Italian comics

Italian comics

Italian comics are comics made in Italy. They are locally know as "Fumetto", although this latter term is often used in English to describe a specific comic genre (see Fumetti). The most popular Italian comics have been translated into many languages. The term "fumetto" (literally "little puff of smoke") refers to the balloon that contains the dialogs. As such, it is a more appropriate nomenclature than the American "comics" which implies funny stories, and precisely pinpoints what makes comics such a unique art form: the seamless integration of images and words.


Unlike American comics that were born as daily strips in newspapers, Italian "fumetto" has its roots in periodicals aimed at younger readers and in the satirical publications of the 19th century. These magazines published cartoons and illustrations for educational and propagandistic purposes. The first illustrated satirical publication appears in 1848: it's a daily paper named "L'Arlecchino" published in Naples. Other noteworthy examples of satirical papers of the period include "Lo Spirito Folletto" published in Milan, Turin's "Il Fischietto" and "Il Fanfulla", that is established in Rome in 1872.As far as publications for kids, some of the most significant titles of the period are "Il Giornale per i Fanciulli" (1834), "Il Giovinetto Italiano" (1849), and "Il Giornale dei Bambini" (1881). In 1899 "Il Novellino" debuts: the paper will be the first to publish Outcault's "Yellow Kid" in Italy in 1904. But the first Italian comic will not appear until four years later.

The birth of Italian Comics

In December 27, 1908 Italian newsstands saw the first issue of "Il Corriere dei Piccoli", the first mainstream publication primarily dedicated to comics. The first issue introduced readers to the adventures of Bilbolbul, a little black kid drawn by Attilio Mussino that is considered the first Italian comic character. Despite being officially considered the birthplace of "fumetto," the "Corrierino," as it is nicknamed, doesn't use balloons in the stories that it publishes, opting instead for captions in verse. Regardless, the sequential narration and the returning characters make the publication rightfully the first Italian comic magazine."Il Corrierino" introduced American comics to the Italian audience; however, it was edited to replace balloons with captions. Following its spectacular success (it will reach 700.000 copies), several other periodicals appeared during the following years: "Il Giornaletto" (1910), "Donnina" (1914), "L'Intrepido" (1920) and "Piccolo mondo" (1924).

Fumetto during Fascism

The fascist regime was quick to recognize the potential for propaganda through the new medium. During the '20s several periodicals published educational comics for Italian youth, including "Il Giornale dei Balilla" (1923) and "La piccola italiana" (1927).Beginning January 1, 1939 the publication of foreign comics was forbidden, and the Italian material was required to follow a strict standard, exalting heroism, patriotism and the superiority of the Italian race. To work around these restrictions, some publishers simply renamed American heroes with Italian names. The only exception to the censorship was "Topolino", the Italian name for "Mickey Mouse", published by Nerbini starting in December 31, 1931. Apparently, the reason behind this special treatment for Walt Disney's character was Mussolini's children passion for the little mouse. In 1932 Milan publisher Lotario Vecchi started "Jumbo", a weekly magazine that many consider the first true Italian comics publication. The magazine reached a circulation of 350.000 copies, sanctioning comics as a mainstream medium with broad appeal. In 1935 Nerbini sold "Topolino" to Mondadori, which published it with great success until 1988.In 1937 "Il Vittorioso" appeared, a Catholic magazine entirely composed of Italian comics. It was an attempt to compete with similar secular publications like "L'Avventuroso" (1934), "Il Monello" (1933) and "L'Audace" (1937).

After WWII: Bonelli and the Rise of the Comic Book

The end of World War II marked a flur of activity in the Italian comic press: many titles that were forced to suspend publication during the war come back to saturate the newsstands, joined by new publications often backed by improvised publishers looking for a quick buck. Finally this oversupply of comic material resulted in a crisis of the traditional comic magazine.Among the numerous publications of the period were "L'Avventura" (1944), a Roman magazine that presented American adventure strips like "Mandrake", "L'Uomo Mascherato" ("The Phantom"), "Flash Gordon". Another Roman publication appeared in 1945: "Robinson", a first attempt to target a more adult audience. It introduced several American characters like "Prince Valiant, Tarzan, Secret Agent X-9, Rip Kirby, Li'l Abner" and "Dick Tracy"."Robinson" lasted until 1947, publishing 90 issues.

