EUROPEAN COMICS: Italian comics

This Comic Book-Tuesday we’ll concentrate on the Italian comic books!

Italian comics

As the name suggests they come from Italy! Usually known as “fumetti”, Italian comics have been translated into many languages, especially the most famous ones. The term fumetto (literally “little puff of smoke”) refers to the baloon that contains the dialogs (also called “nuvoletta” in Italian). The Italian fumetto is inspired by the French-Belgian comic books.

Their origins

Comics were introduced into Italy a few years after their appearance in the United States: from 1908 onwards the weekly paper Corriere dei Piccoli (Children’s Courier) published the Sunday pages of Mimmo (Buster Brown),Fortunello (Happy Hooligan), Cirillino (The Newlyweds), Bibi e Bibo (The Katzenjammer Kids), and Bubbi (Little Nemo). The original American drawings were adapted to the style of illustrated children papers of the period: the speech balloons – considered non-educational – were eliminated, and the story was narrated by rhyming captions.

In the same style (no balloons and rhyming captions),Corriere dei Piccoli published the first Italian comic series; some of them (Bonaventura by Sergio Tofano,Sor Pampurio by Carlo Bisi, Quadratino by Antonio Rubino, Bil Bol Bul by Attilio Mussino), were drawn keeping in mind the art movements of those times (Cubism, Dadaism, Modernism), and reached a surprisingly high quality.

Comics 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).

The most popular characters of the period, reprinted for decades on Corrierino, were the following three.

  1.  “Il Signor Bonaventura” by Sergio Tofano (1917), at the end of every story Bonaventura wins a million liras.
  2. Sor Pampurio by Carlo Bisi (1925) was a parody of parvenus: really, it is not Fascist, it expresses the bourgeois classism. 
  3.  “Marmittone” by Bruno Angoletta (1929) was a mildly antimilitaristic strip, the maximum antiauthoritarianism allowed by Fascism.

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 on December 31, 1931. Apparently, the reason behind this special treatment for Walt Disney’s character was Benito 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. In 1935 Nerbini sold Topolino to Mondadori, which published it with great success until 1988.

An Italian School of comic artists came into being, with excellent authors of both realistic and humor series (Albertarelli, Molino, Pedrocchi, Scolari, Moroni Celsi in Milan; Toppi, Scudellari, Fantoni, Vichi, Burattini in Florence). Il Monello (The Kid, 1933-1990) and L’Intrepido (The Intrepid, 1937-1967) specialized in tales that would now be defined as soap operas; the Catholic weekly Il Vittorioso (The Winner, 1937-1967) launched the work of Caesar, Caprioli, De Luca, Landolfi and Benito Jacovitti, a sort of Italian Al Capp who was for many decades the most influencial and beloved author of humor strips in the country.

After the war…

After the war, comics returned along with American films and Jazz. New Giornali like L’Avventura (The Adventure) replaced the old ones, running all the classic characters and some unknown ones. But the Giornali formula was not as successful as in previous years; readers preferred smaller, comic-book sized magazines, with more pages and complete stories.

In the after war it is also very important to mention Gian Luigi Bonelli who is the founder company he called Edizioni Audaci after buying it from publisher Lotario Vecchi.


Because of the shortage of paper, minor publishers were forced to use a very small format known as striscia (strip). When the paper crisis was over, some comics began to appear in a new formula – the so-called “Bonelli Format” – that, later, became a standard: thick, 96-page monthly books, 6.2 x 8.2 inches, in black and white, six panels per page.

Some famous Italian comics

There are too many Italian comic books to talk about so here is a top 6 😉



  1. Diabolik: this anti-hero  was born in 1962 from the pens of sisters Angela and Luciana Giussani. Diabolik is a ruthless thief and killer which inspired films, videogames, animated series and several others characters of Italian comics.



  2. Cattivik: it’s a parody of Diabolik (“cattivo” means “bad” in Italian). He’s an antihero, a clumsy and ham-fisted petty thief in the characteristic shape of pear who is very appreciated from readers. The italian comic Cattivik was born in 1965 and it ceased to be published in 2005.


    Group TNT

  3. Alan Ford: created by Max Bunker – stage name for Luciano Secchi – Alan Ford  tells the adventures of a group of secret agents in a satirical and very funny way.


    Martin Mystère

  4. Martin Mystère: published for the first time in 1982 from Sergio Bonelli, Martin Mystere   had been created by thewriter Alfredo Castelli and drawn by Giancarlo Alessandrini. He’s nicknamed “the detective of the impossible” and has been translate in many languages.


    Dylan Dog

  5. Dylan Dog: his profession is “nightmare investigator”. He’s a playboy  and lives with his loyal assistant Groucho Marx.Dylan Dog  has been created by Tiziano Sclavi  and published for the first time in 1986.



  6. Tex:  is a very popular Italian comic and represents the Italian version of the American Old Weststories. First published in 1948, the ranger Tex is the typical example of hero with no fear.




And keep in mind that…

We’ll be back next Tuesday and go check on the next comic book type! Stay tuned to see what it will be! 😉



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