Taking a scroll through Francesco Artibani’s Twitter feed, you will see many cheerful references to Disney’s beloved characters. This is unsurprising, what with the Italian comics and cartoon writer’s resume, which includes working for 15 years as a screenwriter for Disney Italy, as well as editing Italian translations for works such as Bone and Elfquest. But when Artibani teams up with artist Werther Dell’Edera, best known for the Eisner-winning horror comic series, Something is Killing the Children, the result is something far more monstrous and exciting as an ancient legend comes to life in He Who Fights With Monsters.
World War 2 is raging and the struggle between good and evil is in full force. In Prague, the great Bohemian city is being oppressed by the Nazi occupation and the population lives in terror, while the resistance forces try to organize themselves in the shadows. It is an almost impossible task. With the ruthless SS tightening their grip on every street and neighborhood with overwhelming might, only one hope feeds the struggle. A crazy hope, which rests on the fragile foundations of an ancient, monstrous legend…
Francesco, you are typically known for your work on much lighter comics and stories, but here you are writing about a very dark time in history. What inspired your original story?
Artibani: The story of the golem has always fascinated me, it’s a perfect and timeless tale because – unfortunately – there’s always a need for a fighter who defends the weak from violence and abuse. The clash between faith and rationality was another fascinating element and the golem was the perfect character for a story that was fictional but at the same time didn’t betray historical reality.
Werther, you certainly are familiar with darker storytelling and imagery. What influences and research did you draw on to shape the characters and the setting?
Dell’Edera: I was and still am very interested about the events and stories of WW2. I’ve read a lot of books, I’ve seen a lot of movies and documentaries, so along the years, I’ve collected a lot of books of photography too. Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, Lee Miller, Tony Vaccaro. These have been the main inspiration. The skill to take the moment that these incredible people had, but most of all the fact that they were there in that precise moment along with everybody else to be a testimony of the Story, it always fascinated me. To take a look at those pictures has been a great teaching.
Were legends or fables about golems part of your childhood stories?
Artibani: No. My childhood stories were populated by other creatures and monsters (a lot of witches, strange animals but no men made of mud).
Dell’Edera: Not really, I’ve surely listened a lot of stories about it since I was young, but golem is an important part of Jewish traditional stories and culture that we have borrowed to tell our story. It’s because it’s really fascinating, there is a tragedy that surrounds the golem’s history that is really engaging.
What can you tell us about the main character, Radek? What inspires him to risk his life and to believe in an old myth?
Artibani: Radek is a man of science, really rational but he’s also a character who never stops hoping. For this, without being contradictory, he agrees to discover the truth about the golem; desperate moments call for desperate measures. Radek faces the challenge in an extreme way, giving up everything he knows and this reveals the measures of his courage and determination. Werther’s work to characterize Radek was extraordinary.
Dell’Edera: Radek is a man of science who fight with all he had to save people in one of the darkest moment of our history, at some point he felt himself harmless against the waves of the brutality of the war and most of all of the nazis. So in a desperate moment he loses his belief in science and embraces faith and magic trying to hold things together. But he will face the cost of this decision.
The first issue of He Who Fights With Monsters is available now from Ablaze Publishing, and you can take a peek at its pages here: