, but Diabolik never gets lost in the passages of the sewers due to his sense of orientation. Besides these 2 cities, many secluded towns exist near the criminals’ shelters or near their escape roads. There are many small States that have an extraordinary importance: one is the State of Beglait (it borders on the Dukedom of Vallenberg) that has a very unstable monarchy, often threatened by possible revolutionaries and by Diabolik who steals jewels from rich people and the Queen. When there aren’t any jewel exhibitions around, money transportation, or important diamond or platinum deliveries, Diabolik goes to the Orient to get various drugs or to sell precious gems. In Diabolik’s stories, the Orient doesn’t have realistic characteristics: it seems mythicised, divided in good and evil, just like the old adventure books or fairy tales. The States have exotic names like Kuantaj or Dalimian that have capitals like Fan-Kiang and Bindjar. The first State (see “Fire-mark”) reminds us of China, the people have almond-shaped eyes, there are a lot of bicycles and politically, there has been a revolution that has brought to an equal regime. The presentation of this country is pretty naive and so is Diabolik’s attitude when he decides not to commit the robbery since he has been fascinated by this atmosphere of equality. Dalimian is, instead, a country with very confusing features, with impenetrable forests, rivers with piranha’s, rubber trees, slaves with Indian costumes. There are many other examples because the Orient ,generically, is a world of cruelty, injustice and mystery where Diabolik and certainly Eva that is superstitious, don’t feel very comfortable in. The reason? It’s obvious, in oriental countries they usually don’t use bureaucratic methods for justice that would give Diabolik time to escape, here, they shoot you as soon as they catch you. And, without a doubt, oriental cities don’t have good sewer systems so Diabolik wouldn’t know how to move around. He prefers staying in Clerville where he only has to face Ginko that however never gets to catch him .
THE CRIMINAL WORLD
The criminal world has maintained a primary role in the Diabolik story, even if, in the first episodes more importance was given to it and its characters. The first stories were set in the city slums (Marseilles port), where all the small thieves and counterfeiters meet. In these episode, the criminals had typical, famous and French nicknames: Pinion the scarred face and so on. They had love affairs, they all went to the bar at the docks and sometimes they helped unlucky guys hide themselves when they got into trouble (like the case in which Diabolik accused Gustavo Garian of murder). But in the strip we now know the criminal world has a different aspect, it has become a character itself and not just a setting for the story. No more criminals like Jean Gabin, but simple small professional thieves: Diabolik, himself, often goes to the slums to gather up a good gang of thieves when he needs help. There’s also organized crime that deals drugs, has prostitutes or secret gambling houses using night clubs as a cover. In these clubs the dancers are usually the bosses girlfriends. These clubs are so unique that Diabolik and Eva often have romantic dinners there (during which they always get mixed up with money smugglers or they get arrested during a police raid). The only thing that has remained the same from the first episodes are the police informers, that risk their lives for a few dollars, however, they are a valuable source of information on robberies, kidnappings or other crimes. The criminals aren’t the only ones that ask information, (Ginko himself has his famous informers that “hardly ever talk, but when they do, the info is reliable”). The head gangsters have their informers too when they want to know who wants to trap them and so does Diabolik when he wants to know who are the thieves that stole his idea of a robbery he was planning. The criminal world is always informed about everything and everyone: if the criminal world didn’t know about it, then the robbery was surely done by uncensored (unknown) people. Clerville’s and Ghenf’s criminal world doesn’t scare anyone. Everyone knows where they hide, where they have their clubs and sinister neighborhoods. It’s a state in a state, with its own leaders and politics.