Spaghetti op toernee by Dino Attanasio
Spaghetti

Dino Attanasio is an Italian comics artist, who has spent the largest part of his career working for Belgian and Dutch publishing houses. His ability to draw in both a caricatural and a realistic drawing style has made him one of the most fruitful authors of the Franco-Belgian school. The simplicity of his artwork also enabled his extensive body of work, which includes not only new creations but also continuations of other people's series. Several of his comics series feature rather stereotypical Italian characters, most notably his prime creation 'Signor Spaghetti' (1957-1978) and his Dutch series 'De Macaroni's' (1971-1975). Further humorous works are 'Fanfan et Polo' (1950-1953) for La Libre Junior, new gags with André Franquin's 'Modeste et Pompon' (1959-1968) in Tintin and 'Johnny Goodbye' (1969-1992) for Pep/Eppo. Attanasio's realistic work includes adventure features for Italian publishers in the 1940s, episodes with Henri Vernes' 'Bob Morane', historical stories for Tintin magazine and the publishing house Averbode. Dino Attanasio is the best known Italian-Belgian comics artist and as such paved the way for later Belgian comics artists of the same origins, like Tony de Luca (Laudec) and Sergio Salma.

Early life and career
Edoardo Attanasio was born in 1925 in Milan, where he also attended the Accademia di Brera. Like many of contemporaries, Attanasio's early influences were American newspaper comics like Alex Raymond's 'Flash Gordon' and Milton Caniff's 'Terry and the Pirates'. After his move to Belgium he also developed an interest in Clear Line grandmaster Edgar Pierre Jacobs, while his later comical work shows inspiration from André Franquin. Attanasio began his career in the early 1940s, working for Milanese publishing houses, most notably Mario Conte's Edital. He provided illustrations for about a dozen of Edital's children's booklets with characters like 'Codino', 'Signora Coccodé' and 'Orsachiotto' in the collection 'Fiabe Edital' (1943-1944), which were written by Roberto Renzi and Angela Invernizzi. These funny animal characters had been created by Andrea Da Passano for Edital's comic book publications since the late 1930s. Attanasio also drew for the comics collection 'Albo dei Bambini', including one story written by his brother Gianni Attanasio ('In volo su Gibilterra', 1943). For the collection 'Albo Ragazzi Avventurosi', he created the humorous characters 'Rambaldo e Gualberto' (1943-1944), as well as the adventure serial 'Il Moschettiere Nero' (1944) with Giulio Tramballi. Dino Attanasio was furthermore present in Edital's comic books and magazines based around the comedy duo Laurel & Hardy ('Criche e Croc'). While the title feature was largely the work of Andrea Da Passano, Attanasio made stories with the American comedy duo Abbott and Costello ('Gianni e Pinotto' in Italian) and the children's song character 'Il Re Trombone' (1948-1950). Yet early on he proved himself perfectly capable of handling a more realistic drawing style too by contributing to Edital's series 'Albi di Avventure' (five installments with writer Tramballi in 1945) and 'Albi Salgari' (an adaptation of the 1905 novel 'La Perla Sanguinosa', 1949).

Fanfan et Polo sur la Lune (La Libre Junior #1, 1952)
Fanfan et Polo sur la Lune (La Libre Junior #1, 1952)

Besides Edital, he drew stories like 'Le Aeronavi del Mistero', 'Le Vipere Verdi' and 'La Ragazza di Mercurio' for magazine L'Eroico of the publishing house E.P.I. in 1945. With Franco Donatelli he was an additional artist for Gian Luigi Bonelli and Vittorio Cossio's comic albums about the boxer 'Furio' (1945-1948), published by Audace. Attanasio and Tramballi furthermore created the two volumes of 'Alla Ricerca del Nambha Pardhit' (1946) for Giuseppe Moneta Editore. For Editoriale Sportiva he drew the adventures of 'Nadir' in the series 'Albi Sportivetto' (1947). He was also an assistant animator on Anton Gino Domenighini's 'La Rosa di Bagdad' (1949), one of the first European feature-length animated films. He also participated in the production of several advertising films.

