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El regreso triunfal de Casty en Topolino: ¡una nueva y épica aventura!


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Casty at Comicon Napoli 2024 during a signing session at his booth in the Artists’ Hall | Photo by Andrea Fiamma for Fumettologica

Many things are said about Casty. That he is the bridge between the Disney tradition of Romano Scarpa and Floyd Gottfredson and modernity; that he is an adventure cartoonist, a skilled storyteller of atmospheres as unsettling as they are good-natured; that he is one of the best Italian authors of the last twenty years. In short, he is a classic in the making.

These truths, however, perhaps overlook the most distinctive feature of Casty’s stories: the construction of worlds. Endowed with an excellent inventive spirit, whether dealing with colossal or contained events, Casty never lacks imagination, the ability to create distant worlds, intriguing concepts, fantastic settings, visions, characters.

Class of 1967, Casty, the artistic name of Andrea Castellan, started working in 1993 when, after approaching various publishers, including Sergio Bonelli, he received a call from Silver, who offered him the opportunity to write scripts for Cattivik and later on, Lupo Alberto. In 2003, he joined the weekly Topolino, initially as a writer and later also as the artist of some of the best Disney stories ever created.

In his hands, Topolino became the protagonist of thriller and imaginative stories, imbued with a peaceful humor, light yet full of messages, balancing an adult and childlike tone simultaneously. Casty did not miss the chance to create new characters, such as Eurasia Tost, an indomitable archaeologist searching for the civilization of Atlantis, the protagonist of a series of highly appreciated stories.

After eight years since the last adventure of the cycle, Casty has returned in recent weeks to Topolino with a new chapter, Topolino and the Antarctic Spectralia, which has also seen him working again as the sole author after a long time.

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A panel from the first episode of «Topolino and the Antarctic Spectralia» by Casty

What was it like to return to work as the sole author on a story, especially in the Atlantide Cycle?

It was an exciting yet quite exhausting job: I was tasked with picking up the Cycle in December 2023, with a deadline in March 2024: 116 pages in 120 days. This meant producing almost a complete panel (written, drawn, and inked) per day.

I had some freedom over Christmas and New Year’s… well, not New Year’s, as I was at the drawing board sending greetings to friends with attached drawings from the Spectralia. [laughs] But it was worth it, I was very keen on completing it.

Was the story already prepared?

The story was ready on a subject level, but when it comes to scripting, you have to adjust many things, from page layouts to gags, trimming the excess, and focusing on each detail. It took some time to refine the texts and perfect everything.

Was this the most labor-intensive project of your career, in terms of effort?

Let’s say it’s in the top three most demanding. [laughs] In 2009, I created Topolino and the World of Tutor: 61 panels in 21 days. It was a story for Earth Day, created based on the editorial team’s instructions, as they wanted an eco-themed adventure written by me, as it was a topic I was very familiar with.

Between writing and approval, I was left with only 21 days to draw: meaning producing three panels a day, more or less. They asked if they could potentially assign it to three different artists, but I guaranteed that I would deliver it on time by working on it alone: I was right on schedule, but my back was not happy at all.

And the other tough project?

All this happened yesterday. Massimo Bonfatti and I had two years to complete it, but due to reasons I won’t dwell on, we ended up 30 days from the deadline with only about a dozen panels actually ready: the rest was therefore drawn and inked in a month. I would finish drawing at four in the morning while the birds were waking up!

Timing aside, Topolino and the Antarctic Spectralia was truly challenging to create: the plot is full of flashbacks and unexpected twists like in my more classic stories. As for the drawing, I tried to further refine my technique, with very dense and challenging panels, especially in the final parts. I also personally inked and colored several panels.

The editorial team and those who read the story in advance liked it a lot, but of course, the success of a story is always determined by the audience that purchases the newspaper, namely the readers, young and old, of Topolino. We shall see.

Do you have any doubts?

You know, it might be that this kind of adventures has become… outdated. I don’t know. The very latest generation of readers has been accustomed to a much quieter type of storytelling, often with introspective ramifications aimed at outlining the character details more thoroughly.

The Spectralia, on the other hand, grabs you and plunges you into a relentless whirlwind of events and information that you must necessarily assimilate to fully enjoy the story. It must be read with concentration, and perhaps not all readers today are willing to make this effort for a Topolino adventure.

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A panel from «Topolino and the Antarctic Spectralia» by Casty

This might be true for younger readers, but I think your adult fans are eagerly waiting for stories like these.

