This paper examines the strategies employed in the early 70s by the Italian cartoonist Pino Zac to adapt Ludovico Ariosto’s The Frenzy of Orlando into a graphic novel. The Frenzy of Orlando is perhaps the most famous Renaissance epic poem and it consists of forty-six cantos in octaves. Zac’s work shows great balance between a general fidelity to the poem and the attractiveness of a comic book format addressed to a heterogeneous readership. His adaptation is a detailed volume which interprets selected episodes of the original without losing contact with the big picture. Selection, non-desecrating parody, and modernization are the guidelines of the compositional method behind this huge, multifaceted visual text. Being a tragicomic element and a subtle irony already present in Ariosto’s work, Zac’s operation is not one of trivialization, but of thoughtful selection of both famous and less-known passages that enlighten the unique flair of the original. Moreover, Zac’s interpretation of the epic poem is brimming with socio-historical considerations that, by means of anachronism, relate the epic past to the historical present. Direct quotations from the text, more or less modernized dialogues, and fusion of both authors’ voices reproduce the multifaceted narrative structure of The Frenzy of Orlando, allowing for rapid change in pacing and in tone. However, Zac’s dissection and subsequent reconstruction of the poem go hand in hand with his attention to the visual composition of his work. By analyzing his treatment of the mise-en-page and the different comics styles he adopts, my talk will demonstrate Zac’s awareness and true mastering of the medium.
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