Tentacle Tuesday: Perdonate il mio tentacolo!

I’d like to thank my Italian collega for making sure this title was in impeccable Italian, and for not backing away slowly when I asked her, completely out of the blue and without context, how to say “pardon my tentacle”. Most people would have run.

Welcome to our Latin Tentacle Tuesday! Poor Italy is the brunt of quite a few jokes, and even most positive articles about it are nothing but shallow fluff designed to sell airplane tickets and inspirational posters about food and love. All I can say is that Italians love their tentacles as much as any other hot-blooded nation. 😉

Più was a comics magazine licensed from Pif Gadget in 1982. Just like its fountainhead, Più offered a gadget with every issue, which, as I understand from nostalgic posts about it on various blogs, was a prime selling point among its young and enthusiastic clientele. As for comics, reprints of some French comics straight from Pif’s pages were rounded out with fresh Italian material. Given that Pif was publishing quite a few Italian artists at that time, this only seems fair! And on the subject of the latter, co-admin RG, whom I may call a Pif historian with no fear of controversy, has written a number of posts about the writers and artists featured within Pif Gadget’s pages during its heyday… a good place to start digging in is my favourite of these posts, Jean Cézard and Arthur le fantôme.

Moving on: the following Masters of the Universe pages are from Negli Oceani di Eternia, published in Più no. 76 (March 1984, Editoriale Domus).

Created by writer Alfredo Castelli and artist Giancarlo Alessandrini, Martin Mystère is an exceedingly popular comic book series (as a matter of fact, the best selling comic book in Italy – in case you’re wondering what that means, around 20 thousand copies a month)*. Its title comes from the eponymous main character, Martin Jacques Mystère, the usual walking collection of tropes: good looking art historian, archaeologist-anthropologist à la Indiana Jones, collector of rare objects, and so on. No self-respecting adventurer goes around without a sidekick, and Mystère’s assistant is Java, an amazingly strong, quite mute Neanderthal man (speaking of tropes, that one is a doozy). One might also say that he’s quite international: an Italian-created American character with a French name who lives in New York City and frequently helps its finest to elucidate crimes…

*I stand corrected by one of our readers, who pointed out that Italy’s most popular comics series is Tex, which sells around 200 thousand copies a month (compared to Martin Mystère’s 20 thousand). Thanks, Darko!

Martin Mystère no. 103 (October 1990). Cover by Giancarlo Alessandrini.
Martin Mystère no. 328 (August 2013). Cover by Giancarlo Allesandrini.

This series started in 1982, and is still around, so you can just imagine how many tentacles Martin has tangled with in some 378-odd issues. Yet high-res images are scarce online, so I asked co-admin RG to whip up this nifty collage of some of his tentacular exploits:

Issues no. 163, no. 181, no. 237 and no. 297, with covers by Giancarlo Allesandrini.

Our next (and last stop) is another very popular series, Zagor. Its beginnings go all the way to 1962 (ancient, no doubt), when editor/writer Sergio Bonelli and artist Gallieno Ferri banded together to concoct a comic book series.

Its protagonist Zagor, or Patrick Wilding, is another American. If Martin Mystère represented the suave, erudite adventurer-about-town, Zagor is a kind of avenger-slash-protector, of the “be peaceful or I’ll beat the crap out of you” school. His origin story makes for rather uncomfortable reading: after tracking down massacring a whole family branch of Abenaki Indians to avenge his parents’ death and realizing that he made a boo-boo (by finding evidence that his father was a murdering, power-abusing sadist who was killed purely in retribution for his criminal acts… which is another can of worms), he decides to redeem his sins by ensuring peace between different Indian tribes and trappers by whatever means necessary.

Zagor no. 42 (December 1968), illustrated by Gallieno Ferri and written by Guido Nolitta (Sergio Bonelli’s nom de plume).
Inside art from Zagor no. 42, illustrated by Gallieno Ferri and written by Guido Nolitta.

His sidekick? Chico, a walking stereotype down to his full name (Chico Felipe Cayetano Lopez Martinez y Gonzales) whose presence is played for some mean laughs. «He is short, fat, extremely clumsy and voracious, corrupt, boastful, but also likeable.» Um, yeah, that sounds likeable, all right. If you’re thinking that Chico is also obsessed by food (he’s Mexican and fat, right?) and that it gets him into all sorts of stupid peril, you are perfectly correct. Gordo, this is not.

Interestingly, Zagor is most popular outside of his native Italy. Specifically, he retains popularity in the former Yugoslavian republics (Bosnia, Herzegovina, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia…) and Turkey. Stories continue to be published in Italian up until this day, but from what I’ve been able to gather, the books sell at a much brisker pace once they’re translated to languages spoken by inhabitants of the aforementioned countries.

Zagor no. 626 (September 2017). Cover by Alessandro Piccinelli. Okay, so those are not tentacles per se, but it says TENTACOLI! right on the cover, so I’m not arguing.
Zagor no. 662 (September 2020). Cover by Alessandro Piccinelli.

~ ds

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