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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cecilia Latella is my guest today to talk about her interest in Richard III and  about her comic book dedicated to him, The Boar (Read my review HERE)
Cecilia Latella was born in Naples in 1981. She has always loved stories of heroes and knights, so that her first comic, drew when she was in elementary school, was a short version of the Odyssey. While at university she has outlined 948 pages of a fantasy saga entitled Asanor. After her PhD in Comparative Literatures, she has returned to comics, writing and drawing The Boar, a biography of Richard III, that was self-published and presented in Lucca '09. In 2010, she was selected by Craig Thompson for a graphic novels residency that took place at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Florida. She is currently working as art director for the MAD Entertainment animation studio and is continuing to draw comics for a series of indipendent writers.

Richard III - Saint and Wicked by Cecilia Latella
Where does your interest in Richard III and the Ricardian cause come from? A book, a movie, a college course?
The first time I met the figure of Richard III was in the comic book adaptation of The Black Arrow by Gianni De Luca. I was 13 at the time. In it, as in Stevenson’s novel, Richard is described as a young captain, ruthless but at the same time following his own code of honour. Plus, he is superbly drawn (De Luca was and is one of my favourite artists). I was hooked in particular by the last scene, in which he regrets not being able to enjoy a normal, happy life. After that, I started looking for more stories featuring Richard III.

Which was the book /film/play that made the difference for you?
I’d lie if I didn’t admit that Shakespeare’s Richard IIIwas a major factor of my fascination. I read it after The Black Arrow and it was a blast. I fell in love with Richard’s way with words, his wit and his black humour. I’ve always been fascinated by ambiguous characters, and Richard was the peak of charming villains. Then I found, by chance, an abridged version of Jean Plaidy’s The Reluctant Queen, and as easily as I was hit by Richard as villain, I accepted his version
as the saviour of Lady Anne from the kitchens. Then, I was able to read A.J. Pollard’s Richard III and the Princes in the Tower, which was the first academic work I read in English, and the first serious biography I could consult. It took me three months to finish it, but I learnt so much from it that it was totally worth the effort.

Richard III and family by Cecilia Latella
What do you think of Shakespeare’s  historical play dedicated to Richard III and picturing him as the icon of the wicked tyrant?
Shakespeare’s play is an absolute masterpiece, featuring the strongest Shakesperean villain after Iago. Both Iago and Richard are masters of lies, and I adore them for that – they are pure material for the stage, a blessing for every good actor. I’ve read the play I don’t know how many times, and I’ve seen it on stage some five or six times. Demonizing Shakespeare is useless – the only precaution needed is to stress how the events depicted are far from historical records.

You decided to draw, write and publish a comic book dedicated to a different image of Richard III, The Boar. Can you tell us something about it?
In June 2008, I was finally able to afford the Ricardian tour organised by the American branch of the Richard III Society. We toured Ricardian places for two weeks, from York to Fotheringay, from Middleham to Bosworth Field. During the long hours in the minivan, I started doodling little scenes featuring Richard in my sketchbook. The other travellers and I were discussing aspects of Richard’s life, such as his relationships with Warwickand with Lady Anne, and in my doodles I wrote my own version of such aspects. Little by little, the various scenes took the shape of a complete tale, retelling of Richard’s life from his point of view.
I had already drawn Richard repeatedly over the years, but never so extensively. The most surprising thing, thinking about it four years later, is how spontaneously it began. I wasn’t planning at all drawing a long comic at the time, and then after that travel I continued working on it for one year. 

Leaving for the battle by Cecilia Latella
Your story focuses especially on Richard’s love for  his future wife and queen, Anne Neville.  Do you really think they married for love?
Ten years ago, I would have probably answered ‘yes’. Now, if I were speaking in front of an audience, I’d say, more prudently, that it was a convenient marriage for the both of them. It’s impossible to determine whether they were in love at the time of their marriage, but they seem at least to have created an honest bond after it. There are no rumors of Richard having an affair elsewhere, and by any means it looks like it was a good marriage. As for many things about Richard’s life, the truth can easily be turned upside-down. Anne’s fortune is too much a tempting argument not to cause suspicion. But at the same time it’s possible that they had fancied each other while at Middleham. Maybe interest and affection interweave here.

What features of  Dickon’s personality are you most fascinated by?
We know so little about Richard’s personality, perhaps every Ricardian invents their own version. I’d say his scrupulosity and sense of responsibility as a ruler. At the same time, I’m fascinated by the man who tries to struggle with the death of his heir, of his wife, and the probably collapse of his kingdom. He is an example of resistance against adversity. In this case, I’m drawn in by the loneliness, the sadness, the sense of impending fate. In the end, whether you consider him a brave knight or a vile usurper, he comes up as a tragic figure.

Which hypothesis do you feel is the closest to the truth among the ones suggested for the killing of the Princes in the Tower, king Richard’s nephews?
I really have no clear ideas on this matter, apart from being convinced that it wasn’t in Richard III’s immediate interest to have them killed. Therefore, I switch from theory to theory, according on how persuasive is the speaker. For many years I’ve believed Henry VII to be the executioner, then I’ve moved back to Buckingham. I also tend to support the theory that they didn’t die at the same moment – maybe one of them died while trying to escape, while the other survived.

Have you heard of the BBC’s  intention to produce a series set in the years of  the War of the Roses and telling the story of the cousins’ wars  from the female protagonsts’ point  of view and based on Philippa Gregory’s novels? 
No, I didn’t know about it. By Philippa Gregory I’ve only read The White Queen. It is an easy reading (I finished it during a train trip) and not particularly satisfying on many levels, but it does present an intriguing Richard III. In particular, there’s an compelling scene with Elizabeth of York. It would be interesting to see it on screen.

And what about  the project proposed by British actor Richard Armitage who has more than once expressed interest in developing a major film/television project that is envisioned as a prequel to The Tudors?  
I have been waiting for news about this project for many years now, since I firstly read about it in an article on the Ricardian Bullettin. It would be a dream to see Armitage play Richard III (he has just the right nose!). Let’s just hope that it doesn’t remain a dream, but becomes real.

Isn’t it good that so many people are passionately trying to to revise this king’s negative and ill-deserved image in popular culture and pay tribute to his legacy?
Yeah, it’s great. But there’s still much to be done, in particular outside the UK. Almost every enciclopaedia I’ve consulted, apart from wikipedia, continues to refer to Richard as the murderer of the Princes. I would like to see more nuanced descriptions, such as “The fate of the Princes is still uncertain.”

Which reads would you suggest to a newbie who wants to discover more about Richard III and his story?
Uhm, probably Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time is still a good introduction to the matter. Then Sharon Kay Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour, but I admit having never read it as a whole (I skipped almost all the first half). There’s a play that I adore, Richard and Anneby Maxwell Anderson, which unfortunately isn’t as known as it deserves. As for non-fiction, I’d suggest Good King Richard? by Jeremy Potter and the aforementioned biography by A.J. Pollard. Annette Carson’s Richard III: The Maligned King is a magnificent analisys of theories, but it’s for an already competent reader.
And of course my comic, The Boar  ;-)


Thanks Cecilia. You've been very kind to find the time to answer my questions. Good luck with your work!


Giveaway 


1 copy in print of Il Cinghiale (Italian edition) for Italian readers


1 e-book version of The Boar (English edition) for readers from the rest of the world


Leave your comment , add your e-mail address and the country you live in to be entered in this giveaway contest which will end on March 5th when the winner is announced.





You can find other works by Cecilia HERE

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