If Umbria was a comic book…
by Agnese Priorelli
«If Umbria was a comic book? It would be fun and colorful»
Antonio Vincenti, better known as Sualzo, defines himself as a missing saxophonist and a self-taught artist. With his pencil he illustrates and tells stories: «For me it is important to tell beautiful stories. I always choose topics that are close to my heart».Winner of several awards, his works have been published not only in Italy, but also in USA, Russia, France, Spain, Poland, England, South Korea and other countries: November 30th will be in Russia to represent Italy at the Moscow International Book Fair. But Sualzo remains closely linked with its territory, with Umbria and above all with the Trasimeno Lake: «Umbria is often represented in my comics and the lake appears often as a background of my drawings».
The first question is a must: what is its link with Umbria?
I was born in Perugia, but I have been living in San Feliciano for twenty years. I feel very closed to the physicality of this place, I feel it mine so much; here I met my wife, here my children were born.
Would you like to explain how a comic book takes shape? The idea, the inspiration….
I usually work with two types of stories. I need six to seven years to make a book with a story completely mine: the work starts from an idea that appears in my mind, or I work on stories written by Silvia Vecchini, and at that point the creative process is faster because a process of change, elaboration and refinement of the story can begin.
What does come first? The texts or the drawings?
Usually the texts, even if sometimes, a text can be generated by an image. However, generally, first of all there is the writing. Writing is, for me, the most important part.
What are your characters inspired by?
In the stories I write, I always put a part of myself. The characters are not 100% autobiographical, but they resemble me a lot. It is very important in my books, to talk about things that I have experienced, and above all, of subjects that are close to my heart The same can be applied to children’s books: the choice of topics is always oriented to communicate something inspirational as the motivation must be strong.
Do you work more on comics or graphic novels?
At the moment, more graphic novels, even for children.
Which of the two do you prefer?
For my perspective, I have always been fascinated by the idea of a non-serial narration, closer to the novel, a story without presuppositions and consequences because I do not care to tell a character, but only stories.
This year with La zona rossa you won the Attilio Micheluzzi prize for the best comic book for children: could you talk about this work?
La zona rossa is a comic book that tells the kids about the earthquake. Before realizing it happened that the displaced people of Norcia were guested in some structures of San Feliciano and for some time they lived with us in the country. Even if only by spectators, we had the chance to entered their real experiences and to tell more closely. Moreover, a part of the proceeds of the book financed a theater school in the earthquake zones: it is important to rebuild, but not only things. Next year La zona rossa will be released in the United States and in Korea: a local history can also have an international dimension.
Is there a common thread among all your works?
What always is present in my work is the need to communicate a concept and a basic thought. Also in the comic books for children Gaetano and Zolletta – which tells the story of a father and son donkeys – there is an important topic: the role of fatherhood. Silvia and me wanted to deal with this aspect, which in the books for children is not very represented or, at least, only marginally. I want to specify: they should not be pedagogical books, but books that tell a meaningful and captivating story. It is our priority.
But you don’t write books only for children…
The stories I write with Silvia are for children and teenagers, but the ones I write on my own, are for an adult target.
If Umbria was a comic book, how would you represent it? What are the aspects that would you like to highlight?
Surely it would have a comic humor: the Umbrians have a belly humor, they are not as musoni (sad) as they seem. They know how to be funny. However, it would be a colorful comic: Umbria is full of colors. Even in my works the landscapes of the region are very present. After all I see them every day from my window.
How would you describe Umbria in three words?
As a crossroads, a place where walking and a mystical land.
The first thing that comes to your mind thinking of this region…
Rest for the gaze.