130 131 For those who have made comics a passion or their domestic cult, it is a renowned name, that of a Master. For all the others, it should be nonetheless: Nicola Mari, pillar of Sergio Bonelli Editore, is the hand holding the power to turn a white panel into the universe of Dylan Dog, giving it threedimensionality and then plunging it into nightmare. From his debut at the age of twenty with the erotic comics for Edifumetto, he moved to the Acme publishing house before being hired among the ranks of Bonelli, where he was entrusted with the stories of the newborn sci-fi comic Nathan Never, of which he made some of the best books. Then it's Dylan Dog's turn. A predictable fate for the one who is today considered the Master of Italian gothic comics, and who has an all-encompassing love for this series. The fiery baptism with the Craven Road investigator took place with the text of the giant Tiziano Sclavi, creator of the series. Since then, Mari has worked tirelessly to render his mystery to reality – which is the very mission of this art, the one able to generate the reader's participation. A refined and clean line, at the same time rich in intensity, of a cultured author, with a holistic approach to knowledge and a passion for philosophy, in particular the Greek one. All elements that sediment at hem of his style, and form a solid base. Nicola, I would begin by asking you to introduce us to comics, which are an art form, but also a communication form, to their characteristics and their evolution. How did this discipline come into being and how has it changed, in terms of technique and in taking hold of society, and what is its audience? Comic strips as we know them today were born in 1895, when the American designer Richard F. Outcault had the idea of inserting the dialogues of the characters inside a cloud of smoke. But the origins of comics in a broader sense could even be traced back to prehistoric cave paintings or, continuing for large temporal leaps, to the pictograms of hieroglyphics, in which language was entrusted to images; coming up to the Middle Ages, in which the lives of the saints were often narrated by illustrations in sequence between them, or by the words painted with gold that came out of their lips, in the sacred representations within the Gothic cathedrals. The narration entrusted to comics continues in the first half of the nineteenth century with the novels "drawn" by the Genevan Rodolphe Töpffer, and then grafted onto the comics by Winsor McCay and by the painter Lyonel Feininger, at the dawn of the twentieth century – when comics, together with cinema, became a mass phenomenon in constant evolution and able to generate different approaches and different ways of defining themselves, from American superhero comics, to strips, to French bandes dessinées, to graphic novels, to underground comics, and so on. An equally heterogeneous audience corresponds to this kind of heterogeneity, typical of comics. A semantic richness, therefore, capable of bridging the distance that separates the different languages participating, as a whole, in the organization of the collective imagery, in the way a society reads itself. Comics, thereby, are much more present in our lives than we can imagine, perhaps to confirm that nothing is more unknown than the known. Stefano Santangelo Divine drawing and human hand. A conversation with Nicola Mari