Comic books are loved all over the world and offer a slice of humor and wit which takes the reader away from real life problems for a short while. While they may not be as well known as their American counterparts, Italian comics have consistently provided talented creative people who in turn have created iconic comic characters that are loved to this day. In fact, many of the most popular of Italian comics have been translated into various other languages all over the world.
Fumetto refers to the balloon like image that pops up to contain a character’s dialogue and the word translates to little puff of smoke’. This term is often used in English to refer to picture comics, no matter where the comic is published or produced. Italian fumetto has always targeted the youth for educational and propaganda purposes as the young minds can get influenced into a certain way of thinking. The first satirical publication made its appearance in a daily newspaper named L’Arlecchino in 1848 and other noteworthy satirical papers were also published during that period.
Some publications for kids gained popularity during that time which includes titles like Il Giornale per I Fanciulli, Il Giornale dei Bambini and Il Giovinetto Italiano. In 1908, the first issue of Il Corriere dei Piccoli was published and this was considered to be the first mainstream publication dedicated to comics. The Adventures of Bilbolbul was published which is considered to be the first Italian comic character and it was the adventures of a little black kid drawn by artist Attiliio Mussino.
Interestingly, the Corrierino does not use the familiar speech bubbles in the stories it publishes, instead it used captions in verse. Antonio Rubino was a very prolific illustrator especially before the First World War. American comics were introduced to the Italian audience through Il Corrierino. American comics like ‘The Katzenjammer Kids’ was renamed ‘Bibì e Bibò’, ‘Bringing Up Father’ was renamed ‘Arcibaldo e Petronilla’, ‘Happy Hooligan’ was renamed ‘Fortunello’ and ‘Felix the Cat’ became ‘Mio Mao’.
After seeing the success of Il Corrierino, several periodicals also appeared over the years like Donnina, Piccolo mondo and Il Giornaletto. During the Fascist regime, periodicals were used by the regime as a means of propaganda to reach and influence the Italian youth. By 1939 foreign comics were banned from being published in Italy and there were restrictions on what material could be printed and they had to exalt patriotism, heroism and the superiority of the Italian race. The only exception to this rule was Mickey Mouse which was renamed Topolino which was the Italian name for him.
In 1932, Jumbo was started by Milan publisher Lotario Vecchi and this is considered to be the first true publication of Italian comics. The end of the Second World War saw a whole bunch of publications that were suspended during the war being released and this caused a huge influx of publications that saturated the stands. The Venetian school of comics was born and the distinctive style of the five Italian artists (Damiano Damiani, Dino Battaglia, Alberto Ongaro, Hugo Pratt and Rinaldo D’Ami) earned them that name.
Now Disney Italy produces a huge amount of Disney comics that star the loved comic characters of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. After the 1960s the production of Disney comics in the US started dwindling, and this gap was filled by companies in Italy, apart from South America and Denmark. Italy now makes up 50% o the total production for Disney and prints over 8000 pages of new Disney tales and also keeps creating innovative series which become very popular.