Oncle Paul - L'Ange de la Cordillère (Dutch version from Robbedoes #616, 1952)
Oncle Paul - L'Ange de la Cordillère (Dutch version from Robbedoes #616, 1952)

Tintin magazine
In 1948 Dino Attanasio and his brother Gianni left Italy and settled in Brussels, Belgium, where they initially continued to work for the Italian market. The same year he managed to get a few illustrations published in the prestigious and domineering Belgian comics magazine Tintin. From 1950 onwards most of his output was aimed at the Belgian market, starting with a fruitful collaboration with the daily newspaper La Libre Belgique and its new youth supplement La Libre Junior through Yves Chéron's International Press agency. Attanasio drew the adventures of 'Fanfan et Polo', two turbulent youngsters whose search for adventure often causes havoc and even brings them to the moon! The stories were written by Jean-Michel Charlier (1950-1952), who later handed over the strip to René Goscinny (1952-1953). Looking back, Attanasio had a veritable blitz career. In less than two years time he was already working for two future giants in the comics industry. The newspaper released one album collection of 'Fanfan et Polo' in 1951. Between 1951 and 1953 Attanasio was also present in the comics magazine Spirou with about 25 early installments in the historical educational series 'Les Belles Histoires de l'Oncle Paul', which were mostly written by Octave Joly.

Pillemikan 503 by Dino Attanasio
Pillemikan 503 (Zonneland, 8 January 1961)

Bob Morane
During the 1950s, Attanasio also drew realistic adventure stories for Petits Belges, a Catholic children's weekly published by the Averbode Abbey. These included 'Le Conquérant de l'Asie' (1953), 'François-Xavier' (1953), 'Terre Belge d'Afrique' (1954) and 'Le Dernier Pirate' (1957). For Averbode's Tremplin and its Dutch-language equivalent Zonneland, he later drew the serial 'Pillemikan 503' (1961). He was furthermore one of the first artists for the children's book collection Marabout Junior, where he illustrated some of the early 'Bob Morane' stories by Henri Vernes in 1953. Since then, over 200 novels with Vernes' adventurer have been released, written and illustrated by several writers and illustrators. The character is also the hero in a long-running comic book series, which started in 1959. Attanasio was the first to draw these comics adventures for the women's weekly Femmes d'Aujourd'hui between 1959 and 1962. These stories were later collected in book format by Marabout. After the seventh story, Attanasio was replaced by Gérald Forton, who was in turn succeeded by William Vance and then Felicísimo Coria. With its exciting mix of espionage, crime fiction, science-fiction and fantasy, the 'Bob Morane' adventures have continued to appear in magazines like Pilote and Tintin in the following decades, while album collections were published by Dargaud and Lombard until 2012. Lombard relaunched the series as 'Bob Morane - Renaissance' with artwork by Dimitri Armand and stories by Luc Brunschwig et Aurélien Ducoudray in 2015. Dino Attanasio has also drawn other serials by Henri Vernes for Femmes d'Aujourd'hui, such as 'Fawcett, le naufragé de la forêt vierge' and 'A l'Assaut de l'Everest', which appeared in the text comics format.

Bob Morane by Dino Attanasio
Bob Morane contre la Terreur Verte

Other publications
His fruitful collaboration with the publishing house Lombard began in 1954. For Line, the sister magazine of Tintin, he drew 'On a volé Valentine' (1954), his first collaboration with scriptwriter Lucien Meys, and 'Pastis et Dynamite' (1954), from a script by Michel Greg. By 1956 he returned to the pages of Tintin, initially with contributions to Tintin's slapstick humor section of "animated films"; four with the parrot and the worm 'Coconut et Vermisseau' and three with the dog 'Pato'. He also made several short stories based on historical facts or persons from scripts by Yves Duval, and provided illustrations for text stories written by Duval, Pollart, Pasquiez or Henri Vernes.

