Italian Comics and Cartoons
Diabolik (the name says everything), was created in 1962 by the Giussani sisters, who have taken the idea from the book ‘Fantomas’ (1911 by M. Allain and P. Souvestre). Diabolik is the king of thieves, but very a refined one. He, and his companion, Eva Kant, use rubber masks and lots of tricks to disguise themselves or to take someone else’s place in order to carry out their criminal acts. His companion, Eva Kant, is a gorgeous blond of a noble family, while police inspector Ginko is Diabolik's eternal rival. Diabolik also rides around in an E-Type Jaguar which has as many gadgets as 007's Aston Martin. A movie was made starring John Phillip Law in 1968 directed by Mario Bava.
Lupo Alberto was created in 1974 by the hand of Silver (aka Guido Silvestri). Everything spins around the McKenzie farm, where Alberto has his girlfriend, a chicken named Marta. His primary antagonist: a bobtail dog called Moses, stands a perennial guard to the farm. Sometimes they need each others help, sometimes the clobber each other to death.
All the rest of the characters, are of course, farm animals: Krug the bull, Alcide the pig, Lodovico the horse and many others. However, there is also ‘Henry the Mole’- a slimy character always looking for a fast buck, always discussing and cheating on his wife (Cesira). Lupo Alberto is now printed in the States with the United Features Syndicate.
Cavezzali Massimo, one of the best Italian comic designers, also cooperated with the Lupo Alberto comic book with his strip: AVA. A goose with a ‘very’ human ‘pin-up’ body. One of the best and most famous Italian comic strips, is about God. A comic strip on an elderly man (God, of course) wearing a, long, white beard and a single eye placed within a triangle. Always discussing with Gabriel and the human race he created.
Valentina, created by architect Guido Crepax in 1965, is considered to be a very erotic strip. The photographer, Valentina Rosselli, whose face was inspired by the American actress Louise Brooks, is engaged to an art critic, Philip Rembrant (who really is a superhero named Neutron). She is faced with real everyday life problems: anorexia in her youth that made her look like Twiggy, her nightmares, her monsters and her psychoanalysis séances. She is often portrayed nude. Sometimes sexy but always fetishists. In the TV series that ran from 1988 to 1989, Valentina’s role was played by Demetra Hampton.
Sturmtruppen, by Bonvi (Gianfranco Bonvicini) is one of the most hilarious comic strips, movies (1976, sequel in 1982) and TV Cartoons (1981), ever created in Italy. A transposition of WWII through the eyes of little German soldiers, expressing themselves in a very Italianised German.
In the strips, grotesque situations happen continuously: an army doctor obsessed with vampires, the ‘Frankenstein Mess’ created by a cook experimenting with God-knows-what ingredients. We also have the perfidious sergeant, the young lieutenant (who wants to die heroically in a cornfield, kissed by the sun). Of course, there is the brave Fascist-Italian ally, Galeazzo Musoleci. A pilot who has a tremendous fear of flying, then again, he’s scared of practically everything. His only expertise is to cheat the Germans and get away with it. Also there is a recurring Japanese pilot character, to confirm the Berlin – Rome – Tokyo axis.
As you can see, Italy is very prolific in the world of comic strips. These are very popular even outside of Italy and have been translated in quite a few foreign languages, Chinese included.
One last note: the Italian division of Walt Disney Productions is considered one of the best in the world (was also the first to operate outside the USA). Here, quite a few of the contemporary Walt Disney characters were created, to the great satisfaction of Walt Disney USA.
- Michael A. McCain -