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Netflix’s Tear Along the Dotted Line Brings a Best-Selling Italian Graphic Novel to Life

Zerocalcare character referencing Star Wars. (Image: Netflix.)

Written and directed by Italian artist Michele Rech (a.k.a. Zerocalcare), Nertflix’s Tear Along the Dotted Line adapts his best-selling comics strips (often turned graphic novels) to Netflix animation. The description reads “Tear Along The Dotted Line is the story of a complicated journey that Zerocalcare takes with his friends Sarah and Secco. Along the way, he’ll face episodes of his life that are only apparently disconnected from each other, but which in the end will reveal a profound meaning.”

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In the teaser trailer, we don’t get much except the people in his life telling him it is very unlikely Netflix would choose him to work with. Some even doubt him because it was announced almost a year ago on Netflix Italia (for which, unlike the full trailer, you will need to use the YouTube-generated translated captions feature) and hasn’t been heard from since.

Um … to the naysayers, I would like to remind y’all that we are still in a pandemic and animation takes time. Already, from a snippet, we get a sense of meta and observational humor that is a beloved aspect of the original comic series.

I’m not quite sure if the title references the old Netflix days or another part of print journalism like ads, mailers, etc. If you don’t remember the Before Times, in the time before enough people’s internet speeds could handle streaming, Netflix’s primary distribution method was mailing DVDs. This meant it would take a bit of time to finish a season of a show because there would only be a few episodes per disc.

Zerocalcare is voicing himself, with Valerio Mastandrea as his conscience (an armadillo). Now in its 13th reprint, The Prophecy of the Armadillo is Zerocalcare’s most popular title. In 2018, a film of the same name competed at the 75th Venice International Film Festival, but the reviews on that live-action adaptation, compared to the comic, are like night and day, so I hope the Netflix show is better suited to the story because it’s animated. Also, Zerocalcare is heavily involved in the Netflix project, and it takes place in his narrative universe.

In addition to works about himself, he also has created more overtly political art. Zerocalcare wrote satirical strips on the rising neo-fascist movements in Italy. Later, he documented (via cartoons of course) his time reporting on Kurdish resistance in Syria, which made it into his graphic novel memoir Kobane Calling: Greetings from Northern Syria. His time in Syria and the Trump Administration’s Muslim Ban caused travel issues when he tried to come to promote his comic in 2018 for New York Comic Con.

Book cover sowing main character looking worried by the shore. (Image: Bao publishing.)

(Image: Bao publishing)

While I love a good superhero or science fiction graphic novel, some of my favorites have been slice of life and/or biographical in nature. George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy, Marjane Satrapi’s Persopolis (told in two parts), and John Lewis’ March Trilogy being examples of autobiographical works. And the fact that I’ve never read a graphic novel from the perspective of a journalist makes me really want to pick up Zerocalcare’s Kobane Calling.

Tear Along the Dotted Line releases to Netflix on November 17.

(image: Netflix)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.

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