The Universe of Liberatore

    (Heavy Metal, 2005)
™ and ©2005 Editions Sefam/Albin Michel-Paris

Known primarily in America for his illustration work on RanXerox as syndicated in Heavy Metal, Gaetano (Tanino) Liberatore has a long history in Italian comics and European illustration circles. He also won the French Academy of Cinema’s award for Best Costumes in 2002 for his work on Astérix et Obélix: Mission Cléopâtre, the most expensive French film ever made at the time of its release. This 84 page volume collects previously unpublished Ranx illustration, sketch work from Astérix et Obélix and other work from variety of endeavors.

This book begins with a section on RanXerox, a buffed, hunky brute with blue lips and aviator glasses, was actually a mechanical Frankenstein made from scavenged photocopier parts. A lawsuit brought by Xerox Corporation forced Liberatore and co-creator Stefano Tamburini to change RanXerox’s name to Ranx. Several pages of Ranx-related illustration show the anti-hero at his sexy best along with Lubna, his underage female companion. Following the Ranx work, twenty pages of erotic art featuring topless women in a variety of threatening and/or compromising positions precede a dozen more pages of detailed sketches and costume studies from Liberatore’s notable film and animation efforts.

Several more pages include fine art portfolio material and studies for poster and magazine illustration. Liberatore’s style veers nimbly back and forth between Renaissance art’s attention to flesh texture and muscle tone and pop art’s flat perspectives and hot color contrasts. In particular, his use of white to delineate shape and form gives his subjects a special luminosity. Subjects include more women, and some abstract anatomical pieces. I especially like the poster study for the 2003 Italian film Caterina Va In Cita depicting a young woman in a summer dress enraptured by the music playing on her headphones.

The book concludes with eight pages of fantastic black and white illustration from a graphic novel work-in-progress titled Lucy ostensibly about the life of the proto-human hominid whose skeleton was famously excavated by an international team of archaeologists working in Ethiopia in 1974. Liberatore illustrated books published in France on human prehistory written by Yves Coppen, a member of that team. Liberatore’s work on Lucy, to be written by Patrick Norbert, should get wider publication as the quality of the work revealed here shows the mature artist taking his game to the next level.

— Leland Burrill

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 ca. 2005 Tanino Gaetano Liberatore