Coconut et Vermisseau
Coconut et Vermisseau, from Kuifje/Tintin #11, 1956

Signor Spaghetti
In 1957 Attanasio presented a new comics character to editor-in-chief André Fernez: Signor Spaghetti. This was a stereotypical little Italian with a curly moustache, fancy suit and thick accent. Attanasio had created him a few years before and based him mostly on his own personality. Fernez liked the character and paired Attanasio with scriptwriter René Goscinny. In the 42th issue of Tintin of 16 October 1957 'Signor Spaghetti' made his first appearance. During the first two years, Spaghetti starred in mainly gags and short stories. The title hero took a new job every episode, with disastrous results. Signor Spaghetti 's debut came at the right time. Up until that point most comics in Tintin magazine were quite serious in tone. The few humoristic ones in its pages, like Hergé's work, Bob De Moor's 'Barelli' and 'Monsieur Tric', Tibet's 'Chick Bill' and Willy Vandersteen's 'Suske en Wiske' en ''t Prinske' were still drawn in a semi-realistic style. Only a few series looked more cartoony, like Bara's 'Max L'Explorateur' and André Franquin's 'Modeste et Pompon'. Even René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's 'Oumpa-Pah' (1958), which was quite popular among readers, was strongly disliked by Hergé because of its comical artwork. But in January 1959 Tintin received a new editor-in-chief, Marcel Dehaye, who was more open to cartoony and humorous comics series. In the wake of 'Spaghetti' similar creations followed, such as 'Strapontin' (1958) by Berck and Goscinny and 'Clifton' (1960) by Raymond Macherot. The editors asked Attanasio and Goscinny to produce longer stories of 'Signor Spaghetti', but shortened its title to simply: 'Spaghetti'. This was an unneccesary title change, since most readers keep referring to the series under its full name.

Spaghetti, by Dino Attanasio
Spaghetti à Venise (1962)

Spaghetti also received a sidekick, namely his cousin Proscuitto, who accompanied him during most of his slapstick-filled adventures. In 1961 Lombard began collecting the 'Spaghetti' stories in its Collection Jeune Europe. The success of 'Astérix' prompted René Goscinny to leave 'Spaghetti' in 1965, after which new stories were provided by Lucien Meys, Michel Greg, Roger Francel, Yves Duval and also Attanasio's wife Joanna. After a steady ten-year production, the character went on hiatus in 1968. He returned from 1974 onwards with sporadic appearances in Formule 1 (1974), again Tintin (1977-1978) and finally Rigolo (1983), with scripts by José-Louis Bocquet and Jean-Luc Fromental, among other people. The album publications have also known a complex history, largely due to legal conflicts. Throughout the years, 'Spaghetti' albums have been published by Le Lombard, Dargaud and Rossel-Fleurus, with several stories appearing directly as albums through Michel Deligne and Éditions des Archers. In the 1980s Spaghetti and Proscuitto were accompanied by their niece Mandolina, and the final two stories appeared under the series title 'Spaghetti et Mandolina' at Éditions des Archers in 1985 and 1986.

Spaghetti by Dino Attanasio
Spaghetti et Mandolina - Les Tontons (1986)

Despite its lack of a regular album series, 'Spaghetti' has remained Attanasio's signature series. A Brussels-based owner of an Italian restaurant once even donated the author his own weight in spaghetti. In more politically correct times 'Spaghetti' could be accused of confirming prejudices against Italian people. Yet Attanasio had a healthy dosis of self-mockery and didn't mind jokes at the expense of his own country. Just like Spagheti and Proscuitto, most of the other characters were also named after Italian food products. The artist even gave his scriptwriter a complete list so he could pick names from it. As he stated in an interview with Stripgids in 2010: "Italians are obviously like all people, but depending on the region they can have special tics, especially on the Mediterranean side. They gesticulate a lot, use typical expressions. They are lively people, constantly on the move."

Modeste et Pompon by Dino Attanasio
Modeste et Pompon

Continuing 'Modeste et Pompon'
In addition to 'Spaghetti', Dino Attanasio drew several other series for Tintin. In 1959 André Franquin had terminated his five-year contract with Lombard, and permanently returned to his homebase Spirou. After assisting his successor with drawing the first pages he handed his domestic gag-a-week comic 'Modeste et Pompon' to Attanasio. Naturally Franquin was a tough act to follow and many fans feel the series lost much of its initial charm after he left. Nonetheless, Attanasio drew about 300 gags more than Franquin until 1968, and in a steady quality, aided by scriptwriters like Michel Greg and Lucien Meys. The series was then continued by Mittéï, Griffo, Bertrand Dupont and the duo Walli & Bom until 1988. In 1964-1965, Attanasio furthermore drew 'Dispositif guet–apens', a realistic comics serial starring CIA officer Jimmy Stone, from a script by André Fernez. Fernez had created the character for a series of serialized spy novels with illustrations by René Follet, which had appeared in Tintin in 1959 and 1960. An album of the comics version was published by Editions Point Image in 1997.

