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Author Topic: Italian history of DC Comics  (Read 11593 times)
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Genis Vell
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« on: August 17, 2005, 08:34:12 PM »

Already posted in the John Byrne Forum, maybe you can be interested in this, too.
________________________________________________________

The first DC superhero in Italy was Superman. He arrived in 1939, published by Cremona Nuova in GLI ALBI DELL'AUDACIA (Eng: "BOOKS OF BOLDNESS"). In that period we had Fascism, and one of its law didn't allow the importation of foreign books, comics and movies. By the way, Superman and other US comics arrived because they were often redrawn, and names were changed. And, 'cause the Italian edition was too next to the original one, the publisher began the production of Italian stories (I'm sure that American collectors would pay a lot of money to have them! I'd like to have them, too...). These were giant sized, newspaper format comics.

Superman's name was changed in "Uomo d'Acciao" (Eng: "Man of Steel"), while Clark Kent became "Dan Garrett", like the first Blue Beetle. The costume was heavily modified, becoming more similar to Martian Manhunter's (no complete costume, only boots, slips, cape and a chest protection).

Superman appeared in various mags, then he settled himself in COLLEZIONE UOMO MASCHERATO (Eng: "THE PHANTOM COLLECTION"; "Uomo Mascherato", i.e. Masked Man, was our name for Lee Falk's avenger). The series changed name into COLLEZIONE L'UOMO D'ACCIAIO.

In 1948, the publisher suspended his production, and the Man of Steel vanished from our newsstands. Meanwhile, Batman and Green Lantern appeared, too, but only a few stories arrived.

For the return of DC Comics In Italy, we had to wait until 1954.

- To be continued!
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Genis Vell
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« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2005, 08:36:28 PM »

Superman vanished from Italian newsstands in 1948.

In 1954, one of the most important Italian publisher, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, began a new series: GLI ALBI DEL FALCO (Eng: "BOOKS OF HAWK"). That was a biweekly pocket comic book, containing stories published in the US a few months before (so, a big part of the Golden Age never arrived here).

This comic was one of the greatest successes in the Italian comics biz, so it become soon weekly. It featured not only Superman, but Superboy, Batman, Martian Mabhunter, the Flash and other characters, too. But there were heavy changes to the original stories.

First, Superman's name. The word "Superman" reminded us a not so good period (the alliance with Hitler was a too recent, too sad event), so it was changed in "Nembo Kid" (Eng: "Cloud Kid"; "nimbus" is the Latin for cloud). Other names were different: Lois Lane was "Luisa Lane", Supergirl "Nembo Star", Bizarro "Duplex", Superboy "Nembo Kid da ragazzo" (Eng: "Nembo Kid as a boy"), the "Daily Planet" "XX Secolo" (Eng: "XX Century").

Then, we had a sort of Italian Comics Code, which decided to erase or correct whatever was considered unfit for young readers. The best example is an old cover. In the original version, Supergirl is upon a dragon, and she holds its horn. But the censorers said "A decent girl can't hold a long object in her hand", so it was canceled and Kara in her hand holds... nothing!

'cause the success of the ADF, the publisher started a new series, SUPER ALBO NEMBO KID, which lasted 85 issues. Then, Batman had his own mag in 1966, too, but it was soon cancelled. GLI ALBI DEL FALCO was cancelled in 1970 with issue #651. No Italian comic book reached that record, for now! Meanwhile, with issue #573, the series became SUPERMAN. At last, the character had his original name.

A month after the end of the series arrived here Marvel Comics books, but DC didn't disappear.

- To be continued!
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Genis Vell
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« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2005, 08:37:10 PM »

In 1971 another publisher, Williams Edizioni, bought the rights for DC Comics in Italy. So, 3 new series arrived: SUPERMAN (backup: Superboy, the Legion), BATMAN (bu: Aquaman) and FLASH (bu: Green Lantern), featuring recent stories. These comics weren't so lucky, and they were cancelled after an year (SUPERMAN with issue #11, I don't remember the others). In 1972 they tried again with SUPERMAN NUOVA SERIE (Eng: "SUPERMAN NEW SERIES) and BATMAN NUOVA SERIE, but they had a brief life, too. The last try, SUPERMAN: COLLANA SUPER (Eng: "SUPERMAN: SUPERMAN COLLECTION") lasted 27 issues, and was closed in 1974.

Williams comics had a lot of problems... bad covers, made using inner panels and a bad graphic; the provenience of the stories wasn't mentioned, so readers couldn't know where the stories were published in the US (as in the Mondadori comics); certain stories weren't published. An example for this chaos is SUPERMAN NUOVA SERIE #10: the cover is from SUPERMAN #149, first Terra-Man, but the book containt the 2nd Terra-Man exploit... And the first is unpublished here! Sigh.

During part of 1974 and the whole 1975 no DC books here. In January 1976, at last, the Distinguished Competion was in Italy again with SUPERMAN and BATMAN by Editrice Cenisio. Good editions, this time. Cover graphic similar to the original (but with no DC logo... It arrived just in the early '80s), original edition mentioned, some explanations for new readers in the early issues.

Of course, there was some problem: some stories weren't published, even if important (one was "The Luthor nobody knows!"); after an year circa, the books became half black and white, like Mondadori's; there were changes of format: standard comic book, pocket, giant sized; sometimes, when 2 part stories were published in the same issue, there wasn't page 1 of part 2; certain stories were published in a strange chronological order (in 1978 ACTION featured the Amazo saga and SUPERMAN the Atomic Skull saga; they were published one inside the other...!). But, despite it all, Cenisio books weren't a bad editon. In fact, they were probably the best DC Comics published in Italy. Then, the publisher began to release other books: FLASH and WONDER WOMAN, which had a brief life, plus SUPERMAN SELEZIONE (Eng: "SUPERMAN SELECTION"), a quarterly book reprinting old Superman and Superboy stories, plus some unpublished one. Besides, several giant sized special arrived in our newsstands.

