The title could mislead you, particularly since it appears on the cover of a graphic novel.
Superzelda is not the tale of a woman with super powers. Rather, it is the well-researched story of a very human Zelda Sayre—the headstrong, flamboyant young woman who married F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1919 and became the country’s best known “flapper.”
After his death in 1940, Fitzgerald’s reputation sank into obscurity but gradually revived. Today, thanks to the recent filming of The Great Gatsby, he is topping the best-seller chart once again. Zelda’s reputation has also shifted with time. While she lived, several of Fitzgerald’s fellow writers criticized her for being selfish, irresponsible, and ultimately destructive of her husband’s talent. In more recent years, though, Zelda has gathered a number of supporters who portray her as a true artist whose talent was crushed by her husband’s domination and jealousy.
Superzelda‘s author Tiziana Lo Porto and illustrator Daniele Marotta offer a view of Zelda that is not quite either of these pictures. They show a Zelda who knows her own mind, and is determined to live with as little compromising as possible. But their Zelda also desperately seeks her own artistic outlet as a writer, dancer, and painter, without ever quite succeeding. The book tries to separate Zelda the natural-born eccentric from the Zelda who spent the last decade of her life in and out of mental hospitals.
Superzelda gives a picture of Fitzgerald and Zelda that is intriguingly complex. We see their excessive drinking and infidelities, and their occasional outbursts of almost childish behavior. But we also see a lifelong, tender attachment between the foremost author of the Jazz Age and the embodiment of “the new American woman.” The authenticity of Lo Porto and Marotta’s portrait of the couple is reinforced by their extensive quoting from the letters and recollections of Fitzgerald and Zelda, as well as their contemporaries.
Some of their friends thought Fitzgerald and Zelda never should have married. Fitzgerald himself admitted once that he knew he’d made a mistake shortly after their marriage. But Fitzgerald always had a weakness for making dramatic and shocking statements that sounded as if they contained more truth than they did. This was also the man who wrote in his unfinished novel The Last Tycoon that “There are no second acts in American lives.” His recent rise in popularity, 73 years after his death, is arguably a valid second act. Superzelda gives Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald a well deserved second act of her own.
Cover design by Riccardo Falcinelli. Cover illustration by Daniele Marotta.