Gianni Flash by Dino Attanasio
Gianni Flash (Il Corriere dei Piccoli, 24 March 1968)

Il Corriere dei Piccoli
By 1965 Attanasio also returned to the Italian comics market, when he began a collaboration with Il Corriere dei Piccoli. He subsequently published the humorous series 'Ambrogio e Gino' (1965-1968, script by Carlo Triberti), 'Il Colonnello Squilla e Pepè' (1966-1967, script by Lucien Meys) and 'Gianni Flash' (1968-1969, script by Yves Duval) in this children's weekly. Three of the five adventures of the two Milanese plumbers Ambrogio and Gino were also published in Tintin under the series title 'Ambroise et Gino' (1966-1968). Michel Deligne released the first album collection in 1979.

Le vacanze di Ambrogio e Gino by Dino Attanasio
Le vacanze di Ambrogio e Gino (1966-1967)

Controversy with Lombard
Dino Attanasio had a somewhat rocky relationship with his publisher Raymond Leblanc, head of Lombard. When the magazine organized an opinion poll to find out which series were the most popular, Attanasio cheated. He bought several copies of that particular issue, filled in the poll in favor of his own series and sent it all back to Leblanc's office. The men also squabbled over 'Bob Morane', which Attanasio drew for Femmes d'Aujourd'hui. Leblanc felt that all artists should remain loyal to Tintin and only publish exclusively there. The matter was settled when Henri Vernes rather unceremoniously withdrew Attanasio from the comic and replaced him with Forton in 1962. The artist and his publisher came to blows once again when Attanasio signed on to illustrate Yves Duval's saucy comic strip about the sexy 'Candida' for weekly cinema magazine Ciné-Revue in 1968. The strip was based on Playboy's 'Little Annie Fanny' by Will Elder and Harvey Kurtzman, and featured comical cameos of movie stars. Leblanc didn't tolerate this adult-oriented escapade, which resulted in Attanasio leaving Tintin in 1968.


Johnny Goodbye - Gangsters in Chicago

Johnny Goodbye (1)
Dino Attanasio shifted focus to the Dutch market and approached the editors of comics magazine Pep with the idea of a comic about gangsters. Editor-in-chief Hetty Hagebeuk was assembling a team of authors for an expanded local production of comics series, and Attanasio remained a regular contributor to the children's magazines of the VNU publishing group and its comics division Oberon during the 1970s and 1980s. His gangster theme was accepted, but completely reworked by scriptwriter Martin Lodewijk, who turned it into a comic about two private investigators during the prohibition years in Chicago. 'Johnny Goodbye' (1969-1992) made its debut in Pep #12 of 1969. The main character Johnny and his sidekick Howdy Duizendpond are Chicago's only non-corrupt police officers, who leave the force and begin their own detective agency. They are assisted in their cases by shoeshine boy Washington, while their main opponent is real-life crime boss Al Capone. The gangster concept was quite popular at the time: Berck and Cauvin's 'Sammy' (1970) made its debut one year later. Naturally Capone was the main antagonist too.

Bandonéon by Dino Attanasio
Bandonéon

De Macaroni's
Between 1970 and 1973 Attanasio also teamed up with Yvan Delporte, another foreign contributor to Pep, for the creation of 'Bandonéon'. The main character was a romantic gaucho who travels the South-American Pampas with his guitar. Four stories were produced and published in album format by Semic/Centripress. Attanasio's third series for Pep was made in cooperation with Dick Matena. For 'De Macaroni's' (1971-1975) he could once again use his Italian roots as inspiration. The main character Macaroni (yet another culinary reference) was a runaway US mobster who tried to build an honest life in Italy as the owner of a soccer club. The club is quickly harrassed by gangsters and other unsavory types. The gangster/soccer comic was Pep's attempt to compete with the highly popular British soccer comic 'Billy's Boots' by John Gillatt and Fred Baker, which ran in competing magazine Sjors. Although Dick Matena has later dismissed the comic for its quick production, simple concept and lack of coherence, the strip knew a certain popularity. A total of eight stories was produced, and collected in book format by Oberon and Centripress.