In 1945, one of the most original magazines of the period was born: "L' asso di Picche" published in Venice as a result of the work of a group of young venetian artists including Alberto Ongaro, Damiano Damiani, Dino Battaglia, Rinaldo D'Ami and above all Hugo Pratt. Their distinctive approach to the art form earned them the name of "venetian school" of comics. Among the characters created for the magazine were Pratt's "L'Asso di Picche", Battaglia's "Junglemen, Draky" and "Robin Hood".

Inspired by the success of the Catholic "Il Vittorioso", the Italian communist party decided to exploit the comic medium for their own propaganda: in 1949 "Il Pioniere" was born. Aimed at a very young audience, the new publication presented fantasy material as well as adventures, with an eye to the social issues of the period.

In 1954 "Il Disco Volante" began publication. It is the Italian version of British weekly "Eagle", and introduced "Dan Dare" to the Italian public. In 1955 "Tintin" appeared, adapted from the French "Le Journal de Tintin", which first presented Franco-Belgian comics to the Italian public.

But the most significant phenomenon of the period was the appearance of comics books. Printed in a variety of formats, from strip size to booklets to giant size, they presented collected stories from the periodicals as well as new adventures of Italian characters. It is on the comic books pages that heroes "made in Italy" gained popularity, eventually overshadowing their American counterparts.

Among the host of Italian series that were created during these years, "Tex Willer" is without doubt the most renowned.Born on September 30, 1948, from the imagination of Gian Luigi Bonelli and from the pencil of Aurelio Galleppini, Tex Willer would become the model for a line of publications centered around the popular comic book format that became known as "Bonelliano", from the name of the publisher. These comic books presented complete stories in 100+ black and white pages in a pocket book format. The subject matter was always adventure, whether western, horror, mystery or science fiction. The "bonelliani" are to date the most popular form of comics in the country.

Some of the series that followed "Tex Willer" were "Zagor" (1961), a tomahawk wielding hero who protects the imaginary Darkwood forest in eastern US, "Il Comandante Mark" (1966), featuring a soldier in the American independence war, and more recently "Mister No" (1975), about an American pilot who operates a small tourist flying agency in the Amazonian jungle, and "Martin Mystère" (1982), featuring an anthropologist/archaeologist/art historian who investigates paranormal phenomena and archaeological mysteries.

Another popular series, "Diabolik" featuring a criminal mastermind, was published since the 1960s, influenced later series such as "Kriminal" and "Satanik". The latter created in the 1960s by one of the most famous duos of comics history, Magnus & Bunker, whose most outstanding creation was however the humorous espionage series "Alan Ford" (1969).

Another famous author of humouristic strips is Franco Bonvicini, whose "Sturmtruppen" met a wide success abroad.

Though read by a more restricted audience, in the past years the comics series which met the greatest critical success are "Corto Maltese", by Hugo Pratt, and "Valentina" by Guido Crepax. While the former is a kind of "summa" of the evolution into an adult form of the classic adventure comics, the latter gave birth to that special kind of erotic comics quite typical of the Italian scene, and whose main pupils are today Milo Manara and Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri.

Disney Italia

Italy also produces many Disney comics, i.e. stories featuring Disney characters (from Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck universes). After the 60's, American artists of Disney comics, such as Carl Barks and Floyd Gottfredson did not produce as many stories as in the past. At present American production of new stories has dwindled (Don Rosa publishes in Europe), and this niche has been filled by companies in South America, Denmark and Italy. The Italian 'Scuola disneyana' has produced several innovations: building the Italian standard length for stories (30 pages), reinterpreting famous works of literature in 'Parodie', writing long stories up to 400 pages.Among the most important artists and authors are Marco Rota, Romano Scarpa, Giorgio Cavazzano, Giovan Battista Carpi and Guido Martina. The best known Disney character created in Italy is 'Paperinik' (known as Duck Avenger or Phantom Duck to English audiences).

