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The integral texts appeared on the site of Dark Horse about Bonelli books.

(Dark Horse)
American Bonelli:
a history of the Bonelli books

editors: Marco Gremignai & Fabrizio Gallerani
Text and images (c)1999 Dark Horse Comics, Inc.

(Bonelli Comics)
This March, Dark Horse Comics is embarking on a bold new venture involving intergalactic intrigue, satanic zombies, and mysteries of the impossible in the form of three new titles - Martin Mystery, Nathan Never and Dylan Dog. If these sound like odd names for American comics, that's because these aren't American titles. The three Bonelli Books (referred to as such because they're published in Italy by the Bonelli Comics group), are extraordinary comics of Italian origin that are sure to broaden the American fanbase for international comics material.

While many western comics fans are familiar with comics from Asian countries like Japan (manga enjoys a dedicated fanbase here and in myriad other English-speaking countries), it's not really common for American readers to be familiar with titles from European countries or their history. Dark Horse is hoping this will change after readers acquaint themselves with the Bonelli Books.

The story of how Bonellis came to be is a compelling one. Hollywood films, jazz music, and American comics had been embraced by many European countries before the onset of W.W.II, but paper shortages, politics, and financial panics caused a widespread upheaval in these commodities getting through to their European audiences.

In 1945, when the war finally ended, Italy was among the many European nations anticipating a return to the good life that included great music, fun movies, and excellent comics. But a strange thing happened. When classic American characters like Flash Gordon, Mandrake and Mickey Mouse were returned to their Italian fans, the books proved to be less popular than they had been before the war. Readers seemed to prefer the smaller-sized magazines that had been published in their absence, and the small print format called "striscia" ("strips" - which were pretty much the same size as American promotional - or giveaway - comics), that publishers had reverted to when they were hit by a paper shortage. Striscia were smaller in size, with more pages and longer stories, and the Bonelli family - owners of a small publishing house in Milan, began printing these for popular distribution.

Tea Bonelli owned the publishing house, and her husband, Gian Luigi, was a prolific and talented writer. Gian Luigi concocted their first solid-seller - starring a Texas Ranger named Tex Willer (who was very much a John Wayne-type hero), and while the series wasn't an instant hit, it was just the push the Bonellis needed to pay their expenses and expand the line.

During the '50s, lead by young Sergio, who had assumed editorship at the publishing house, the Bonelli's adopted a standard format (which is still referred to as "formato Bonelli") - neat-looking, square-bound, black-and-white books featuring anywhere from 96 to 300 pages of great storytelling. In all actuality, these were novels in comics form, and the Bonellis enjoyed a huge amount of success in getting readers to hungrily scoop them up from shops and newsstands.

It was the high quality and immense popularity of its varied titles that kept the Bonelli family from succumbing to the bankruptcy of the Italian comics market when government control of television broadcasting was overthrown in the late '70s, and thousands of privately-owned TV stations began providing free, 24-hour mind candy of all genres and fit for many different tastes. In short, people all over Italy turned on their TVs and put down their comics - except, of course, their Bonellis.

From the '80s on, Bonelli Publishing has continued to boom, and roughly 25 million Bonelli comics are sold each year in their native land. And it's natural to assume that any comics that have performed so well in their home country would find some comparable audience in the country that first inspired the Italians to take up the medium of sequential art storytelling.

Keep an eye on comics shop shelves this March, when Dark Horse introduces three adventure-loving Italians to its already fun and distinct line of comics.

Martin Mystery #1 - a black-and-white, 92-page comic by Alfredo Castelli and Giancarlo Alessandrini - debuts March 10, and features a cover by comics legend Dave Gibbons (Watchmen).
Dylan Dog #1, by Tiziano Sclavi and Angelo Stano, is a 96-page black-and-white comic, available March 3, featuring a frightening front cover by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola.
And Art Adams lends his talents to the cover of Nathan Never #1, by Michele Medda and Nicola Mari. This 102-page comic is black and white and hits comics shops March 17. Each issue of these incredible Italian comics retails for only $4.95.



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