Giovanni (Gian) Luigi Bonelli is, without any doubt, one of the greatest Italian comics writers, speaking about both quantity and quality of the works done. Fond in adventure literature and a great sportsman, he begins to write short stories and poetry since he was eighteen, soon after achieving the High School graduation.
His first works were published in the Corriere dei Piccoli magazine and in the Giornale Illustrato dei Viaggi magazine, edited by Sonzogno. At the same time several novels were born: "Le Tigri dell'Atlantico", "I Fratelli del Silenzio" and "L'Ultimo Corsaro", all of them inspired by countless juvenile readings (Jack London, Zane Grey, Alexandre Dumas, H. Rider Haggard and other classics).
1930-40| Thanks to the relationship with editor Lotario Vecchi who called him to collaborate (and later also to direct) a series of issues, all published by SAEV (Società Anonima Editrice Vecchi) in Milan (Jumbo, L'Audace, Rin Tin Tin and Primarosa) Bonelli made his debut in the comics world, as scenarist and script-writer.
After the take-over of Audace by Mondadori (now I.D.E.A.) Bonelli enlarges his collaboration also to Vittorioso, making its sales grow from 18.000 to 120.000 issues in two years, saving it from a bankruptcy given as certain.
1943-45| During the World War Second, Bonelli took refuge in Switzerland while his wife Tea and his son Sergio evacuates in Ligury. When the conflict was over, Mr and Mrs Bonelli get divorced: Giovanni Luigi settled in Genoa while Mrs. Tea and their son carried on the publishing activity. In those years Bonelli works for several small publishers until he took Giovanni De Leo as an associate, with whom he collaborates giving strength to the weekly magazine Cow Boy, creating the Giustiziere del West character (retaken and reprinted afterwards by Edizioni Audace) and translating some French classics like Robin Hood and Fantax.
1946-47| Settled the collaboration with De Leo, Bonelli went back to collaborate permanently with the Audace, creating several characters, and becoming actually the reference writer for the publishing house by then firmly managed by his ex-wife. In 1946 we have La Perla Nera drawn by Caprioli and published in the Albo d'Oro Audace, while in 1947 appeared Ipnos, drawn by Paolo Piffarerio, Gino Cossio, Dapassano and Uggeri, and published as a monographic character in the comic strips collection Gli albi del Mistero.
1948| It's the birth year of Tex, the character to which Gianluigi Bonelli links indissolvably his name. The character's genesis is by the time stepped into the myth: the Audace could dispose, for the first time, of a drawer of the importance of Aurelio Galleppini (established drawer for the competitor Nerbini at the time before the War) and for the occasion was decided to aim to a reintroduction of the publishing house with an innovative character, on which many expectations were set: Occhio Cupo. The series, set in the 1700's North America among corsairs and American Indians, was written by Bonelli, with special care and attention for the exoticism of environment and situations; and it was published in the prestigious Serie d'Oro Audace, in a format larger than the usual comic strips (21x29cm).
In the same time, nevertheless, the couple of authors had started to work on another series, almost as a substitute, a western done like many others were at that time, on which Galep could spent only the evening hours, since the most of his time was already engaged. The protagonist of that series should be named Tex Killer, but because of the strong opposition of Mrs. Tea his name was changed to a more reassuring Tex Willer.
The debut was on the sly: at the beginning, actually, the Collana del Tex (that was the name of the comic series strips which published his adventures) didn't had a glamorous confirmation (on apex, Tex had achieved a few more than 50.000 sold issues, while the rivals Captain Miki and Il Grande Blek, published by Editoriale Dardo, set on 200.000 sold issues), but he succeed nevertheless to survive. The masthead entitled to Occhio Cupo, instead, shut down after only a year of publications, during which the character, after only 6 issues, had already gave way to the adaptation of "L'Orlando Furioso".
1948-57| During the following years, G.L. Bonelli's activity for Audace took body in the creation of several other characters (many of them republished in the forthcoming Tutto West collection, edited by Bonelli): in 1948, simultaneously with Tex and Occhio Cupo, born the Pattuglia dei Senza Paura, drawn by Roy D'Amy, Zamperoni and Donatelli, and published in the Collana Arcobaleno. In 1949 is the time of Plutos, drawn by Leone Cimpellin.
In 1950 he looks after the translation and adaptation of Red Carson, a western character written and drawn by the american Warren Tufts and published by Audace in the Collana Zenith: Bonelli completely revises the original text and also writes two unpublished adventures drawn by Uggeri, with the collaboration of Cimpellin. Again in 1951 he looks after the rewriting of the dialogues of the second imported series published in Collana Zenith: Buffalo Bill, written and drawn by the american Fred Meagher but with all the character's close-ups redrawn by Aurelio Galleppini.
