Showing posts with label Cartoons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cartoons. Show all posts

15 July 2018

Guido Crepax - cartoonist

Erotic character Valentina captured spirit of 1960s Italy

Erotic imagery was central to the success of Crepax's most famous character, Valentina
Erotic imagery was central to the success of Crepax's
most famous character, Valentina
The cartoonist Guido Crepax, whose character Valentina became a heroine of the 1960s generation in Italy and beyond, was born on this day in 1933 in Milan.

Valentina first appeared in May 1965 as a secondary character in another cartoon, the photographer girlfriend of an art critic and amateur sleuth.

But the sinuous, sensual female depicted by Crepax, her hair cut in a glossy bob, soon acquired fans both male and female.

In an era when Italian society was beginning to experience a sense of sexual liberation for the first time, Valentina’s eroticism naturally attracted a legion of male fans. But her assertive individuality struck a chord with many modern Italian women, too, even if her readiness to shed her clothes caused outrage among others.

Soon, Valentina left behind her fictional boyfriend and starred in a series of her own adventures, which Crepax continued to produce for three decades. She was outspoken in her left-wing political views, while her uninhibited fantasies increasingly reflected the world of dreams and psychoanalysis that fascinated her creator.  Her style even influenced the Milan fashion world.

Guido Crepax created his most  famous character in 1965
Guido Crepax created his most
famous character in 1965
Crepax was born Guido Crepas, the son of Gilberto Crepas, a musician from Venice who had moved to Milan to play at Teatro alla Scala, where he eventually became first cellist under the direction of Arturo Toscanini

The family home in Milan was virtually destroyed during a bombing raid in the Second World War but Guido survived to study architecture at Milan University. He graduated in 1958, by which time he had already begun  working as a graphic artist with some success.

His design work included advertising posters, record sleeves - among them Domenico Modugno's hit Nel blu, dipinto di blu (aka Volare) - and magazine and book covers.

His publicity campaign for Shell Oil won him the Palme d'Or for advertising in 1957. The following year he began a long-running collaboration with Tempo Medico, the first Italian medical journal, for which he designed every cover for 22 years.

Then came his first experience of drawing cartoons, with which he had been involved only two years when Valentina appeared for the first time in Linus magazine, in a series in which the main character was her boyfriend Philip Rembrandt, an art critic in his day job who led a double life as the crime fighter Neutron, helped by having the power to freeze people with a penetrating gaze.

Crepax created a back story for Valentina that in many ways reflected his own.

Guido Crepax designed the sleeve for Domenico  Modugno's hit, Nel blu, dipinto di blu
Guido Crepax designed the sleeve for Domenico
 Modugno's hit, Nel blu, dipinto di blu
He named her Valentina Rosselli after the resistance heroes Nello and Carlo Rosselli, whose courage he admired. He gave her an address in Milan's Via De Amicis, where he lived, and filled her apartment with the books that he and his intellectual circle were inspired and informed by.

She was modelled, in part, on the silent movie actress Louise Brooks, who favoured the archetypal ‘flapper’ look with the short bob, and on Crepax's own wife, Luisa.

Valentina was far from Crepax’s only character. He created several other female heroines, such as Belinda, Bianca and Anita, for whom the inspiration was Anita Ekberg, the star of Federico Fellinis La Dolce Vita.

He also drew cartoons based on works of literature, such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the scandalous novels of the Marquis de Sade, the Gothic novels of Edgar Allan Poe and Franz Kafka’s The Trial.

None, however, brought him the acclaim of Valentina, who was published in France, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Japan, the United States, Finland and Greece as well as Italy.

Valentina was twice adapted for the screen: in the 1973 Franco-Italian production Baba Yaga, and as a television series, starring the American actor Demetra Hampton. Both were a disappointment for her author.

A long-time sufferer from multiple sclerosis, Crepax died in Milan in 2003, at the age of 69.

Via Edmondo de Amicis, where Guido Crepax lived
Via Edmondo de Amicis, where Guido Crepax lived
Travel tip:

The Via Edmondo de Amicis, where Crepax lived and where he placed the fictional apartment of his comic book heroine Valentina, is in central Milan, between the Carrobbio and San Vittore neighbourhoods to the southwest of the city centre. A pleasant urban boulevard, it is a short distance from the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, one of the most ancient churches in the city, the original structure of which was built in the 4th century. The Baroque church that stands there today was completed in the 11th century.

