‘The Mudflat Crew’

‘The Mudflat Crew’

to Journal

on 29.04.24

‘The Mudflat Crew’ is a Vital publication created by Pietro Leddi, inspired by exploration of the Vital pilot sites, the richness of the lagoon ecosystem, and Venetian folk stories and legends. It is designed to make people more mindful of the Lagoon, triggering curiosity especially among the younger generation and offering humour for readers of any age. In the final section, the publication contains scientific and historical insights connected with the story. Copies have been printed in Italian and English. Details of the public presentations and distribution will follow shortly.

Pietro Leddi taking pictures on the Vital action site. Photo Eleonora Sovrani, 2023.

Here the answers by Pietro Leddi in an interview with Eleonora Sovrani:

ES: What was your perception and experience of the Venice Lagoon before you started this collaboration?

PL: At the beginning of this collaboration, despite the excitement of making a comic strip in a setting that was new to me, I won't deny that I was quite intimidated, as I felt a bit of an outsider. I’d only visited Venice a few times and it’s so full of stories that it made me feel as small as an ant. How could I come up with something valid that could best represent these places so rich in history. Of all the authors who have told stories about Venice, my thoughts immediately turned to Hugo Pratt's 'Corto Maltese', whose story takes so much inspiration from these places, an authoritative comic strip of great depth to which I could not escape as a reference.

ES: How did you approach the exploration of this ecosystem?

PL: The first experience was thanks to Laguna~B and We are here Venice ETS, co-founders of the Vital initiative, who arranged to take me to the site to see and touch these places filled with wonder. Equipped with a camera, I embarked with the others on a small boat and we crossed the boundaries within which human activities take place and headed towards these sites to explore the ecosystem that is their master. Guided by an expert, we wandered into the marshes, where the fauna and flora were revealed; the varieties of plants and traces left by creatures on the fresh mud.

A distinct memory of this excursion was the discovery of a nest hidden in the vegetation with its eggs left unattended. An extremely fragile treasure, which involved moving delicately on this tongue of land. My feet, instead of sinking into the mud, had to be carefully guided before each step, the risk of ruining these relics was high.

ES: During your research, did you discover anything that particularly surprised or interested you that you would like to explore beyond your collaboration with Vital?

PL: Prior to thinking about the plot of the comic strip, I decided to carry out research into the stories and legends of the lagoon and the city of Venice. The mysteries and myths, which always contain something occult and not yet been fully revealed, left me with a great desire to deepen certain aspects of my research. Venice over the centuries has often been a protagonist and as such has accumulated wealth and built its city as a sort of natural fortress that made it invincible, only modernity with its engines and excessive traffic is destroying it. Many are the mysteries and legends linked to the era of Maritime Republics, the Crusades and the Napoleonic wars, but even more interesting are the popular fables where witches, devils and other mythological beings are the protagonists.

First printing at the typography in Venice. Photo Eleonora Sovrani, 2024.

ES: What main elements did you base the story of ‘The Mudflat Crew’ on to develop?

PL: The main inspiration, on which I built the cartoon ‘The Mudflat Crew’, was based on a “coming of age” type novel. I wanted to have a structure that would primarily suit children, and an adventure through which they could understand certain themes and grow new interests. I wanted to create a story that would be very detailed so that it could also surprise a more adult reader, so that the cartoon’s target could also be broader. The gang, protagonist of the story, decides to take the initiative and search for the treasure with nonchalance, as if  setting off for an outing, unaware that the world around them is not only made of positive elements, but there are also antagonists who can bring trouble. The structure of the comic owes a lot to Mark Twain's ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ and the film ‘Stand by Me’ taken from the Stephen King story ‘The Body’, which with their swampy settings and light-heartedness aligned with the initial objective, namely to create a work that would be enjoyed mainly by children and young people.

ES: What message would you like to see be taken up by the readers of  ‘The Mudflat Crew’?

PL: There are several messages in the story, the first being the romantic power of nature and the magic that can produce unforgettable adventures. Indeed, in the comic this power is a constant that fills the vignettes with colours and shapes, creating labyrinths from which our characters pop out like a game of hide-and-seek.

Another aspect is the myth derived from folk tales rooted in the territory and are passed on to new generations, and from which older people also draw interest. 

The story is intended to be positive and light-hearted, but at the same time it unsettles the reader. The references to certain events in the comic strip are also historical and relate to the genesis of certain islands in the Lagoon. The specific elements and concepts veiled in the story are taken up in the glossary and explained at the end of the publication. The bibliography, on the other hand, invites the reader to delve deeper and includes some books which for me have been beacons to better understand the culture and symbiosis that once existed between the Lagoon and human settlements.

ES: What are your hopes and concerns about the future of the younger generation?

PL: The hope is that my generation and the generations, which are coming into the world will be competent enough to overcome all the issues casting a shadow over our future.

To start from a few points in order to characterise this chaos of potential problems is in itself exhausting given the complexity of modernity; society is transforming itself with a progression that far surpasses all previous transformations brought about by technological revolutions that have revolutionised our past. Where are we heading, unknowingly? We can’t know. We are in the process of creating artificial intelligence, an incredible and revolutionary tool, yet we find ourselves increasingly unable to purposefully organise our organic intelligence. The worst elements of capitalism mix with those of totalitarianism, creating an oppressive society of production and progress directed entirely towards the consumption of the surrounding resources.

These dynamics are destroying our earthly habitat and threatening our continued presence. The variety that once distinguished our landscapes is disappearing at an alarming rate. I believe these are the challenges, to become capable of countering these dynamics by recreating a balance with our planet.

Detail from the publication Photo Eleonora Sovrani, 2024.

Pietro Leddi aka Rullampo is a 2d animator and illustrator. He works in the fields of music, comics, advertising communication and audiovisual installation. He was born in Viareggio and lives in Milan. He has a degree in Communication Design at the Polytechnic of Milan and one in Graphic Design at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts. Member of the association Archivio Piero Leddi and the collective Guazzabuglio, collaborates with Grafici senza Frontiere, Asteroide, Terminus, Mammafotogramma, Fondazione Carnevale di Viareggio, S.C.Artroom and Butik.