Sitting Pretty: Averardo Ciriello’s Maghella

« Italy hasn’t had a government since Mussolini. » — Richard M. Nixon

Today, let’s bask in some purely visual glory. Let’s take a gander at a small corner of the mind-boggling œuvre of Averardo Ciriello (1918 – 2016). As you can see from these dates, he was a long-lived fellow, and I’m delighted to report that he was healthy, hearty and active well into his nineties.

He was one of those illustrators who truly delighted in their craft, and so produced an enormous body of work that bore every sign of inspiration and enthusiasm. Since my plan is to focus on a specific period of his career, I’ll skip most of his early work — though it’s well worth returning to — and give you a couple of famous pieces to give you as sense of his success and importance in his field.

It’s fair to say that Ciriello excelled across the board, likenesses included. This is the Italian poster for 1956’s Forbidden Planet.
And this one for 1965’s Bond adventure Thunderball. Since the Bond movies were as much Italian as British production (if not moreso), it’s no surprise that producer Cubby Broccoli did not scrimp, tapping Ciriello for the series’ Italian promotional campaign.

Now for the heart of it: I frankly marvel at Ciriello’s willingness to provide hundreds of cover paintings for cheap, mass market erotica fumetti. The way I see it, it’s evidence that he greatly enjoyed the assignment, and that the money was but a secondary concern at best. We’ve briefly touched upon the Maghella series (in our all-time most popular post, as it happens), but here’s some more.

This is Maghella no. 1 (Nov. 1974, Elvifrance).
This is Maghella no. 15 (Oct. 1975, Elvifrance).
This is Maghella no. 22 (Mar. 1976, Elvifrance). ‘Gode’, aside from being a city in Ethiopia and a species of fish, is the abbreviation of godemichet, which is to say… a dildo.
This is Maghella no. 24 (Apr. 1976, Elvifrance).
This is Maghella no. 41 (Apr. 1977, Elvifrance). Since you’re bound to ask, here’s a recipe for Salade russe, which actual Russians call ‘Salade Olivier‘. DS made it for lunch a couple of days ago, and it was delicious.
This is Maghella no. 42 (May 1977, Elvifrance). Unlike most artists specialising in ‘erotica’, Ciriello could draw anything, in any style, and effortlessly mix sensuality with comedy with horror with angst. A true master — sorry, maestro.
This is Maghella no. 66 (Jan. 1979, Elvifrance).
This is Maghella no. 77 (Feb. 1980, Elvifrance). I assure you, those pun-based titles are utterly untranslatable.
Censorship inevitably got into the act. Here’s one of several instances, the before (with imposed editorial revision indicated) and after of Maghella no. 110 (Sept. 1978, Publistrip); said censorship seems to have driven up the cover price, to boot. This precious bit of info gleaned from a lovely monograph of the artist, Gianni Brunoro and Franco Giacomini’s Ciriello: Una Vita per l’illustratione (2016, Edizioni Di).


Let’s All Go Down to the Catfights!

Catfight (noun): A vicious fight between two women that features biting & scratching and often involves clothes being ripped off.

To which I’ll add that if you put two women with different hair colours in one room, it’s like there’s a chemical reaction that makes them instantly aggressive. In comics, at least – and we all know that comics reflect real life accurately, right? The resulting combativeness is especially obvious when the encounter is between a blonde and a brunette. The women involved must also be beauties – presumably, plainer girls resort to verbal assaults when provoked, eschewing physical violence, unlike their flashier counterparts.

Or it could have something to do with the mostly-male audience who actively likes watching belles brawl. (Perhaps “ogle” would be a better description.) Let’s move on to the ogling bit, then!

Err, agreed on the “talking too much” bit. Manhunt no. 9 (Magazine Enterprises, June 1948). That art’s by Ogden Whitney.