The Teatro alla Scala, where Crepax's father was a musician, has become of the world's premier opera houses
The Teatro alla Scala, where Crepax's father was a musician,
has become of the world's premier opera houses
Travel tip:

The Teatro alla Scala - usually referred to by its abbreviated name La Scala - was built in the late 18th century as a replacement for the Teatro Regio Ducale, which was destroyed in a fire in 1776.  The project was financed by some 90 wealthy Milanese and built on the site of the church of Santa Maria alla Scala, from which it takes its name. The theatre has come to be regarded as the premier opera venue in Italy and one of the most important venues for opera and ballet in the world, with ambitious young singers and dancers from every corner of the globe clamouring for places at La Scala Theatre Academy.

More reading:

Hugo Pratt - the Rimini-born artist behind the adventurer Corto Maltese

How Franco Bonvicini's characters mocked the Nazis

The cinematic legacy of Fellini

Also on this day:

1823: Ancient Roman basilica badly damaged by fire

1850: The birth of Frances Xavier Cabrini - America's first saint


31 March 2018

Franco Bonvicini – comic book artist

Comic artist became famous for satirising the Nazis

Bonvi's Sturmtruppen was a hit in countries beyond Italy as well as at home
Bonvi's Sturmtruppen was a hit in countries
beyond Italy as well as at home
Franco Bonvicini, who signed his comic strips Bonvi, was born on this day in 1941 in either Parma or Modena in Emilia-Romagna.

The correct birthplace is unknown. According to the artist, his mother registered him in both places to obtain double the usual amount of food stamps for rations.

After a brief spell working in advertising, Bonvi made his debut in the comic strip world for the Rome newspaper Paese Sera with his creation Sturmtruppen in 1968.

This series satirising the German army was a big hit and was published in various periodicals over the years. It was also translated for publication in other countries.

Although left-wing and a pacifist, Bonvi was fascinated by war and built up immense knowledge about Nazi Germany’s uniforms, weapons and equipment, which he depicted faithfully in his illustrations. The cartoons satirised military life and the Nazis themselves, providing him with an endless source of comic and surreal situations.

Bonvi's characters first appeared in 1968 in the Paese Sera newspaper
Bonvi's characters first appeared in
1968 in the Paese Sera newspaper
Bonvi also created the character Nick Carter, a comic detective, who later featured in a play, two films and a number of television cartoons.

In the 1980s, Bonvi became a member of Bologna City Council and founded a publishing house and monthly magazine in the city.

He was killed in 1995 in Bologna when he was struck by a car while crossing a road on his way to the television studios. He was due to appear on a show hosted by DJ and TV personality Red Ronnie and it was believed he intended to appeal for financial assistance for a friend, a Bolognese cartoonist, who was unable to work because he was dying of cancer.

A plate of Parma's famous prosciutto
A plate of Parma's famous prosciutto
Travel tip:

Franco Bonvicini could have been born in either Parma or Modena, cities that are about 60 km apart in Emilia-Romagna. Parma is famous for producing Prosciutto di Parma, a type of cured ham, and Parmigiano Reggiano, a hard cheese. Modena for Cotechino Modena, a type of sausage, and aceto balsamico di Modena, a high quality balsamic vinegar made from grape must.

Bologna's best food shops can be found in the Quadrilatero
Bologna's best food shops can be found in the Quadrilatero
Travel tip:

Bologna, where Franco Bonvicini lived in later life, is known by Italians as La Grassa, the fat one, because of its rich culinary traditions. It is the home of the world’s most famous pasta dish, tagliatelle Bolognese, long strips of pasta served with a rich meat sauce. The best traditional food shops in the city can be found in the area known as the Quadrilatero, which is bordered by Piazza Maggiore, Via Rizzoli, Via Castiglione and Via Farini.

More reading:

How Benito Jacovitti became Italy's favourite cartoonist

Hugo Pratt, the Rimini-born creator of comic book character Corto Maltese

How comic actor Sergio Tòfano invented comic cartoon favourite Signor Bonaventura

Also on this day:

1425: The birth of Bianca Maria Visconti, the Milanese Duchess who led her army into battle

1675: The birth of intellectual leader Pope Benedict XIV


15 June 2017

Hugo Pratt – comic book creator

Talented writer and artist travelled widely

Hugo Pratt pictured in 1989
Hugo Pratt pictured in 1989
The creator of the comic book character, Corto Maltese, was born Hugo Eugenio Pratt on this day in 1927 in Rimini.

