The Dream Factory

The Italian art of comic strips was born in the nineteen-thirties, with a great debt towards American comics, of which almost all the existing material was published in Italy during that period. Around the same time, there arose an Italian school of script-writers and illustrators who sought to establish their own conscious identity and achieve greater autonomy of expression. In the immediate postwar period, a group of Italian small presses, all of which were mainly organized on a traditional local basis, embarked on very extensive production of comic strips. This soon began to compete with the predominance of material imported from North America, eventually overshadowing it completely. Among these small publishing houses, an increasingly important role was played by the Edizioni Audace, which Gian Luigi Bonelli, already an acclaimed script-writer, took over in 1940 from the publisher Lotario Vecchi. Following a series of complications related to the war, governance of the Press later passed to his wife Tea, who within a few years made it into a very successful market venture thanks to the enthusiastic reception of several strips in the nineteen-forties and fifties (Tex, Hondo, Ipnos, Mani in alto!, Kociss, I Tre Bill, Yuma Kid, il Sergente York), whose scripts often bore the prestigious signature of Gian Luigi Bonelli. At the beginning of the sixties, Sergio Bonelli, who at that time was already engaged in the parallel activity of script-writer under the pseudonym of Guido Nolitta, succeeded Gian Luigi as the director of the Press. The name of the latter was changed from Audace to Edizioni Araldo, and during subsequent years it underwent a further series of name changes, at times being known simultaneously by various different names: Cepim, Daim Press, Altamira and, today, Sergio Bonelli Editore. Its successful range of publications was expanded with characters such as Il Piccolo Ranger (1958), from an idea by Andrea Lavezzolo, Zagor (1961) by Guido Nolitta and Comandante Mark (1966), created by the EsseGesse group. From the early nineteen-sixties onwards (with Storia del West, written and illustrated by Gino D'Antonio, published in many European countries and even in Brazil), the themes and patterns of the traditional adventure were gradually enriched, in the framework of a fresh approach to the concept of the classical adventure. This process culminated in the second half of the nineteen-seventies with the publication of series such as I Protagonisti (1974), Un Uomo, un'Avventura (1976), and the appearance of characters such as Mister No (created by Guido Nolitta in 1975), Ken Parker (by Berardi and Milazzo, 1977) and Martin Mystère (by Alfredo Castelli, 1982). Side by side with the increasing success of the so-called "authored comic strip" in Italy and France, Sergio Bonelli also launched two journals that would later be recognized as fundamental milestones in the history of Italian publishing: Orient Express, which not only included young native talents such as Saudelli, Rotundi and Cossu but also hosted established names such as Magnus and Giardino, and Pilot (the Italian edition of the prestigious French journal of the same name). Although their outcome in terms of sales was disappointing, these enterprises testify to the publisher's constant attention towards the new moods and new tendencies of the international comic strip. Development continued in the early Eighties with the birth of Dylan Dog, the Investigator of Nightmares penned by Tiziano Sclavi, the Nick Raider detective stories (written by Claudio Nizzi), and Nathan Never (created by the script-writers Michele Medda, Antonio Serra and Giuseppe Vigna), the latter representing the publisher's first foray into the world of science fiction. The nineteen-nineties saw the arrival of fantasy series such as Brendon and horror-westerns such as Magico Vento; furthermore, one should not overlook the three series focusing on female characters (Legs Weaver by Medda, Serra & Vigna, Julia by Giancarlo Berardi, Gea by Luca Enoch), while the new millennium has witnessed the debut of Dampyr (idea and script by Mauro Boselli and Maurizio Colombo) and Gregory Hunter, the Space Ranger, created by one of the "fathers" of Nathan Never, Antonio Serra, and went on with the debut of the limited-series format (Brad Barron – by Tito Faraci, Demian - by Pasquale Ruju, Volto Nascosto – by Gianfranco Manfredi, Jan Dix – by Carlo Ambrosini), the “Romanzi a Fumetti Bonelli” and Enoch’s new creature, Lilith. Despite a number of experiments with color productions, Sergio Bonelli Editore has always preferred black and white strips, favoring the interest aroused by content and a policy of affordable purchase prices. Overall, the Publishing House's greatest pride of accomplishment is that Italian comics, to whose birth this press contributed so greatly in the postwar period, have now become enormously popular and much loved throughout almost the whole world (including the United States and South America). For over time, Sergio Bonelli Editore's characters have more than once moved beyond the borders of Italy. While not wishing to provide a complete list of the translations here, one cannot fail to mention at least the Indian edition of Tex, translated into Tamil, and the mini-series of Nathan Never, Dylan Dog and Martin Mystère that came out in 1999 with the American publishing house Dark Horse.

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