Cipollini's LUCKY Graphic Novel Emphasizes True in "True Crime"

Christian Cipollini, the award-winning author of three true-crime books, has broken new ground with his latest effort, which revisits a somewhat familiar topic: Salvatore Lucania -- that's Charlie "Lucky" Luciano to you.

Cipollini is a standout in the Mafia-based true-crime genre. In addition to authoring three books -- Lucky Luciano: Mysterious Tales of a Gangland LegendMurder Inc. and Diary of a Motor City Hit Man -- he's appeared on several high-profile television shows, including the Biography Channel's Gangsters: America's Most Evil and the History Channel's United Stuff of America (in addition to also serving as a consultant/producer for National Geographic's critically acclaimed series, DRUGS, INC.)

The Lab, as Christian Cipollini calls it, where he writes his award-winning books and other things
The "lab," where Christian writes, muses, maybe smokes a cigar....

Most recently, he appeared at the Las Vegas Mob Museum to discuss the Mafia's pre-WWII hit squad known as Murder Incorporated (the topic of his most-recent book for the Strategic Media label). He's also a Real Crime Magazine contributor. And I know I am forgetting something....

In an April 2014 interview, we called Cipollini prolific. We were certainly onto something. Not only is he prolific, but he's pretty damn good. There's corroboration for that seemingly subjective appraisal: His books generate awards and acclaim: his Murder Inc. won Best Non Fiction award at the 2015 Hollywood Book Awards; Lucky Luciano was the International Book Awards Finalist and also a USA Best Book Awards Finalist. The Mob Museum also lauded his recent Murder Inc. presentation, which you can chill out and enjoy below.....

 Christian extolled the benefits of belonging to a network of friends, supporters and colleagues: "You have to have contacts: family, friends and colleagues. You need friends that are mentors... and researchers. And you have to know people on the other side, the criminals." (Yes, that last part helps tremendously.)

Christian in terms of his writing and promotional efforts, definitely has moved onward and upward. Speaking to him, and to others about him, it's clear that he is an artist plugged into an innovative network of capable, formidable fellow artists. Two who especially stand out are Seth Ferranti and Tera Patrick, both of whom Cipollini credits as having helped facilitate his artistic leap into the true-crime comic book genre.

Volume one of Lucky Luciano graphic novel.

Comic books have come along way since I collected them, back when they cost a quarter apiece. Today, one issue probably costs more than my annual Playboy New Yorker subscription.

Domestic sales for comics/ graphic novels have been rising. According to Business Insider, domestic sales for the genre reached $870 million as of early 2014, from $265 million in 2000. Fueling growth is digitization as well as the debut and rise of the "graphic novel" format.

Also driving growth is the expansion of the genre's readership, which is believed to have occurred due to Hollywood's successful forays into the business of adapting comic books and graphic novels for film and television. Acclaimed shows based on graphic novels, especially my favorite, The Walking Dead (yes, we get to see who Negan bashes to death this Sunday -- finally!!), have helped expand the comic book/graphic novel's appeal beyond the historical core readers (horny prepubescent boys?).

Today readers span a wider age range -- they are older and younger -- and more women read them than previously.

Into this dynamic fray, Cipollini releases his debut, LUCKY: A Scar Is Born, available now.

A peak at how Cipollini writes a graphic novel, which is
similar to writing a script.

With LUCKY he plans to continue to expand on certain elements included in his previous Luciano book. In fact, Christian says the two books make for an excellent complement, though each was conceived and executed as a standalone work.

"The comic book project will give a visual account of specific and monumental moments plucked from Lucky’s rise to infamy,” Cipollini said in an interview. "The comic book and the book are designed to be great companions."

Cipollini views the graphical novel as another format with which to use to advance his personal philosophy about the true-crime genre, which is simply: Truth is more interesting than fiction, especially when the topic is as inherently intriguing as the Mafia.

When first asked to participate in the LUCKY series, Cipollini had his own wrinkle to add to the agreement. "My caveat is I want the "true" kept in the "true crime."

Hence, many of the panels were drawn from actual photographs. Cipollini had much for his artist to work with. A confirmed, experienced memorabilia collector, he's been buying original photographs, especially of gangsters, at a considerable clip. (He in fact began writing based on a unique photograph he obtained of an obscure Detroit-area hit man from the 1970s, Chester Wheeler.)

This is the first graphical novel that would benefit from footnotes, too. Cipollini didn't refurbish material he already used in his Luciano book; rather, he conducted more original Luciano research into LUCKY. It's more than entertainment, in other words.

LUCKY kicks off with cops finding the mobster barely breathing on Staten Island, circa 1929, his facial scar fresh and bloody.

From a creative viewpoint, "I kept the focus on the myths, how he got the nickname, how he got the scar." Christian also goes into more detail about Lucky's tattoos.

The graphic novel, published by Stache Publishing, an independent small-press comic publisher based in St. Louis, in partnership with GR1ND Studios, is a collaborative effort, as are most comic books.

The writer's role is similar to the screenwriter or scriptwriter. So unless he's an excellent artist too, as well as an expert letterer (bet you didn't even think of that second one, did you?), the writer is only one member of the team required to put a graphic novel together. Though his role is the most important; without his story, the others have nothing on which to work.

Helping translate the LUCKY story into those colored panels is GR1ND’s Seth Ferranti, a true-crime writer and journalist himself (who served an absurdly long prison sentence for being an LSD kingpin). Anthony Mathenia served as project editor and colorist, Micah Myers as the letterer, and the artist -- straight from Russia -- is Evgeny Frantsev.

Cipollini also consulted with Tera Patrick during the development process.

The next installment of LUCKY is called DOPE MEN. Christian is going to re-create Luciano's background -- when he and other organized crime founders, including Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky served a sort of apprenticeship alongside The Brain (Arnold Rothstein). Additional new characters will be brought into Lucky's story, including Al Capone and Legs Diamond.

No doubt some very amazing things are coming; we'll keep you posted as much as possible.

And by the way.... I remember now..... 

Christian will be at the Fluid Event Center, in Champaign, Ill.,  on October 21-23, talking about all the above works -- and probably a lot more -- at Dark History & Horror Con.