In Monster Allergy Zick and his friend Elena Patata go on adventures in an invisible world, populated by monsters of all kinds. Written by Katja Centomo and Francesco Artibani, Monster Allergy leads the early 2000s radical departure from typical Italian comics, using a much more dynamic visual style and introducing story elements hardly present in the past. Illustrators Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa fill the pages with icky creatures, funny-looking ghosts, and quirky humans in a story all about going deeper than first impressions. Zick and Elena will learn of strength hidden inside them and how to deal with a new, mysterious world.
A monstrous contrast
From the first meeting between the two protagonists, the comic plunges readers into a contrast: superficial appearance against real substance. For the other children, Zick is a freak. A weird, weak kid without friends. Instead, Elena discovers that the boy is part of something greater. He has powers his schoolmates couldn’t even imagine. In Monster Allergy, nothing is really as it seems. For example, Zick’s sphynx cat appears as an angry-looking but otherwise unremarkable pet. In reality, he’s an incredibly powerful shapeshifting creature, guiding Zick in his exploration of the monster world.
Opposites permeate the comic. The protagonists live in Oldmill Village, a small and peaceful neighborhood, part of the metropolis of Bigburg. Likewise, Zick and Elena are complete opposites: he is a scrawny, allergic kid while she is a loud, short-tempered girl. Old against new, monsters and humans, the conflicts are the main force driving the kids’ growth. Thus, in contrast with previous Italian comics for teenagers, they are not frozen characters living in an eternal present. Unlike characters such as Tex Willer, these young heroes grow over time. As an example, the two often bicker over how their adventures should continue. They become jealous of each other’s group of friends and often try to best the other at dealing with monsters. Instead of being recursive story elements though, Zick and Elena overcome these arguments, reaching a common understanding and maturing as persons as a result.
A new age for Italian comics
Monster Allergy was a trailblazer in many ways. For one thing, along with Paperinik New Adventures and WITCH, it was part of a new generation of Italian comics. It veered away from the traditional Italian panel grid, using a much more dynamic and irregular layout inside the pages. Moreover, it dealt with its story and themes usually not allowed in comics aimed at a younger audience. As an example, Zick’s mother is a young and jovial widow, while Elena’s mother is heavily pregnant. The characters and their relationships are more realistic than other teenagers’ publications of the time. In addition, death and gore appear organically, despite it being a comic series aimed at kids.
The style sets apart the squared and technological world of the humans from the bulbous, organic city of the monsters. Additionally, Monster Allergy doesn’t shy away from showing disgusting or horrifying things. The monsters lose pieces, secrete mucus, make inappropriate sounds. Some monsters resemble the grotesque creature of John Carpenter’s The Thing. The authors address the audience in their own way, offering a disgusting yet hilarious spectacle.
Monster Allergy, Zick and his Evolution
Initially distributed by Buena Vista Comics until 2006, when it was canceled, the authors came back to Monster Allergy in 2015 publishing a final issue with Tunué. The next year, the publisher released a new edition containing all issues. Following the success of the comic, a TV series was made, aired in many countries like Italy, France and the United States. This episode eventually lead to a sequel, Monster Allergy Evolution.
In keeping with the theme of change and opposition, Zick and Elena have grown and are now university students. Italian fantasy writer Licia Troisi wrote a story arc for the comic. Still ongoing, Monster Allergy Evolution grows with its readers. It follows the protagonists from ten-year-old kids to young adults dealing with new and monstrous problems.