For those readers who are unfamiliar with giallo or gialli(pl) I have blatantly cut and pasted this description from the wonderful Wikipedia to to fill you in on the basics … However I must encourage you, if any of this sounds at all interesting or intriguing, to get out there and watch a few because they really need to be experienced to be able to fully appreciate their strange, crazy, wonderfulness.
Giallo (Italian pronunciation: [ˈdʒallo], plural gialli) is an Italian 20th-century genre of literature and film, which in Italian indicates crime fiction and mystery. In English, it refers to a genre similar to the French fantastique genre and includes elements of horror fiction and eroticism. The word “giallo” is Italian for “yellow” and comes from a series of cheap paperback mystery novels with trademark yellow covers.
The term giallo derives from a series of crime-mystery pulp novels entitled Il Giallo Mondadori ‘Mondadori Yellow (books)’, published by Mondadori from 1929 on, and taking its name from the trademark yellow cover background. The series consisted almost exclusively of Italian translations of mystery novels by British and American writers, such as Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, Edgar Wallace, Ed McBain, Rex Stout, and Raymond Chandler.
Published as cheap paperbacks, the success of the “giallo” novels soon began attracting the attention of other publishing houses, who began releasing their own versions, mimicking the yellow covers. The popularity of these series eventually established the word giallo as meaning a mystery novel.
For Italian audiences, giallo has come to refer to any kind of thriller, regardless of its origin. Thus, American, British or other thrillers such as Psycho, Vertigo or Peeping Tom are considered gialli. For English-speaking audiences however, the term has over time come to refer only to a very specific type of Italian-produced thriller which Italian audiences have historically referred to as “thrilling all’italiana” or “spaghetti thrillers.”
The film subgenre that emerged from these novels in the 1960s began as literal adaptations of the books, but soon began taking advantage of modern cinematic techniques to create a unique genre which veered into horror and psychological thrillers. The giallo film genre proved to be a major influence on the later slasher film genre.
Giallo films are generally characterized as gruesome murder-mystery thrillers that combine the suspense elements of a Hitchcock film with scenes of shocking horror featuring excessive bloodletting, stylish camerawork, and often jarring musical arrangements. The standard plot, used in countless films, involves a mysterious, black-gloved psychopathic killer who stalks and butchers a series of beautiful women. The killings are invariably violent and gory, including throat-slashings and decapitations. These murders often occur when the victim is most vulnerable (showering, taking a bath, or scantily clad). The literary whodunit element is retained, while being filtered through Italy’s longstanding tradition of opera and staged grand guignol drama. There are also stories that involve supernatural forces, ghostly spirits, etc. Giallo films often include liberal amounts of nudity and sex, with several actresses becoming strongly associated with the genre such as Edwige Fenech, Barbara Bach, Daria Nicolodi, Barbara Bouchet, Suzy Kendall, Ida Galli, and Anita Strindberg.
I personally had my doubts about the giallo genre after only hearing the ever increasingly lurid descriptions on various podcasts, yet I was still oddly fascinated and knew I had to give them a try. Once I’d dived in to my first encounter though, which was Dario Argento’s Bird With The Crystal Plumage, (oddly enough as you’ll discover shortly) I was utterly hooked with the gorgeous, luscious colour and visuals and strange unearthly atmosphere coupled with genuine creepiness and often excessive, inventive and thoroughly entertaining deaths. I’ve noticed over time though often the best experience I gain from these movies is by positively reveling in the wonderful over the top fashion, style and decor of the era that seems to ooze in varying degrees from every pore. The more the better! I find myself in utter awe of a lamp or a telephone just as equally as from the special effects makeup, which has a basic practical style but is all the better for it in my opinion.
Some of you may know already, Creep is a huge Giallo fan, both of the films and the books, (particularly the cover art) so it was obviously just a matter of time until he would write his own series. Shallow Giallo are funny, lighthearted spoofs of the genre loosely based on some of the popular films.
Luckily for me he asked me to design the cover art for his first release The Girl With The Crystal Pubis.
Here is the book description from Amazon.com
“Girl With The Crystal Pubis follows Edwin Fenech, a man famous for many reasons who witnesses a murder and is now on the killer’s list. He, with the help of his supermodel girlfriend Suzy and Chief Police Inspector Enrico, try to solve a string of murders that have haunted Rome in hopes of stopping the murderer before anyone else dies.
This satire spoof is slightly based on Dario Argento’s Bird With The Crystal Plumage. Fans of the Giallo genre will love Girl With The Crystal Pubis as well as new fans being introduced to it now for the first time.”
Firstly the cover design had to imitate the original covers as much as possible but with our own image for the title being the main theme. We poured over so many covers with huge enthusiasm as hopefully you can see they are a work of art in themselves. These classic mondadori covers are as beautiful to me as the vintage horror comic covers and posters which are so seldom used these days.
So here are just a couple of examples to demonstrate the classic characteristics and font that were so often used.
We noticed most of the images sort of bleed from the main shape which we loved and want to explore in later covers but for the first book the image was to be simple and contained.
The theme of the book is of course the dubious ‘Crystal Pubis’ which has both sinister and hilarious implications but we wanted the cover to be deadly serious … Well as serious as a crystal pubis can be.
Creep sent me a stock image from google images of a girl’s torso in a bikini that I could use as a reference. From this picture I used Adobe Elements with my Bamboo tablet again, to draw the torso but with the sparkly crystal pubic area instead of the bikini.
Once again, I wasn’t entirely sure how Creep envisioned this so I kind of made it up as I went along but with lots of shade adjustments and sparkly effects I think I did pretty well in creating the effect we needed.
I was happy with the image itself because as well as the obvious ‘content’ I think I managed to make the girl’s figure really curvy and feminine which always plays a huge part in these covers. Scantily clad, curvacious women!
The next stage was to create a template that was completely in keeping with the originals with similar font and placing. I wasn’t hugely familiar with the dreaded layer concept of Elements at this time but I learnt as I went along, slowly but surely and eventually managed to come up with a reusable template that we can just change certain elements of in the future to make the whole process quicker.
This first cover was a first rough draft to play around with fonts but we decided we needed more little touches and details to make it more authentic looking.
This is the jpeg of the template with the information in the font style we decided upon ready to be positioned. (Obviously the actual template was a PSD file so that the layers could all be adjusted though … I say ‘obviously’ but I had no clue about this prior to doing these covers. I did pick it up fairly quickly though but have a tonne to learn still).
So finally, after playing around with all this information for way longer than seems normal, we finally agreed we were both happy with the result.
So here it is … The Girl With The Crystal Pubis! …
(And what I found out today, which is amazingly cool, is that when I googled ‘giallo books’ to find the reference covers to show you, our cover is right there amongst the originals! Geek alert!! :D)
So this first awesome book in the series is out now and you can buy it on Amazon (link below), as well as Barnes & Noble and Kobo
Also Creep is working on the second book Relapse of the Crystal Pubis which will be out later in the year. I’ll let you know about any updates.
You may also be interested to know that Creep co-hosts an awesome podcast with Erik Bergstrom and Christopher Bellis called Giallo Ciao! Ciao! every two weeks so if any of you are interested in the genre you should definitely check them out on iTunes or visit the site