Italy prints around 8000 pages of new Disney stories per year, exported worldwide (it makes up 50% of the total production). The main publication, 'Topolino', prints only new stories every week, but there exist 32 different series of reprints going on, for 30 millions of copies sold each year.In the last 10 years Disney Italia produced innovative series like "PK" (Paperinik stories with an American superheroes flavour), "W.I.T.C.H." or "Monster Allergy".

Famous authors

* Giancarlo Alessandrini
* Dino Battaglia
* Giancarlo Berardi
* Gian Luigi Bonelli
* Franco Bonvicini
* Luciano Bottaro
* Bruno Bozzetto
* Max Bunker
* Guido Buzzelli
* Silvio Cadelo
* Renzo Calegari
* Alfredo Castelli
* Claudio Castellini
* Giorgio Cavazzano
* Guido Crepax
* Gianni De Luca
* Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri
* Aurelio Galleppini
* Vittorio Giardino
* Dario Guzzon
* Benito Jacovitti
* Tanino Liberatore
* Magnus
* Milo Manara
* Lorenzo Mattotti
* Attilio Micheluzzi
* Ivo Milazzo
* Walter Molino
* Leonardo Ortolani
* Andrea Pazienza
* Hugo Pratt
* Massimo Rotundo
* Pietro Sartoris
* Franco Saudelli
* Romano Scarpa
* Tiziano Sclavi
* Giovanni Sinchetto
* Ferdinando Tacconi
* Stefano Tamburini
* Enrico Teodorani
* Sergio Toppi
* Silvia Ziche

Famous comics

* "Alan Ford" by Max Bunker and Magnus
* "Calavera" by Enrico Teodorani and Joe Vigil
* "Cattivik" by Bonvi (later Guido Silvestri)
* "Click" ("Il Gioco") by Milo Manara
* "Cocco Bill" by Benito Jacovitti,
* "Corto Maltese" by Hugo Pratt
* "Diabolik" by Angela and Luciana Giussani
* "Djustine" by Enrico Teodorani
* "Druuna" by Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri
* "Dylan Dog" by Tiziano Sclavi
* "Fort Wheeling" by Hugo Pratt
* "Giuseppe Bergman" by Milo Manara
* "Jesuit Joe" by Hugo Pratt
* "Ken Parker" by Giancarlo Berardi and Ivo Milazzo
* "Lazarus Ledd"
* "Lupo Alberto" by Silver
* "Martin Mystère" by Alfredo Castelli
* "Maxmagnus" by Max Bunker and Magnus
* "Mister No" by Sergio Bonelli
* "Morgan" by Hugo Pratt
* "Nathan Never"
* "Paperinik" by Guido Martina and Giovan Battista Carpi
* "Rat-Man" by Leo Ortolani
* "RanXerox" by Tanino Liberatore and Stefano Tamburini
* "Satanik" by Max Bunker and Magnus
* "Sergeant Kirk" by Hugo Pratt
* "Sturmtruppen" by Bonvi
* "Tex Willer" by Gian Luigi Bonelli
* "Valentina" by Guido Crepax
* "Wheela" by Enrico Teodorani
* "Zagor" by Sergio Bonelli


* For a non-exhaustive list of Italian authors, see List of comic creators
* For a non-exhaustive list of Italian comic books, see List of comic books

External links

* [ afNews] : daily news and all kind of information about fumetti and comic art. Press agency by Gianfranco Goria
* [ uBC Fumetti] : main Italian site about fumetti, with translations in English and other languages
* [ Museo del Fumetto] Fondazione Franco Fossati it_icon
* [ Website TexBR] Italian comics of Sergio Bonelli Editore pt_icon

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