Filippo Fontana skewers nationalism and populism in satirical comic Magnum III

Belgium-based illustrator and comic author Filippo Fontana has returned with the third and final instalment of his satirical series, Magnum. And this time, he has turned his attention to the crises of populism and nationalism currently ripping through international politics.

First published in 2016, Magnum is a comic collaboration between Filippo Fontana and writer Lorenzo Pradelli. The first two volumes took aim at the nouveau riche and commented on people's relationship with money via "politically incorrect dark humour", while the latest edition broadened its scope even further to encompass geopolitics and world leaders.

Fans of the previous two editions need not worry, though. Filippo explains that while the third book is political and no longer exclusively about money, the humour and style of storytelling remain exactly the same. "Somehow, the main topic of the publication is power, which is undoubtedly closely connected with wealth," he tells Creative Boom.

And just like the previous two comics in the series, Magnum III tells its story via images and a complete absence of words. "This makes the comic books immediate and, above all, international," says Filippo. "Anyone can read them. This is the major strength of the project, in my opinion."

In its pages, Magnum III takes the all too familiar figures of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un and dissects their personalities and actions from multiple angles. However, Filippo was keen not to reference specific global events and instead let readers come to their own conclusions about the characters.

"It's crucial for me not to make any statements when I make a comic book," he explains. "It is very important to leave a free interpretation to the reader. For this reason, there are no references to true events. It is very important that the content of the different strips stays generic to emphasise the character's personality rather than events. This also makes the comic timeless."

Speaking of why Magnum III swerves away slightly from the territory of its predecessors, Filippo says that it reflects a broader change in society and its behaviour. "I have always been attracted to popular culture," he says. "Since populism and nationalism have gained wider popularity in recent years, their expansion has somehow made them part of it.

"As a result, I became more and more passionate about politics. Using these themes in my stories was a very spontaneous reaction."

It's a trend seen across contemporary media, with the likes of Family Guy and South Park inspiring Filippo's art style in Magnum III. "As a result, my style is more than appropriate when used in the context of political and social satire.

"The Risograph printing technique, on the other hand, is very appropriate to the world of comics. Since my illustrations are made digitally, their style is, in my opinion, quite cold and static. As a result, a manual printing technique gives more liveliness and depth to the physical product."

Despite consciously refusing to make a statement with his comic, Filippo points out that his own personal ideas are very distant from those of the characters he draws. "I prefer not to express what exactly I think through my work," he says. "However, I think younger generations have very honourable and principled ideals. Ethics and economic advancement, sadly, do not have much in common, in my opinion.

"As long as the economy remains the main engine of the world, I don't think any revolutionary adjustments can happen. There would have to be radical and profound changes to the capitalist system for the world to truly change."

But one thing that has changed is Filippo's approach across the Magnum series. Through the course of the project, he feels like he has expanded his critical approach by being able to analyse different facets of a topic.

"In Magnum I, I was criticising wealth exclusively through the figures of the nouveau riche, while in Magnum II, I broadened this commentary," Filippo concludes. "Likewise, in Magnum III, I don't merely create a parody of Donald Trump but dissect different aspects of his character.

"In Magnum III, though, the structure of the strips is much more rhythmic and coherent than in the previous publications. This helps the reader to orient themselves while reading, and makes everything much more understandable, direct and effective."

Magnum III is available now from Jumbo Press, Barcelona.


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