1952 is the I Tre Bill's year, carried out with Benvenuti, D'Antonio, Dami and Calegari, published again in the Collana Zenith, while to 1953 dates back the first Collana Arco issue which publishes the adventures of Yuma Kid drawn by Uggeri. Still in those years Bonelli carries out the adaptation in a captions format of a work that Galleppini had formerly realized for Nerbini publisher, Pinocchio, which was published by Audace as a sumptuous colour volume bound in paperboards.
Again to 1953 dates back Il Cavaliere Nero carried out together with EsseGesse and published in the Collana Fiamma, Za La Mort drawn by Pietro Gamba (Peter) and published in the Collana Arco and Rio Kid (or, rather, Il Cavaliere del Texas) drawn by Roy D'Amy and published in the Collana Zenith. Still in 1953, for the Collana del Trifoglio, Bonelli writes some brief tales for children, illustrated by Zamperoni and published in small instalments in an unusual rectangle format (21,7x24 cm) and printed in 4 colours.
In 1954 the Audace launched the Collana Capolavori with the adaptation of I Viaggi di Gulliver, drawn by Galleppini and with the legends by G. L. Bonelli. The series would proceed, then, with text edited still by Bonelli, with Peter Pan, drawn by Dino Battaglia, and L'Isola del Tesoro, still drawn by Galleppini. The second series of the collection, now switched to an horizontal format, will republish that "Pinocchio" launched a year before as a single volume, to proceed later with another 6 issues, that will alternate between unpublished reductions and republishings of the former series.
In 1955, El Kid, drawn by Battaglia for almost all the first series and by D'Antonio and Calegari for the second, succeed "Za la Mort" in the Collana Arco. The next year followed Terry, drawn by Gamba, while the Collana Zenith published Hondo, drawn by Bignotti. Still in 1956 was published, as a supplement to Collana del Tex, Il Massacro di Goldena, a novel written by G. L. Bonelli enriched by Galleppini's illustrations (republished in an anastatic issue in 1977 by ANAF).
In 1957 it's inaugurated the Collana Audace, with the new adventures of Kociss, drawn by Uberti, which continued the deeds of the character formerly published by Edizioni Tomasina; while in the Collana Arco was published Big Davy (inspired by the figure of Davy Crockett) drawn by Porciani and Calegari, and forced to change its name because of the simultaneous launch of an homonymous collection published by Edizioni Alpe.
In the meantime the concern about Tex keeps growing. The original "in strips" comics collection have reached the 4th published series (and almost 200 issues in its credit) when, in 1952, was inaugurated the first re-edition series (the famous Albo d'Oro, with the format which coincided with the homonymous Mondadori's collection): each issue publishes, at least at the beginning, the re-edition of three comic strips, reassembled in a 17x24cm format, and prestigious unpublished covers drawn by Galleppini.
1957-58| 1957-58 But it would be only after the coming of the then 25-years-old Sergio Bonelli to the direction of the publishing house that Tex starts really to fly. Indeed, in the next year (1958) the second Tex re-edition is published, known as 2ª Serie Gigante (that is the collection which persists up to today), adopting an absolutely new format for that time (17x24 cm, with around 160 pages for the first issues) and inaugurating that one that will be universally identified as the Bonellian format par excellence (for a detailed chronology of the several Tex issues, see the article Tex tutto di carta - in Italian).
Thanks also to this intuition (the new format coincided with the changed demand of the audience) the series obtains even greater approval: after the reprintings of all the formerly published adventures in the "strips format", the collection went on (starting with the n.96 "La Caccia" issue) with unpublished adventures, giving a beginning to an extremely lucky period for the character (which will last until about the middle of the 70's) with the scripts by G.L. Bonelli which become even more incisive and brilliant and, above all, even more evident become his total psychological identification with the ranger.
In the meanwhile in order to support Galleppini some of the publishing house historic collaborators have arrived, with whom Bonelli had carried out the formerly mentioned other series, like Zamperoni, Uggeri, Jeva, Gamba, Muzzi, but others more, whom were granted even more independence, also joined in because of the new pages quantity (such vast was the amount of work needed for the carrying out of the unpublished plates that the format required). Among those, Guglielmo Letteri, who debuts in 1966, and Giovanni Ticci in 1968, and later, Erio Nicolò, Ferdinando Fusco and Vincenzo Monti.
