Today we’ll be discovering some famous Italian comics. Also called Italian fumetti (fumetto is the translation for comic strip), they are powerful means to learn this language, as they “stand still” when you want to catch new vocabulary (unlike movies and songs, which at times might need constant rewinding).
It is important to take in mind that fumetti do not transpose their exact reality, but allow for fantasy to meddle in the plot, and are even not necessarily based in Italy but in places such as London, the Far West, and others.
These famous Italian comics also tend to draw on existing actors or personalities when a character is designed, whether as a homage to classic stars or as a way to attract an audience that definitely loves references.
And those we will learn about through this article have already been subject to film versions, at times not just animated but with live actors. Some of these film versions are quite recent.
Fumetti do stand out, though, for graphic quality and their much often sombet tone -as they can embrace horror as a genre and the absurd as recurring ways to approach stories.
As we present them we will follow a chronological order.
These comics began to appear in 1948. The authors are Giovanni Luigi Bonelli and Aurelio Galleppini, and Sergio Bonelli Editore, perhaps one of the most renowned Italian publishing houses, published it.
Tex orbits around the adventures’ homonymous character, Western quick drawer and former outlaw Tex Willer, and is the longest-lasting and famous Italian fumetto ever.
Tex is drafted into the Texas Rangers and becomes acquainted with a friend of Kit Carson, after whom Tex’s child, also a Navajo, will be named.
Over the years, Tex will protect the no defense and the innocent with his wrestling and gunning skills, will nearly break the law but follow his own codes, and will even become a friend of the President of the United States.
As it turns out with many of these works, it did not have an overwhelming initial success but later on, it became an editorial phenomenon.
Furthermore, it has been the topic for academic research, college grade works, essays, and more. It has come to sell over 700,000 units a month, and a movie was based on it in 1985.
Ver esta publicación en Instagram
Pronounced most correctly Dia-BO-lik according to the official website, this comic strip and its anti-hero protagonist were created in 1962 by Angela and Luciana Giussani.
The Milanese publishing house Astorina published the Diabolik comic books.
Initially, a ruthless thief, Diabolik is not keen to use firearms to achieve his goals. He is also an outstanding criminal mastermind and a master of disguise.
He’s stealthy, has an agile strategic mind, can literally mesmerize his enemies, wrestle and speak several languages. Physically, he’s at the top of his game.
Diabolik is initially engaged with Elisabeth Gay, but later he meets Eva Kant, who will go from being just his life partner to becoming his skillful accomplice.
Over time, the couple will carry out several operations, often robbing people who had gained their own wealth by criminal ways, driving a 1962 Jaguar E-Type, and avoiding capture by Detective Ginko.
Diabolik and Eva will amass their personal fortune, with which they will devise new plans, as Diabolik becomes more human and subject to a very unique moral code.
Diabolik’s likely inspired by actor Robert Taylor, while Eva Kant is seemingly an homage to Grace Kelly.
Ver esta publicación en Instagram
Another one among famous Italian comics is Valentina.
It is first issued in 1965, a time when women were showing signs of empowerment that somehow when to be embodied by our heroine.
Same as Peter Parker/Spiderman, she has real issues:
she is independent, has a career, an ID card, an actual date of birth, a traceable home address, and grows up and old as a real person.
At the same time, the boundaries between what is real and what is dreamlike are quite blurry and she may see herself in situations triggered by her own fantasy involving sadomasochism and bondage.
She lives -her life along- with her fiance Phillip, to whom she is unmarried either -another sign of emancipation.
She modeled upon American actress Louise Brooks, who was herself in movies where she played the role of femme fatale.
A movie was made based on the comic books in 1973 and, in 1989, there was a TV show.
CORTO MALTESE (1967)
Hugo Pratt -1967- created this comic strip character. And, the comic book series shares a name with its main character. It is an adventure-historic collection, very much like Indiana Jones.
Initially, a sailor himself, Corto Maltese (which in Sevillian slang means “Quick Handed”) was born in La Valletta, Malta. He is the son of a sailor from Cornwall -whose grandmother was a witch- and a gorgeous Andalusian lady.
A rabbi in Cordova forms part of the education of Corto Maltese, then will go on to become a sailor and soon will quit the legal ways and turn into a pirate.
In his travels, he will find himself in the middle of historical events and will meet real historical personalities, e.g. Jack London, Rasputin, and so on.
His face is loosely based on Burt Lancaster’s.
The character’s cultural impact is quite impressive: he has inspired a 2002 animated movie and TV shows, and there are even real locations that took their name after him (for example, the Rue Corto Maltese at 27400 Louviers, France).
ALAN FORD (1969)
Created by Max Bunker and Magnus, Alan Ford will be first published in 1969 by Editoriale Corno.
Alan Ford’s looks are based on actor Peter O’Toole. The character started as an orphan and then goes on to join the secret agent covenant known as “Gruppo T.N.T”.
It is groundbreaking as it leaves behind genre purity and mixes the spy genre with comedy, horror, social commentary, and so on.
He is unlucky in love but finally gets to marry French magician Minuette Macon around the series’ 500th issue. Some based-on-the-comic-strip short films were broadcast between 1977 and 1981 as part of the show SuperGulp!
LUPO ALBERTO (1973)
Silver, 1973, created this humorous comic strip. It follows the adventures of Lupo Alberto, a wolf who truly is in love with Marta La Gallina (Marta The Hen) at McKenzie’s Farm.
However, Alberto has to cope with watchdog Mosè, as Alberto is still a wolf and will try to eat other-than´-Marta hens on the farm.
Animated series and even video games will come after the strip, and Alberto has been used as well for some social campaigns.
DYLAN DOG (1986)
Wolves will lead us to werewolves thus ending up in Italian horror comics. Dylan Dog (1986), by Tiziano Sclavi, is the quintessential comic series of that kind, as the homonymous main character is originally supernatural.
As in Alan Ford, Dylan Dog mixes the horror, the grotesque, the absurd, and the humorous, especially through Dylan Dog’s sidekick Groucho, who looks like… yes, Groucho Marx (Dylan Dog has actor Rupert Everett’s likeness).
It is the second-highest best-selling comic book after Tex turned into a 2010 movie -which fundamentally removes all that made the comic so great, including Groucho.
Dylan gets entangled with several ladies, at times his own clients (he is a private eye investigating the supernatural), with tragic endings in many cases.
LA PROFEZIA DELL’ARMADILLO (2011)
The most recent successful example of Italian fumetto is comic author Zerocalcare’s first book. It won the 2012 Gran Gunigi prize in the category of Best Short Story.
This work is based on stories that, together, create a wider panorama of what being almost in 2000s Rome means, starting from news of the death of Camilla, the author’s first great love and old friend, and through a number of meddling flashbacks.
The author is always with his friend Armadillo, a product of his mind signifying his own fears and insecurities.
So, we remind you that reading these famous Italian comics is a refreshing opportunity for you to learn Italian and at the same time follow stories that can resonate with you if you allow them to.
What are you waiting for? Go to your nearest library or newsstand and get the comic book of your choice!