“Jeepers! Baldy’s been skewered through the ticker! He’s defunct!” This charming scene with boob grabbery and skirt rippery (I know, don’t I have a way with words?) is from “Off Stage Kill”, a Dan Turner Hollywood Detective story from Crime Smashers no. 7 (Trojan Magazines, 1951).

Script by Robert Leslie Bellem, pencils and inks by Adolphe Barreaux (who was also the editor). Read the issue here. In case you were wondering, Fifi and Brenda are just acting out a fight scene for a movie, although they do get a little carried away (and accidentally skewer Baldy in the process). How many women have a knife tucked away in their garter belt?

Skipping ahead ten years or so…

EricStanton-Steve Ditko-DivorceAgreement
Ditko shared a studio in NYC with artist Eric Stanton between 1958 and 1968, and they collaborated on some bondage comics (or at least it’s commonly assumed that they have – for more information on that, dive into a discussion on the Four Realities blog, or read this excerpt from Fantagraphics’ Dripping with Fear: the Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 5.) This page is from a story published in 1966 and entitled “Divorce Agreement”.

The clothes-shredding and breast-mauling (ouch) continues…

Newspaper comics do it, too! This is Teena A Go Go from December 4th, 1966, written by Bessie Little and illustrated by Bob Powell.

Sometimes Betty and Veronica associations are hard to avoid. These girls also made sure to wear contrasting costumes while fighting, for maximum visual appeal, proving it’s possible to be fashion-conscious even in prehistoric times.

Anthro (the happy teenager watching this scene, and normally a redhead) will marry the victorious maiden… but the fight is a draw, and so he has to marry both in this “The Marriage of Anthro” story. This is Anthro no. 6 (July-Aug. 1969). Pencils by Howard (Howie) Post (who created Anthro, the “first boy”, a Cro-Magnon born to Neanderthal parents) and inks by Wally Wood. Let it be mentioned that Anthro is an immensely fun series, and that I love Howie Post’s art with or without Wood’s beautifying influence.

Women of other cultures aren’t immune from this phenomenon, by the way. Witness Italian chicks fighting:

Maghella13-Averardo Ciriello.
Maghella no. 13 (Elvifrance, 1975), cover by Averardo Ciriello. ” The title is something like “a scalded pussy doesn’t fear cold water”, a play on “chat échaudé craint l’eau froide“, an idiom that means roughly “twice bitten, once shy” or “a burnt child dreads the fire” and translates literally to “a scalded cat fears cold water”.

Italian erotica can be so entertaining! Maghella means a “young witch” in Italian. “The girl is identified by two braids of black hair and giant breasts with unspecified powers“, reads Wikipedia… Odd, I would have thought that her breasts have very specified powers, indeed. 😉

Moving on to French damsels…

Natacha (hôtesse de l’air) is a Franco-Belgian comics series, created by François Walthéry and Gos.  This page is from an adventure (one of the final stories scripted by the great Maurice Tillieux) called Le treizième apôtre (The Thirteenth Apostle), published in 1978. The blonde is Natacha, our heroïne.

If you want to emphasize the catfight aspect, dress your girls in feline-motif outfits. Oh, I’m sorry – this is no quotidian quarrel, it’s professional wrestling!

Bunty no. 352 (1992) – unfortunately, I don’t know who did the cover. British Picture Story Library was a 62 page a comic digest, published weekly. If you’d like to know how Leopard Lily overcame Tiger Tina, visit Assorted Thoughts from an Unsorted Mind.

I think we need one even more literal interpretation of “cat fight”:

A snippet from “Meow Row”, published in Betty and Veronica no. 59 (January 1993). Script by George Gladir, pencils by Dan DeCarlo, inks by Alison Ford. Now guess who is who. (It’s obvious: Tiger Girl is Betty, and Veronica gets Meow Girl’s sexier costume.)

This is a fairly inexhaustible topic, but one must quit sometime. Cold shower, anyone?

~ ds

Update from January 2023 – now we also have Let’s All Go Down to the Catfights — Again!