Sunshine Barbito’s Mafiosa Is an Offer You Don’t Want to Refuse

Sunshine Barbito’s Mafiosa Is an Offer You Don’t Want to Refuse

With The Kitchen heading to theatres next month, the timing is perfect for more stories featuring women rising to the top in Mafia families. But unlike the 2015 Vertigo-published comic featuring three wives who hesitantly take over from their imprisoned husbands, Mafiosa is about a woman who has always known that she has what it

With The Kitchen heading to theatres next month, the timing is perfect for more stories featuring women rising to the top in Mafia families. But unlike the 2015 Vertigo-published comic featuring three wives who hesitantly take over from their imprisoned husbands, Mafiosa is about a woman who has always known that she has what it takes to get the job done.

At eighteen years old in the 1900s, Nicoletta Marchesi  is the youngest of five children; the second generation of Sicilian Americans whose parents and extended family have established a Mafia family in Brooklyn, New York. Her older brothers are part of the family business, but when Nicoletta announces her desire to do the same, conflict arises and she must prove herself worthy.

Written by up-and-comer Sunshine Barbito and pencilled by Débora Carita under the multimedia development studio, RainWerks, Mafiosa is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter. Here, Barbito answers a few questions about the rise of Don Nicoletta Marchesi.

Where did the idea for this story come from? How long has it been in development?

The idea for Mafiosa really came from a desire to see a classic story like a Mafia story told from a different perspective than we’re used to; a woman’s perspective. It also came from a desire to tell the story of a woman choosing her own path, despite everyone’s expectations of what she is capable of. We wanted to tell the story of a woman with real insecurities, real struggles, who isn’t afraid of her feminine side, or her dangerous side.

What kind of research did you put into the character and costume designs?

We wanted Mafiosa to be realistically set in the roaring twenties, because the time period is such a big part of the story. I did a lot of general research on the clothing of the time, but I also did a lot of research on what was happening in women’s fashion at the time. I wanted to capture not only what women were excited about wearing, but what women were expected to be wearing during the time. The twenties were a time of fashion revolution. Women were suddenly wearing shorter dresses, pants instead of skirts, cutting their hair short and all around revolting against clothing gender roles. The artist on Mafiosa, Débora Carita, did an amazing job capturing the fashion of the twenties.

Débora has spoken about how working in a predominantly male industry means you have to do things differently in order to take the spotlight, “and the dilemma is that those things can also transform you.” In what ways has your work on Mafiosa transformed you?

Working on Mafiosa has totally transformed me! It’s true that to stand out in the comics industry as a woman you have to bring something new to the table. Mafiosa, to me, has been the ultimate opportunity to use comics to not only tell an awesome organized crime story, but to tell a woman’s story of being unseen and unheard. It’s a big job, and it has been challenging and invigorating. Writing Mafiosa and collaborating with Débora has helped me to see just how severe the hunger for women in comics is, and it’s ignited a flame in me to keep working, keep writing, keep telling stories, even if it seems small or unimportant.

This book is a 28-page self-contained story. Do you have more of Nicoletta’s story to tell?

There is so much more of Nicoletta’s story to tell! I have a lot more written that I can’t wait to share with the world. Nicoletta is a beautiful vessel to tell the stories and struggles and desires of so many women, through her journey into the Mafia. I hope that I’m lucky enough to take the reader through Nicoletta’s entire journey.


The first issue is fully inked and lettered, with final colours in the works, so Kickstarter backers can expect to see their perks as early as the fall.

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Wendy Browne
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  • Max Rotvel
    July 16, 2019, 3:10 pm

    Wow, this looks good. Backed!

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