Pratt became a famous comic book writer and artist and was renowned for combining strong story telling with extensive historical research.

His most famous character, Corto Maltese, came into being when he started a magazine with Florenzo Ivaldi.

Pratt spent most of his childhood in Venice with his parents, Rolando Pratt and Evelina Genero. His paternal grandfather, Joseph Pratt, was English and Hugo Pratt was related to the actor, Boris Karloff, who was born William Henry Pratt.

Hugo Pratt moved to Ethiopia with his mother in the late 1930s to join his father, who was working there following the conquest of the country by Benito Mussolini.

Pratt’s father was later captured by British troops and died from disease while he was a prisoner of war.

Pratt and his mother were interned in a prison camp where he would regularly buy comics from the guards.

After the war, Pratt returned to Venice where he organised entertainment for the Allied troops. He later joined what became known as ‘the Venice group’ with other Italian cartoonists, including Alberto Ongaro and Mario Faustinelli.

In the late 1940s he moved to Buenos Aires to work for an Argentine publisher where he published some of his important early cartoon series. He then produced his first comic book as a complete author, both writing and illustrating Ann of the Jungle -  Anna della jungla.

He moved to London and drew a series of war comics for Fleetway Publications working with British scriptwriters.

Pratt's most famous character on the cover of his most famous story
Pratt's most famous character on the cover
of his most famous story
When Pratt moved back to Italy he collaborated with a children’s comic book magazine, for which he adapted classics such as Treasure Island and Kidnapped.

After starting a comic magazine with Florenzo Ivaldi, he published his most famous story in the first issue, A Ballad of the Salty Sea - Una balata del mare salato, which first introduced Corto Maltese.

Corto’s adventures continued in a French magazine with many of the stories taking place in historical eras that were well researched by Pratt.

Corto was a psychologically complex character as a result of the travel experiences and inventiveness of his creator.

He brought Pratt much success and his series was published in an album format and translated into 15 languages.

Pratt died of bowel cancer in 1995 in Switzerland . In 2005 he was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame at the Will Eisner Comic Industry awards in San Diego.

Rimini's duomo - the Tempio Malatestiano
Rimini's duomo - the Tempio Malatestiano
Travel tip:

Rimini, where Hugo Pratt was born, has wide sandy beaches and plenty of hotels and restaurants. It is one of the most popular seaside resorts in Europe, but it is also a historic town with many interesting things to see. The Tempio Malatestiano is a 13th century Gothic church originally built for the Franciscans. It was transformed on the outside in the 15th century and decorated inside with frescos by Piero della Francesca and works by Giotto and many other artists.

Golden mosaics cover the vaulted ceilings inside the Basilica of St Mark in Venice
Golden mosaics cover the ceilings inside
the Basilica of St Mark in Venice
Travel tip:

St Mark’s Basilica in Venice, where Hugo Pratt spent most of his life, is the Cathedral Church and one of the best examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture in existence. Because of its opulent design and gold ground mosaics it became a symbol of Venetian wealth and power and has been nicknamed Chiesa d’Oro (Church of Gold). The spacious interior with its multiple choir lofts inspired the development of the Venetian polychoral style used by the Gabrielis, uncle and nephew, and Claudio Monteverdi.


19 March 2017

Benito Jacovitti - cartoonist

Multiple comic characters loved by generations 

Benito Jacovitti
Benito Jacovitti

Benito Jacovitti, who would become Italy's most famous cartoonist, was born on this day in 1923 in the Adriatic coastal town of Termoli.

Jacovitti drew for a number of satirical magazines and several newspapers but also produced much work aimed at children and young adults.

His characters became the constant companions of generations of schoolchildren for more than 30 years via the pages of Diario Vitt, the school diary produced by the publishers of the Catholic comic magazine Il Vittorioso, which had a huge readership among teenagers and young adults, and for which Jacovitti drew from 1939 until it closed in 1969.