In 1984, though, only SUPERMAN was still on sale. Meanwhile the DC Bullett appeared on the covers, ACTION COMICS wasn't published anymore (and so, if there was a crossover, the SUPERMAN issues involved were not published, too), stories not related to the Superman Family appeared in the book (like the Masters of the Universe miniseries). SUPERMAN was cancelled in the late '84 with issue #108, containing part 1 of the "Man who would president" saga by Elliot Maggin and Curt Swan... Who wanted to read the end had to buy the original comic books.

A dark age for DC Comics in Italy began.

- To be continued!
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TELLE
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« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2005, 12:16:42 AM »

Wow, thanks for the history lesson!  Fascinating stuff!  Cheesy

I have also heard the famous story of how Fellini got his start writing the Flash Gordon strip during the war when imports were restricted.  There is a great image in Daniel Torres's Rocco Vargas graphic novel (I know, Spanish, not Italian), wherein the hero, young Rocco, is discovered among bombed out ruins during a war, reading Flash Gordon.  This always makes me think of the Fellini story.

I wonder, who came to Italy first: Superman or the Phantom?  Were there other Italian masked-adventurer strips that may have a claim to preceding Superman?

Oddly, Canada had similar restrictions on imports of "non-essential" material (comics? not essential?!?) during WWII, leading to the creation of Canadian comics and "national" superheroes like Nelvana and Johnny Canuck, as well as re-drawn U.S. comics like Capt. Marvel.  There are many Canadian editions of U.S. Golden Age comics that are like Bizarro-world versions.  Written by Otto Binder but drawn by a Canadian like Nick Cantwell or Ralph Smith instead of CC Beck et al.
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« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2005, 01:50:50 AM »

Agreed, good stuff here! Cheesy
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Gernot
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« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2005, 02:40:04 AM »

Thanks for the history lesson, Genis!  I'm having a LOT of fun reading this stuff!
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Genis Vell
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« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2005, 07:54:25 AM »

Quote from: "TELLE"


I wonder, who came to Italy first: Superman or the Phantom?  Were there other Italian masked-adventurer strips that may have a claim to preceding Superman?



The heroes from King Features Syndacate, included the Phantom, arrived here before Superman.
I don't remember Italian masked heroes arrived before the Man of Steel, but a few years later there was some new character, like Asso di picche ("Ace of spades"), drawn by Hugo Pratt, creator of Corto Maltese. By the way, adventure comics like Flash Gordon or the Phantom were more popular than superheroes in the '40s.
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Genis Vell
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« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2005, 07:57:55 AM »

In 1984 superheroes vanished from Italy. No more DC and no more Marvel. So, Italian readers could read Disney's books, Bonelli's (our most important comics publisher) and French BDs.

In 1988 one of the most important Italian publishers, Rizzoli, made DC return here, but it wasn't really a good news. Do you know Corto Maltese, by Hugo Pratt? Rizzoli published a giant sized magazine named after the character, containing his stories plus other comics (especially for a more mature audience). They decided to put inside CORTO MALTESE a special insert using some of the most important comics produced by DC in those years... With tragic results!

They began with THE MAN OF STEEL limited series, published WITHOUT COVERS (they put the big MOS logo on page 1). Then, the rebooted Superman continued his run, but with certain issues unpublished, i.e. important stories like #1, various crossovers tie in and every ACTION COMICS issue. You can imagine that readers weren't glad for this! But Superman wasn't the only victim: the DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, V FOR VENDETTA and WATCHMEN were published in special inserts, too... And the Moore/Gibbons limited series became the backup of Superman inserts: 10 pages an issue! It was a nightmare... In the mid '80s Italians began to read comics in the US edition, but the biggest part of the audience didn't do it, so they could only read these bad editions.

Before, in 1986, another publisher, Labor Comics, released some tpbs like SUPER POWERS, but then failed in less than an year, so Rizzoli was the only DC publisher in Italy.

In 1990, a big change: Edizioni Play Press, which already published some Marvel series, started new DC books: JUSTICE LEAGUE and GREEN ARROW. At last, some DC title well published. They contained the recent post-Crisis relaunches of JLI (with the LEGENDS prologue), FLASH and WONDER WOMAN (JL) and GREEN ARROW, BLACKHAWK and GREEN LANTERN (GA). There were introductions, mail pages, notes for the new readers... Not bad. The only true problem was the... Er, I don't know how you call it... Brochure? I mean, what makes the difference between a normal comic book and a tpb. The books weren't bound, but pasted, so the pages could fly away, if you didn't pay attention.

Then other series arrived: PLAY SAGA and PLAY EXTRA, which contained miniseries (PS #1/8 were CRISIS), AMERICAN HEROES, a magazine containing TEEN TITANS, DOOM PATROL, ANIMAL MAN and other series. But Superman and Batman, the big ones, were still at Rizzoli's. Besides, they weren't published anymore... Rizzoli owned the rights, but didn't used them. The only exception were a special Superman story produced in North Europe, which I have never read (if Lars and others can tell me something more, it would be useful!) and a new Batman title, published not by Rizzoli, but Glenat (a sort of Rizzoli's international branch, if I recall correctly). This new BATMAN was hated by readers, because there were stories published with no order... In the same issue, you could find stories released in 1990 and 1940!

But things were about to change...

- To be continued!
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