"Superzelda" to the Rescue
The legendary Zelda Fitzgerald comes to life in an Italian comic book, now available for American readers.
by Erin Z. Bass
The first graphic novel about Montgomery, Alabama, native Zelda Fitzgerald was published in Italy in 2011. Translated into English and now available in the United States for the first time, “Superzelda” is charmingly brings to life its title character, a Jazz Age icon often overshadowed by her famous husband.
While Zelda may not have achieved the same level of fame as F. Scott Fitzgerald, she certainly had her own personality, interests and talents. Named after the leading characters – both gypsies – of two novels, Zelda was independent from the start. Illustrator Daniele Marotta depicts her making prank phone calls, skating, swimming and climbing onto the roof of her house as a child. “I was a hyperactive, tireless little girl. I was independent-minded, courageous, and indifferent to anyone else’s opinion,” an adult Zelda remarks on her childhood in “Superzelda.”
And it’s these themes that author Tiziana Lo Porto, a journalist living in Rome, carries throughout the book, even as Zelda and Scott’s marriage crumbles and Zelda finds herself in and out of psychiatric hospitals. Lo Porto says she is a huge fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work but knew little about his wife before writing the book.
“I knew the name, and that she was a dancer, and that in the nineties the Pet Shop Boys did a song about her (‘Being Boring’ – the Zelda quote is: ‘She refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring’), and that Woody Allen loved her, and that Ernest Hemingway hated her,” she writes in an e-mail from Italy.
The idea came about after she and Marotta created a graphic review of “Alabama Song,” a fictional biography of Zelda by French writer Gilles Leroy, for an Italian weekly newspaper. “We totally felt in love with Zelda and came up first with the name ‘Superzelda,’ then with the idea of writing a graphic novel about her life,” she continues by e-mail.
Lo Porto researched Zelda’s life for six months, reading all the biographies of her, letters between she and Scott, books about the couple and all of Scott’s novels and short stories. Her dedication to learning about Zelda is evident in “Superzelda,” which covers her life from birth to death and also includes bubble statements from their famous friends like Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. Marotta referenced period photographs to represent the characters, their clothing, surroundings and energy of the era.
Readers get an appreciation for how hard Zelda struggled to find herself and her role in the world during a time when women were expected to stay home and be good wives and mothers. The love she and Scott had for each other and how long it endured, even after they could no longer physically be together, is also touchingly depicted. When Zelda is first hospitalized, Scott sends her flowers every other day and writes her every other day. “Why did we lose peace and love and health, one after the other? If we knew, if there was anybody to tell us, I believe we could try. I’d try so hard,” Zelda is depicted as writing to him.
In a 1919 letter to Scott, she wrote “And in a hundred years I think I shall like having young people speculate on whether my eyes were brown or blue – of course, they are neither.”
Zelda Fitzgerald just wanted to be remembered. Lo Porto says Zelda is famous in a few places in Europe, mainly those she and Scott lived, and that Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” introduced her to a wider audience, but many people still haven’t been properly introduced to Zelda Fitzgerald. A biography, love story and travelogue all in one, “Superzelda” is a fresh tribute that will appeal to even those reading a comic book for the first time.
“Superzelda” was published by One Peace Books and is available on Amazon. It joins “Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald,” out now, and Erika Robuck’s “Call Me Zelda,” due out May 7, in helping to renew interest in this Southern belle. Baz Luhrmann’s movie version of “The Great Gatsby,” in theaters May 10, only adds to what may just be the summer of Zelda.
Erin Z. Bass is editor/publisher of Deep South Magazine. Find out more about her here.