You’re right, but I always consider the entire audience, even the younger readers. Just think that in the story, there is Eurasia, a character from 20 years ago: for 10-year-old kids reading the magazine now, twenty years ago is ancient history.

At that time, it was a nice reference to Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider series, which were very popular in video games and movies. However, I still believe that if a character is strong, and has something new to tell, it can withstand any trend.

Does it feel like 20 years have passed for you?

No, because these stories have been on my mind for years, they constantly spin in my head. To revisit them, I just needed to update the plots with new technologies: today we have smartphones, drones, Google Maps… Essentially, it was just a matter of refreshing them by adjusting certain passages.

Nevertheless, you mentioned that you already received positive feedback on Topolino and the Antarctic Spectralia from the editorial team.

Yes, they really liked it… otherwise, of course, they wouldn’t have approved it. [laughs] There was still a minimal negotiation, with both me and them aware that the general sensibility compared to twenty years ago has changed significantly, in the sense that there are many topics and situations today that are no longer considered suitable for a children’s audience.

The greatest effort for me was indeed to keep the story intact and also accommodate the new requests from the publisher. In the end, I believe we can both be satisfied with what we have achieved.

It is no secret that Disney stories have many constraints, which vary depending on historical periods. In the current climate, every topic is potentially divisive and therefore dangerous for Topolino, including environmentalism, which was a theme the magazine was at the forefront of in the eighties. Is the job becoming more difficult for you authors?

In some ways, yes. There are understandable and acceptable limits, and others that are less so. But then, it all depends: if you can, despite the constraints, create a compelling story that makes sense and perhaps also carries a good message for the readers, the effort is worth it.

For twenty years (and more), I have been writing only stories honestly, that is, stories that intrigue and entertain me first and foremost. It is important to have fun yourself if you want to do this job well. Otherwise, it’s better to do something else. Of course, publication and distribution are very, very important for a writer, but it’s not the ultimate goal for me when I write a story.

And meanwhile, your Atlantide Cycle is moving forward with a new chapter.

Yes, and I really want to be able to finish it this time. When I think back to Eurasia’s debut and the motivations that led to her creation, I would like other authors to use her once the Atlantide adventure is over, without any constraints. It would be an honor for me.

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The variant cover of «Topolino 3570» for Comicon Napoli 2024 illustrated by Casty

Why all these years of waiting? In the ending of Topolino and the Ray of Atlantis, it seemed like the next adventure was just around the corner.

Consider that in large structures, such as Disney, people often change, and as a result, plans and editorial guidelines change. Other priorities take precedence. Nonetheless, I have always tried to pursue my broad project, which over the years has led me to write vastly different stories in terms of tone, topics, and characters used. Always, however, primarily meeting the demands of the management.

There was a time when shorter and more urban stories were requested. I then created some with Topesio, which turned out well. But the issue was never the length; the length of a story is functional to what the story needs to convey.

Perhaps I’m going against the trend, but in my memory as a reader, I remember much more the short stories (Topolino and the Uncontainable Squee, Topolino and the Electromystery of Natalimburgo, Atomino, Topolino and the Whatever Element): there are playful, imaginative, tender inventions that reconnect me to the pleasure of stories.

Those you mentioned are some of the stories that I enjoy creating the most: the one-shot stories, of around thirty pages or slightly more, where you have to entertain, frighten, and amuse the reader in the time it takes to read for about twenty minutes.

Many tell me that their favorite story is Topolino and the One-dollar Coat, which if I recall correctly doesn’t even reach thirty pages. It proves that if a story is well done and moving, the length is relatively unimportant. Of course, the colossal size of a story with 60 or more pages already gives greater significance to the story, but it’s not an absolute guarantee of a «memorable story.»

Topolino’s target audience is children, but it’s evident that a large portion of the readers are adults who highly appreciate your stories. When you write, which reader do you have in mind?

I always think first about the child reader, certainly: things must be presented clearly, logically, entertainingly, and interestingly. This way, even the most complex concepts can be conveyed, as being clear and logical absolutely does not mean writing banal texts; it’s a wonderful challenge for a comic book writer to express, in the limited space of a balloon, considerations that in a book would require pages and pages to write. And, at the same time, advance the story.

And then there are the levels of reading, which are the beauty of the entire classic Disney production, in general. When you think about children’s movies or comics from the past, you realize that the most beautiful and memorable stories are those that can be enjoyed by both children and adults with equal pleasure. Just think how I read as an adult most of Gottfredson’s stories, which were almost unavailable when I was a child, and they dazzled me as much as the others I read when I was young.

What did you read when you were young?

Topolino was the

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