Monday, May 12, 2014

On the Trail of Fumetti

On a recent visit to Venice, one of the things I investigated was the availability of fumetti (comics). In the USA we can usually no longer find comics on newsstands, but that's not the case in Italy. There are actual newsstands dotted all over the place in Venice. They sell all sorts of stuff, some leaning more heavily towards trinkets and souvenirs than others, but quite a few (not all) carry a small selection of Italian comics.

At this one (above) on the Grand Canal, opposite the Ferrovia (railway station), comics weren't much in evidence, but there were a couple of Lanciostory and Skorpio issues tucked in among all the magazines - if you were wanting comics you would find them.

This newsstand (below) on a back street canal did have a little shelf full of comics, but it was round the side, where the steps over the bridge are in the picture.

The best place I found for new comics, though, was the newsagents at the railway station (Ferrovia). No shortage of sequential art here!

In among this wide assortment of fumetti you can see the March 2014 issue of Indistruttibile Hulk, along with more Italian fare, like Tex, the classic spaghetti western, as well as the latest issues of Lanciostory and Skorpio. The latter looked a good deal to me, packaged as it was with a free issue dedicated to the character Dago, all for less than 3 Euros. My only disappointment was that there just don't seem to be any romance titles. Back at the hotel I eagerly unpacked my Skorpio and savored the artwork - my Italian is too abysmal for me to actually read the comic without putting it all into Google Translate!

For back issues, I came across a second hand bookstore, located on the Calle dell'Olio, No 2423. You don't see anything but books and bric-a-brac when you arrive there, but just ask the owner (the guy in the striped sweater) and he'll produce a few piles of comics for you to sort through. I looked at Lanciostory, Skorpio, and Tex, and bought a couple of Tex for 1 Euro each and two Skorpio for 50 cents each. Not bad.

A closer look at the March 20th 2014 edition of Skorpio (it's weekly!!!) that I bought in the train station reveals that it contains no less than 118 pages not counting the covers, and most of those pages are comics (very few ads, and then only ads for comics). On top of this there's a 12 page Dago insert, plus the bonus 98-page black and white Dago comic! The pages of Skorpio are smooth, reasonably good quality paper. Part of the comic is in color, the rest black and white. There are 10 different ongoing series in the one comic, representing a wide variety of genres.

Inside, the first story is Amanda (featured on the cover above), written by Robin Wood and drawn by Alfredo Falugi. I learned elsewhere that this is an Argentinian comic, and that it has been going since 1995! Also from what I read elsewhere, the story is told from a female perspective. It's Good Girl Art (GGA), and reminds me a bit of Image's Danger Girl without so many guns.

There are a number of historical stories in this issue of Skorpio, with Dago by Robin Wood being one of those - looks like a 19th Century tale of love and war, with nice artwork reminiscent in places of the great Joe Kubert.

There's a police strip featuring football (soccer), a sci-fi, and one about Brooklyn firefighters. And there's a couple of good old Spaghetti Westerns! Il Grande Freddo is written by Andrea Mantelli and Paolo Ongaro, and drawn by Ongaro - very atmospheric:

Another Western, Blueberry, is one I saw complete books of at the train station. Nice color comic by Francois Corteggiani and Michel Blanc-Dumont:

These comics are in many ways very different from what we have in the USA. Multi-genre in one book. Mixture of b&w and color. Lots of pages. Cheap! Skorpio is definitely aimed at an adult audience. Clearly the Italians still like reading westerns whereas in the States that's a thing of the past. Italian comics seem to have more global content. If only I could read Italian!


  1. Hello, being italian, and working in comic book fields since 1991 i can share some info. Italian comic book market could be see as three market-segment:
    1-the newsstand
    2 - the comic book stores (store which sell only comics and comics related items)
    3 - the bookstore (store which sells books AND comics too)

    What you saw was the newsstand, where the cheaper and more popular comics are sold) and an specific store, which sell used books & comics. the prices you saw are the standard prices for tex or lanciostory back issues at conventions or in the used market.
    Tex is the comic book which sell most copies in newsstand, a little bit more than 200.000 copies each month for the new story, and more or less 100.000 more with all the reprints (we have 4 reprints series for tex in the newsstand). Lancio Story and Skorpio are published by AUREA, another publisher, and they sell every weeks more or less 12.000 copies (Lancio Story) and 10.000 (Skorpio). They publish a mix of italian, french, and hispanic comics. The French are an itliaan verison of comics already published in France, while the italian and the hispanic are original.
    the biggest author for Lancio Story and Skorpio isn ROBIN WOOD, the writer of Dago, Amanda, and a lot of others character. Dago is the most famous and loved of them.
    Paolo Ongaro is a veru good italian author, and his style is very classical.
    Usually you don't find romance comics in Lancio Story or Skorpio, because romance comics as a genre is not one of the most famous here in Italy. what we have is the romance MANGA. we have over 40 comics/manga with a romance theme in the newsstand every month, but they don't sell like Tex, and are more in the Lancio/skorpio range. Anyway, if you need to know something else about italian market, or italian comics feel free to ask.
    Alessandro Bottero

  2. Alessandro, thank you very much for this comment and the information you have provided on Italian comics. Yes I would like to know more about Italian comics, but I think readers who pass by here might also like to know more about your work:

    Thank you for taking the time to post this great comment!


