When COVID-19 hit Italy, it hit hard, with northern Italy becoming Europe’s hottest hot zone in February. By mid-March, all of Italy was under lockdown.
For longtime Heavy Metal contributor Milo Manara, the COVID-19 pandemic has been hugely affecting. For starters, he lives in Veneto, in northern Italy. He also has a niece who works as a nurse, and as a worker deemed “essential,” is out on the front line. Manara sat down and painted a picture of a nurse staring down a giant COVID-19 molecule, an image he called “It’s You Against Me, Now!”
He posted it to his official Instagram and Facebook pages on March 15, captioned simply “Grazie.” Since then he’s channeled his considerable artistic energy into this self-assigned project of paying tribute to the COVID-19 heroes, the essential workers who are risking their health to keep Italy functioning. It’s not just those in the medical profession — Manara salutes those who continue to provide food, transportation, education and information. From the stitcher of facemasks to the fireman, Manara is documenting them all. Though it’s not a fire “man” of course.
“Of course these are all female characters, as my career has been chiefly dedicated to the celebration of women’s beauty,” Manara told the Washington Post. “In this case, though, I felt it was time to celebrate other virtues, like courage, selflessness and altruism. I somehow wanted to pay off my debt.”
The images have drawn praise and gratitude across social media — though the uniforms vary from country to country, the sight of people in facemasks doing crucial work is universal.
Milo Manara, who is 74, knows the coronavirus presents a higher risk for him than the young. He survives by staying inside. He also survives because someone (his daughter) brings him food and supplies. It’s this basic life-sustaining ground-level service that he wishes to commemorate. “I’m setting them on paper so that we may remember them one, two, 10 years down the line,” he told the Post. “I hope they will have helped us enter a new world.”