De Macaroni's - Vendetta

Johnny Goodbye (2)
In 1973 Attanasio was furthermore present in girls' magazine Tina as the artist of 'Conny Wildschut', a melodramatic story by Patty Klein about a girl who does volunteer work in an animal shelter. Klein was also the writer of the final three 'Johnny Goodbye' stories produced for Pep in the period 1973-1975. When Oberon merged its two comics magazines Pep and Sjors to Eppo in 1975, the adventures of 'Johnny Goodbye' resumed with new stories written by Martin Lodewijk. The comic remained a regular feature in Eppo until 1987, although Lodewijk alternated for the scriptwork with André-Paul Duchâteau, Yves Duval and Eddy Ryssack. The final stories appeared in Eppo's successor Sjors & Sjimmie Stripblad, at this point written by Ruud Straatman. They also marked Dino Attanasio's final contributions to the Dutch market. Twelve albums of 'Johnny Goodbye' were published by Oberon and Big Balloon between 1976 and 1992.


Conny Wildschut (Tina #34, 1973)

Work in the 1980s and 1990s
During the 1980s, Attanasio's comics production for magazines slowed down. Instead, several of his comics were published directly in album format. After a collection of older comics work ('Flash Back et la 4e dimension', 1979), Brussels-based librarian Michel Deligne published Attanasio one-shots like the World War II adventure comic 'Le Soleil des Damnés - Opération Edelweiss' (script Ed Engil, 1983) and the humorous 'Il était une fois dans l'Oued' (script Jacques Lambrexhe, 1984). In addition Attanasio also produced a couple of comics in commission, such as 'Vacances par monts et par vaux' (Presse Européenne, 1983), a holidays supplement for the magazines Tremplin, Dauphin and Bonjour, as well as 'Attention ça chauffe!' (1991) for the Belgian burns foundation. In 1991, Attanasio created an idiosyncratic watercolor comic adaptation of Boccaccio's literary classic 'Decamerone', from a script by his son Dino Alexandre Attanasio. In 1994 he drew 'La Galère Engloutie', a new episode of 'Bob Morane' at Éditions Lefrancq. His version of the classic Roman novel 'Satyricon' by Titus Petronius remained unpublished because publisher Claude Lefrancq went out of business.

Johnny Goodbye, by Dino Attanasio
Johnny Goodbye - De man die wel bestond (1992)

Retirement
Since his retirement, much of Attanasio's older work has been collected by smaller publishing labels in limited editions. Point Image published two volumes of 'Carnet de route... et d'une vie!', which summarize Attanasio's career. In 2006 Alain De Kuyssche compiled a monography about the artist for publishing house Miklo on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of his comics career. Several of his historical short stories with Yves Duval for Tintin were published in book format by Loup in its collection 'Les Meilleurs Récits de...' since 2002. Attanasio's serials for Femmes d'Aujourd'hui have been released in book format by both Editions l'Age d'Or and Pan Pan since 2010. Le Lombard launched a luxury collection of all 'Spaghetti' stories in 2011.

Le Décaméron by Dino Attanasio
Le Décaméron

Legacy and mentorship
Today, Dino Attanasio is one of the last remaining pioneers of the Golden Age of Franco-Belgian comics. As of 2018 he, Jean Graton and André-Paul Duchâteau are the oldest surviving contributors of Tintin magazine, all of whom debuted there in the 1940s and 1950s. Until old age he has remained a regular guest on comics conventions, with his wife Joanna always by his side. Although often dismissed for its simplicity or lack of artistry, Dino Attanasio leaves an impressive oeuvre behind, with at least 'Spaghetti' and 'Johnny Goodbye' ranking among the classics of Belgian and Dutch comics history. The veteran artist has furthermore served as a tutor for artists like William Vance, Pierre Seron, Mittéï, Daniel Hulet, Daniël Kox and Marc Wasterlain, who have assisted him during the 1960s and 1970s.

Dino Attanasio

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