Jacovitti gave life to such characters as "the three Ps" - Pippo, Pertica and Pallo - as well as Chicchiriccì and Jack Mandolino via their cartoon adventures in Il Vittorioso, introduced Zorry Kid, a parody of Zorro, through a later association with children's journal Il Corriere del Picoli, and the cowboy Cocco Bill, who emerged during his 10-year stint as cartoonist for the daily newspaper, Il Giorno.

Cocco Bill, the character Jacovitti created during his years working for Il Giorno
Cocco Bill, the character Jacovitti created
during his years working for Il Giorno
Born Benito Franco Iacovitti, he was the son of a railway worker.  Both his parents had Albanian origins. His first names stemmed from his father's fascination with the powerful political figures of the time.

Benito showed the first evidence of his artistic talent as a small child. He would draw comic stories on pavements in Termoli at the age of six.  The family moved to Macerata in Marche, where Jacovitti attended art school from the age of 11, and then to Florence, where he enrolled at the Art Institute as a 16-year-old.

It was there that he acquired the nickname lisca di pesce (fishbone) on account of his rather scrawny physique. He adopted the nickname as his signature.

He launched his career with the Florentine satirical magazine Il Brivido, where he decided he preferred his second name to begin with a 'J' rather than an 'I'.  The work with Il Vittorioso came soon afterwards and made him a household name.

Notable for his sense of the absurd, Jacovitti drew figures that inevitably had huge noses and gigantic feet and were sometimes quite grotesque. He has cited Elzie Crisler Segar, creator of Popeye, as one of his influences.

Though he became known for the characters and storylines he invented for his young audience, Jacovitti continued to maintain his skills as a satirist, drawing for the magazine Il Travaso for much of the 1950s under the signature of 'Franz'.

The Pippo cartoons with Il Vittorioso  established Jacovitti's popularity
The Pippo cartoons with Il Vittorioso
established Jacovitti's popularity
During his time with Il Travaso, he collaborated with the film director Federico Fellini on an anti-communist strip that was very popular.

Controversially, he also worked on Kamasultra, a comic book parody of the Hindu adult text the Kamasutra, which in some eyes somewhat tarnished Jacovitti's reputation.

He began to draw for newspapers in the 1950s, first for Quotidiano and, from 1956 to 1966, for Il Giorno, the national daily based in Milan.

Jacovitti's work was published in many other periodicals in Italy and abroad and he had commercial companies queuing up to use his characters in advertising for their products. They appeared in commercials for Eldorado ice cream, Fiorucci salami, Teodoro oils and Fiat cars among others.

During his career, Jacovitti created more than 60 characters and produced around 150 books, making him one of the most prolific and original artists in comic book history.

He was a great admirer of Carlo Collodi, the creator of Pinocchio, and illustrated a number of editions of the famous story during his career.

Awarded the title of Knight Order of Merit of the Italian Republic by the President, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, in 1994, he died in Rome in 1997 at the age of 74.

Travel tip:

Termoli, once primarily a fishing port but now a popular tourist resort, particularly with Italian families who flock to its sandy beaches, is notable for the Borgo Antico, an historic old town that sits on a promontory surrounded by walls which, on one side, drop into the sea.  An 11th century castle stands guard at the entrance and many of the houses are painted in pastel colours.  The Cathedral of St Mary of the Purification, built in the 12th and 13th centuries, is an example of Apulian Romanesque design. Contained within are the remains of the town's two patron saints, Bassus of Lucera and Timothy.

Termoli hotels by  

Macerata hosts the Sferisterio Opera Festival every summer
Macerata hosts the Sferisterio Opera Festival every summer
Travel tip:

The walled city of Macerata in Marche is not among Italy's mainstream tourist destinations yet offers much to charm the visitor with its hill-town characteristics and maze of cobbled streets.  At the heart of the city, in the pretty Piazza della Libertà, is the Loggia dei Mercanti with its two-tier arcades, dating from the Renaissance. There are several beautiful palaces and a university that is among the oldest it Italy, established in 1290.  Each July and August the city hosts the Sferisterio Opera Festival, one of the most important dates on the Italian opera calendar, which is held in the 2,500 seat open-air Arena Sferisterio, a huge neoclassical arena built in the 1820s. Most of the world's great opera singers have performed there, attracted by its perfect acoustics, and it has been credited with staging some of the finest productions in the history of numerous regularly performed works, including Ken Russell's direction of Puccini's La Bohème in 1984.