    1. thanks, but i'm sure readers would be more interested in your keen and clever opinions about comics. what i could add abuot italian comics now is: we have a lot of comics published every month in newsstand and comic book store. i'd say over 300 titles. this number comprise translated works and original works. with translated i mean comic books originally published in USA, Japan, France, and something from the hispanic market. The range of the sellings in newsstand is between TEx (the besteller) with 200.000 copies each month, to some books which sell 2.000/3000 copies. Numbers for the book store are different. the biggest hit of last years was ZeroCalcare, a young authour whom sold over 50.000 copies of his four books in two years. But most of the comic books has numbers much much much little. some of the more indie and underground work could sell even just 50 or 100 copies each. The genres covered are varous with some distinctive absence: we don't have romance (a parte for manga), nor sport or war books. In the newsstand the black and white books are the best sellers, with the publisher Sergio Bonelli Editore (Tex and various other series) & Astorina (Diabolik) as leading actors.
      Alessandro Bottero

    2. Thanks for the additional info, Alessandro. 200,000 copies is an incredible number - in the USA that was the standard print run in the 1960s, but in modern times even the most popular comics don't sell anywhere near that. Comic books in the USA are almost entirely sold through the specialist comic book stores, some of which are online. But from what you are saying it suggests there are more comic book readers in Italy than in the USA - Italy has a smaller population but selling huge numbers of some issues. The newsstands must be a factor (and the newsagents) probably because they are reaching a broader public.

    3. it's true: comics sells morein Italy than in USA, if you consider the overall population. From what i can read in the various site which tell us how many comics are sold in USA every month, i could say we here have surely three books which sell every mnth more than USA comics book. they are Tex (western about 200.000 - Bonelli), Dylan (horror about 140.000 - Bonelli) DIabolik (mystery /Noir about 80.000 - Astorina). then we have two weekly (Lancio Story & Skorpio) which sell about 40.000 issues every month (10.000 X 4 Lancio ) and about 36.000 ( 9.000 X 4 Skorpio). The other range between 40.000 (Julia a detective crime - BOnelli) to 2/3.000 (some black and white version of french comics for Cosmo publishing house.. What i would like to say is the prevalence of black and white in "popular comics", and this is a big difference with USA. also it's intersting to notice the MArvel or the DC Comics characters in newsstand here in Italy, scarcely break the walls of 10.000 copies sold each month. even spiderman or BAtman very often stay under 10.000 copies sold. another thing is the use of sex and nude in the comics. Till few years ago we had a lot of erotic comic book magazines, which published erotic stories, with a definite hardcore perspective. and in the newsstand, not in the bookstore. In Lancio Story or Skorpio often authors draw naked women and the sexual themes are common.
      Alessandro Bottero

  3. A marvelous post which I thoroughly enjoyed.

    My wife and I were in Venezia in early June last year. I haunted the news-stands looking for the re-bound Skorpios (Skorpio grande). I found one weekly Skorpio. I was not aware of the newsagency at the train station or the second-hand shop. Congratulations on finding the second-hand shop.

    I know a little Italian but my pronunciation is abysmal. At a news-stand in Roma on the Vatican side of the Tiber I got a lesson in pronunciation. The vendor could not understand my pronunciation of Skorpio. Finally she twigged. "Skooorrpio" she pronounced in a loud voice. My wife was chuckling. Lesson learnt!!

    Did you get to Stresa? Three visits now and I have always managed to buy a Skorpio grande (the issue containing rebound unsold weekly issues) at the railway station.

    Thanks again.


    1. Thanks for your comment Anthony. No, never been to Stresa - I'll look it up. I didn't know they sold rebound unsold issues as a giant - great idea. Seems to me like Italian comic publishers are much more connected with the general public. I wish American comics would somehow get back to that. Specialty comic shops are great, but they're populated by geeks like me! How are we going to drag kids off their iPhones and tablets if we don't make comics easily available and at a reasonable price? When you compare what you get for $4 in Italy versus the same in the USA it seems we're getting sold short here.

  4. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us, KB! I know when I was in Denmark I enjoyed looking for romance comics. Did you come across any romances during your search?

  5. Not in Italy, Jacque, but I obtained some really nice ones in England. Two look like they are by Jose Gonzalez, and another could be Demetrio. Several others by Spanish artists. I lucked out. Didn't get very many but those I did find were excellent. I want to scan and post some of that material, hoping to get some identification of the artists. How is your book coming along?