Tag Archives: Italian Comic Books

100 Years of Tarzan at Milan’s WOW Spazio Fumetto

On a recent trip to Italy my faithful sidekick and I made a stop in the city of Milan.  After a week in and out of cities with historical Renaissance charm such as Bologna, Venice and Verona, Milan was a change of pace with its metropolitan feel. Neither of us had ever been to Milan before, but we had our list of sights to see including the Duomo, the Galleria and especially Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper.

On our second day in Milan my faithful sidekick chimed:

“Did you know there’s a comic book museum in Milan?” she said.

Apparently the map we received at the tourist information booth at Milan’s central train station listed the museum as an attraction (Bless ’em!).  My faithful (non-comic book reading) sidekick was now more in the know than I was.

WOW Spazio Fumetto (translation: the WOW Comic Book Space…I have no idea what the WOW stands for) was located on the other side of town from our hotel, but the streetcar system could get us there within 25 minutes.  Needless to say, it was now on our “to do” list in Milan!

Walking through the gate of the museum’s property, you’re greeted by a giant statue that resembles Gertie the Dinosaur flanked by concrete barriers spray painted to caricature well known superheroes.  Off to the side is the Gotham Cafe which serves snacks, soda and coffee.  The museum opens at 3:00 daily, but when we arrived precisely at 3:05 on a sunny Tuesday the door was still locked.  Hmmm, maybe they’re running behind schedule.  Then I read the sign next to the door which translated to: “The museum will be closed today for repairs.”

Crap.

So the next day I came back with my (extremely patient) sidekick and finally made it into the museum.  We were in luck because the main exhibit was a retrospective on 100 years of Tarzan in books, film and comics.

The first floor of the museum had a small exhibit on the art of illustrator Aldo Di Gennaro which was supposed to end July 29th, but was extended to September 23rd.  I wasn’t familiar with his work prior to my visit to the museum but several of the subjects in his paintings (Westerns, adventure, alien moonscapes and 1930s crime) instantly made me a fan.  They also made me wish for more non-superhero stories in the American comic book market.

The Tarzan exhibit took up the entire second floor of the museum.  I have to admit I wasn’t expecting much when I saw the size of the space, but as I made my way through the exhibit I realized I was wrong to judge.  The Spazio Fumetto did a great job representing Tarzan’s history from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books through film, TV and comic books.  Movie posters and video clips from Tarzan films and TV shows set the tone for the exhibit, but the highlight for me was the original artwork.

Paolo Ongaro and George Wilson were two other artists I wasn’t familiar with prior to being introduced to their work at the Spazio Fumetto, but these pieces of Tarzan original art added them to my list of artists to research.

Walking through an exhibition like this makes me regret taking a great character like Tarzan for granted over the years.  I remember watching Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan movies, Saturday morning cartoons and reading the comic books in the 70’s but Tarzan had been off of my radar since the early 80’s after watching the film Greystoke (a childhood favorite of mine).  I have to correct this egregious oversight on my part, and I’ll start by reading Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes this weekend.  Watching Greystoke again is also on the agenda.  IDW recently published Joe Kubert’s Tarzan of the Apes: Artist’s Edition.  I’m now inspired to add this to my collection of Artist’s Editions that include Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer, John Romita’s The Amazing Spider-Man and Walt Simonson’s Thor.

Grazie Spazio Fumetto for a wonderful experience, and happy 100th Tarzan!

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Growing Up On Italian Comic Books

Some of the most memorable and influential comic books of my youth were bought during my childhood trips to Italy.  I’m fortunate enough to return to Italy every couple of years for a vacation and each trip to a newsstand in Rome or the countryside brings back memories of me and my brother plunking down a few hundred lire (courtesy of my father) here and there on a copy of Sergio Bonelli’s classic long running Western comic book Tex.

Tex #216 (October 1978)

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about Tex is regardless of which decade I was buying the black and white digest, the art and writing has always been consistent, which is refreshing to see compared to books and characters that go through radical changes just to drum up sales.  Tex is a testament to how a publisher respects its characters and more importantly, its loyal fan base.

But our favorite Italian comic books were the super eroi, particularly L’Uomo Ragno and I Fantastici Quattro, who were none other than Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four!  Sure, we had been reading Spidey and FF prior to our first trips to Italy, but the Italian reprints we read in the late 70s were from Marvel stories originally published ten to fifteen years earlier and gave us our first exposure to the Silver Age artwork of Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby.

Lucky for us, the Silver Age was in full swing in late 1970’s Italy.  The Italian language seemed to add more drama and gravity to the dialogue, and the characters names even sounded cool when they were translated into Italian.  Dr. Doom was Dottore Destino!  The Thing was La Cosa!  The Human Torch was Torcia Umana!  The Eternals were Gli Eterni.  I wasn’t able to read Italian very well back then, but it didn’t matter because the clarity of the storytelling in Kirby and Ditko’s artwork allowed me to follow the stories without relying as much on the dialogue.

I wish I still had those old comic books.  I see a few issues of L’Uomo Ragno in eBay once in awhile, but I can’t afford the prices listed.  On my recent trip to Italy I was happy to still see Tex at all of the newsstands.  But when I stopped in a Hudson News in Milan’s Malpensa airport, I was even happier to see my old Silver Age Marvel favorites in the Italian language Marvel Masterworks.

Like 35 years ago, I was reading classic Lee and Kirby stories with Italian word balloons.  And a new generation of Italian comic book fans could now appreciate the art of Ditko’s L’Uomo Ragno, Kirby and Colletta’s Thor, and be blown away by  La Visione on the cover of I Vindicatori (The Avengers).

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,