Editors Notes: Kim Thompson on Stigmata
Written by Kim Thompson   
Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Stigmata by Lorenzo Mattotti & Claudio Piersanti

[In this installment of our series of Editors Notes, Kim Thompson interviews himself (in a format he's dubbed "AutoChat") about Stigmata by Lorenzo Mattotti, now available to order from us and at a comics shop near you. – Ed.]

So... Mattotti, eh?

Yeah. I've long wanted to do a book by Lorenzo. For my money he's one of the most brilliant cartoonists in terms of sheer virtuoso draftsmanship who ever lived. I think among the current breed of Europeans he's rivaled only by Moebius and Blutch and I'd still rank him first. I was just biding my time.

It's been a while since anyone last published a Mattotti book in English, hasn't it?

Yeah. NBM published his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde adaptation back in 2003, but before that you have to go all the way back to the early 1990s, when Catalan and Penguin U.K., probably spurred on by his appearances in RAW, published several of his 1980s graphic novels: Fires, Labyrinths, and Murmur. I should note that Mattotti is also a prolific illustrator (you've probably seen his covers on The New Yorker; there was one just two weeks ago), and hasn't published any new comics in something like seven years.

Is he retired from comics?

No, no, in fact, he's working on some sort of huge magnum opus which we're in line to publish when he finishes it, but who knows when that will be?

Stigmata by Lorenzo Mattotti & Claudio Piersanti - page

So what made you pick Stigmata?

I just really liked it. His "Ignatz" comic, Chimera, did pretty well for us, it was one of the few Ignatzes we had to reprint due to demand, and Stigmata is drawn very much in that style, wild, swirly, expressionistic black pen lines. And I responded to the story, about this hopeless miserable drunken lump of a guy who ultimately finds salvation. It's very dramatic and emotional without being hokey. In its own way it's a little reminiscent one of my favorite movies, Breaking the Waves.

Why, are you religious?

Ha! Not at all, I'm a stone cold Bill Maher/Ricky Gervais "religious-people-are-wack" atheist. But there are elements of Christian faith that I find admirable, and the Bible is fascinating, if not as history, then as allegory, and of course for its language. And I think the book's themes of suffering and redemption, of good and evil, even if they're communicated through the prism of Christian thought, are universal. It's a good read no matter what your spiritual inclination, although it may hit home the most with Catholics.

The last third of the book is mostly a long prayer; is that from the Bible? I thought I recognized some Job in there.

Yes and no. It's sort of a mix-tape of religious writing that includes, as you say, a passage from the Book of Job, as well as some lines from a couple of Psalms, and excerpts from the writing of two saints, St. Catherine of Siena and St. Theresa of Lisieux. Some of which I tracked down through the modern secular miracle of Google, some of which the author told me about.

Stigmata by Lorenzo Mattotti & Claudio Piersanti - detail

Has the writer, Claudio Piersanti, written other comics?

Not that I know of, he's a novelist and screenwriter. In fact, from what I understand Stigmata was written as a movie script which never got produced. Piersanti and Mattotti knew one another, had a little bit of a mutual admiration society going on, and somehow Mattotti ended up with the script and decided to do it as a comic. Ironically, after it was published as a comic — a decade and a half later, in fact — a Spanish film director decided to make a movie out of it and adapted the comic.

Have you seen it?

I have a DVD of it which I haven't got around to watching, or rather I've only watched a bit of it, but it sure looks beautiful, and very faithful to the book based on the trailer. It's interesting, in order to find someone with the gargantuan physique required for the main role, they didn't even try to cast an actor but hired a world champion shot-putter, who is of course enormous. If you watch the movie it's kind of clear that he's a non-actor, but given the character he's playing it seems to work OK. If it had been done in the U.S. it might have been another great comeback role for Mickey Rourke.

Do you have any more Mattotti projects lined up after that?

Comics, no, not right away, but next year we're releasing an English language edition of his collaboration with Lou Reed on an illustrated edition or Reed's The Raven song cycle, itself of course a posthumous collaboration with Edgar Allan Poe. That'll be pretty cool. And I would like to release one of his color books, either the classic Fires, which was released by Catalan Communications a long time ago, or El rumor de la escarcha (The Sound of Frost), which is his most recent graphic novel and which is just stunning.

http://www.fantagraphics.com/images/flog/kim/p1040052.jpg
(From The Sound of Frost)

Any final words?

Yeah, go take a look at Mattotti's website — it's well worth a browse. Also, check out the art gallery that sells his art — if you don't have six thousand bucks handy to buy a page, you can window shop and pretend you won the lottery.