In the apocalyptic movies, the world turns to superheroes for salvation. But we could use their help in our own times of financial crisis, says Alessandro Rabatti. In his ‘Facebank’ series, the Italian artist transforms the well-known faces on the U.S. dollar, British pound sterling and Chinese yuan banknotes into characters from comic book lore.

What is the story behind the Facebank series?

– The “technical” input that has generated Facebank was the discovery that the faces of Lincoln, Queen Elizabeth and Mao are built on an almost identical pattern, as a “superior” project shared by the three worldwide markets in Asia, America and Europe. The portraits are drawn three quarters and this similarity allows the overlap between them. I had a metaphor of globalization of markets on hand to take advantage!

But defacing banknotes is a bit of an offense.

– This is all a game, and I hope no one is offended. I am interested in the banknote as an object or symbol of the global economy and markets, not in the ‘political’ characters graced on the notes; I am not interested in ridiculing their appearance or commenting on their story. I just cut out details of faces from some of the most iconic superheroes and superimposed them on the notes. Some additional de- tails, like the “gold leaf ” ef- fect, are enough to activate the collective imagination of the world of comics. The metaphors of all this are a free interpretation in the mind of the viewer.

What artistic message do you want to spread with this series?

– This project was spawned from my own personal experience of the economic crisis, that everyone was affected by the everyday difficulties and lived through it through the media. In the Facebank series, the financial markets behave like the personal profiles we all ‘build’ on our social networks: they almost never depict who we truly are but rather emulate what ideally we would like to be.