1961-65| In the following years G.L. Bonelli will dedicate his care almost exclusively to the most famous ranger in Italy, remarkably limiting his collateral production. In 1961, for example, he dealt, together with Tarquinio, with the Giubba Rossa production, a Britain character which publication had been started in the year before by Audace in a comics strip series, and above all, in 1962, he comes to help his son Sergio (more and more busy with the obligation required by his publisher activity), writing several scripts for Zagor, character created by his son which assumed for his parallel writer work the Guido Nolitta alias.
In the same way, still in 1962, he inherits from his son the Un Ragazzo nel Far West series, published, among others characters, by the family's publishing house (which in the meanwhile changed its name to Edizioni Araldo), in the Collana Zenith Gigante (there were the 52 issues that preceded the definitive insertion of Zagor adventures in the collection), carrying it to its close with the n.51, in June of 1965. And again, in 1963, he will wrote the closing episode of Giudice Bean, another brief series (only 5 issues) created by Nolitta and published by Araldo in the Albi del Cowboy.
1967| Thanks to the whole of his work, he is the first writer and scriptwriter to be awarded at the Salone Internazionale del Comics di Lucca.
1976-91| In order to give backing to G.L. Bonelli in the Tex's texts, come Sergio, his son (which however wouldn't be credited for the scripts), although his work as publisher and, above all, his lack of practice with the character attributes, didn't allowed him to work on it at full blast. The one which in the future will become the real successor of G.L Bonelli arrived only in 1983, with the debut of Claudio Nizzi. The last adventure of the ranger written by Bonelli is the issue n.364, published in 1991's February: "Il Medaglione Spagnolo".
The '90s sees Nizzi as the main scriptwriter of the series, recording only a brief attempt of partnership with the debut of Decio Canzio, publishing house's general director (which by that time have assumed the definitive name of Sergio Bonelli Editore) whom, in past times, have already written texts for several western series, Mauro Boselli and Michele Medda. Among the three, only Boselli will continue steadily his collaboration taking turns with Nizzi in the stories production, as for the regular series as for the numerous supplements born later on. The drawers team as well grew with new and talented signs, as the Fabio Civitelli, Carlo Marcello and Claudio Villa ones: to the last one is given the honour of receiving, a few months before Galleppini's death, the authority of cover creator for the prestigious masthead.
2001| Giovanni Luigi Bonelli dies in January, 12th, in Alessandria: by then he has been hospitalized for some months in the city hospital because of serious cardiac and pulmonary failures.
"...I remember him as a special father, physically very handsome, always dressed in a particular way, a sportsman who swims very well and pilot a sailboat. At home, he practices with the rowing machine and the punching ball, besides to frequent a boxe gym, from where I saw him sometimes coming back with, on his face, the signs of some hit went in the mark. I have an image of him, in short, that is very nice for me, specially because he never have meddled in my child deeds. And I like also that, when he can, he tooks me to the cinema to see a good western movie, or he presents me with a good adventure books... and I like that he is a comics writer."
"Giovanni Bonelli is Tex Willer. And Tex Willer is Giovanni Bonelli. The latter of course never rode in the stone deserts of Arizona, neither fought against the criminals, nor he had to do with Native Americans and blue soldiers. The empathy is only of a temper nature. The attribute of Tex-Bonelli is based on some of the more intense feelings of the human essence: the holy light of the life's dignity, the perception of the justice ideal, the defence of the weaks and the oppressed, the steadiness of the friendship and of the companionship, the will to reach the goal, the indignation told by an unchanging moral tension. And among those existential vitality explosions, the politeness of feelings, when needed."
"Gian Luigi Bonelli is the writer who better than anyone had known how to retake the great narrative tradition of the feuilleton and of the 1800's adventure novel, making it up-to-date and adapting it to comics, but keeping unchanged some fundamental peculiarities: the sense of extensive telling - almost an epic kind narration, the careful characterization of the characters and their relationships, the ability to build solid plots, never trite, intricate but not confused, in which all the clues are developed and all the mysteries are solved as in a mathematics demonstration; the skill in administering rhythms and "suspence peaks", in stagger action to dialogue, tension to lighter moments; the taste for language, for the descriptions with literary attributes (the famous, long, Tex's captions), for the brilliant dialogues; his care to the correct grammar and syntax usage. [...] perhaps, without a so strong personality as that one of Gian Luigi Bonelli, the adventure comics would have regressed - as unfortunately have happened on the other side of the ocean - to not much than mere graphic virtuosity exercises. Without Gian Luigi Bonelli we would had much less stimulus to dream."
"He invented, first, the minorities defending, took sides of a people, the American Indians, until then deemed as ugly and wicked. His being an anticonformistic in life allowed him to create a character of a great modernity like Tex. Bonelli must be, indeed, compared to the great of Italian literature. The sole confort left to us is his famous character, Tex, which continues to live."