Eugênio Colonnese was an Italian-born comic artist and illustrator. His early work appeared in Argentinean comic magazines, but by the 1960s he had become a pillar of the Brazilian comic book industry. Together with the Argentinean Rodolfo Zalla, he ran the Estúdio D-Arte, which produced stories in all kinds of genres. Colonnese was especially known for creating the superheroes 'Mylar, O Homem Mistério' ("Mylar, The Mystery Man"), 'Superargo' and 'Pele de Cobra' ("Snakeskin"), and the horror characters 'O Morto do Pântano' ("Dead Swamp") and 'Mirza, a mulher vampiro' ("Mirza, the Vampire Woman").

Early life
Eugênio Antonio Colonnese was born in 1929 in Fuscaldo, a coastal town in Italy's southern Calabria region. His father was Italian, but his mother originally came from Brazil. When he was two years old, the family left Italy in search of better employment opportunities. They headed for South America, where they moved from one country to another in the following years. After Santo André, a town near the Brazilian city São Paulo, they settled in the Uruguayan capital Montevideo. At age 13, Colonnese sold some of his jokes to a Chilean humor magazine, but his artistic career truly began in Buenos Aires. He relocated to the Argentinean capital as a teenager. In 1948 he won a comics contest at the Social Club in the La Boca neighborhood, homebase of the city's Italian community.


'Ernie Pike', drawn by Eugênio Colonnese.

Argentinean comics career
In the following year, 1949, Colonnese made his professional debut in the comics magazine El Tony. He contributed a comic adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's 'The Ebb-Tide' ('La Resaca'). He gave Emilio Salgari's 1906 romance novel 'La Stella dell'Araucania' the same treatment in Fantasia magazine under the title 'La Estrella de la Araucania'. During the 1950s he was part of the boom of Argentine comics, appearing in magazines by Editora Columba and Editorial Frontera, alongside legends like Hugo Pratt, Alberto Breccia and José Luis Salinas. Colonnese, for instance, illustrated war stories for Héctor Germán Oesterheld's 'Ernie Pike' feature in Hora Cero Extra. By 1955, he formed a partnership with the artist/writer Osvaldo Talo, with whom he made many stories under the joint signature Cota, including episodes in the Caniff-inspired 'Rock Dalmon' series in El Tony Semanal


'Rock Dalmon' (El Tony, 22 August 1962).

International excursions
During the second half of the 1950s, Colonnese began working for foreign publishers as well. While visiting his mother in Brazil, he offered his services to Adolfo Aizen's publishing house EBAL, bringing with him a letter of recommendation by the comic artist Jayme Cortez. Colonnese's graphical adaptation of Castro Alves' epic poem about slave trade, 'Navio Negreiro' (1868), appeared in the July 1957 issue of Álbum Gigante. It marked the artist's Brazilian comics debut. But first he returned to Buenos Aires, where in 1961 he was assigned to create a comic book about a World War II naval battle for the British publisher Fleetway Publications. It appeared under the title 'Tide of War' as volume #77 in the 'War Picture Library', and received praise for its realistic details and extensive research.

Move to Brazil
In 1964 Colonnese definitively moved back to Brazil, settling once again in Santo André, São Paulo. Local comics talent was in high demand at the time, and he quickly saw himself associated with many of the major comic book publishers. He started out making romance stories for the publishing house Ediex/Editormex, before moving over to the very popular horror genre. The North American story import had run dry, since the introduction of the Comics Code Authority had necked the genre in US comic books. To keep up with the high demand, Colonnese joined forces with Rodolfo Zalla, also from Argentina, and established the Estúdio D-Arte in São Paulo. During the rest of the 1960s, the team produced many horror and war stories for the publishers Outubro/Taika, GEP, Jotaesse, Graúna, Prelúdio, and Saber. Also working for the studio was Colonnese's Argentinean co-worker Osvaldo Talo, as well as the young, local talents Luiz Merí Quevedo, Luscar and Rubens Cordeiro. Creating up to 300 pages per month, Colonnese and Zalla's studio introduced a certain professionalism in Brazil's comics industry. The team always met their deadlines and delivered high quality stories, based on proper historical and costume research.

Mirza, A Mulher Vampiro
Eugênio Colonnese created several memorable characters during D-Arte's relatively short stint in Brazilian comics. 'Mirza, A Mulher Vampiro' (ten issues in 1967-1968) was probably the best-known. The sexy vampire woman was created by Colonnese and his scriptwriter Luiz Merí Quevedo in commission of editor José Sidekerskis of the publishing house Jotaesse to compete with Editorial Taika's 'Drácula'. The seventh daughter of a Polish nobleman, Mirela Zamanova became a vampire through a family curse after almost being raped by her sisters boyfriend. From then on, she visits the world's great metropolises with her hunchback servant Brooks, where she encounters other supernatural beings. One of the most gruesome was 'O Morto do Pântano' ("Dead Swamp"), a corpse from the swamp. With its mix of suspense and pulpy eroticism, Colonnese's creation predates the similar, Italian beauties 'Jacula' (1969) and 'Lucifera' (1971), and even Warren Publishing's iconic 'Vampirella' (1969) from the USA. 'O Morto do Pântano' in turn appeared four years before Len Wein and Berni Wrightson's famous 'Swamp Thing' debuted at DC Comics.

Mylar
1967 was a productive year for Eugênio Colonnese and his team. Besides 'Mirza', he created a host of other characters. The revived popularity of superheroes in American comic books had crossed the borders, and original "men in tights" popped up in Brazilian comic books as well. One of the first was 'Mylar, O Homem Mistério' ("Mylar, The Mystery Man", 1967-1968) by Eugênio Colonnese and Luiz Meri. Appearing in his own comic book at Editorial Taika from May 1967 on, Mylar was a mysterious alien creature whose mission was to research and observe life on Earth and demonstrate the benefits of "union and justice for all people". Although he had no superpowers, his Atomic Belt allowed him to fly like Superman. Several 'Mylar' stories were inspired by Cold War anxieties. Earth-like planets totally destroyed by wars obviously referred to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Mylar's endeavours were short-lived, however. The title was cancelled after eight issues, because publisher Taika refused to return the original drawings to the author. Colonnese then refused to produce any further work for them.

Superargo
Brazilian superhero comics often borrowed elements from the spy genre, then in vogue because of the popular 'James Bond' franchise. Sinister organizations, communist agents, beautiful women, yachts and secret formulas were omnipresent. Eugênio Colonnese's 'Superargo' was no more than the secret identity of Colonel Braga, member of the Federal Police. The heroic agent only wore his yellow-and-red uniform and mask to avoid international incidents on his secret missions. 'Superargo' appeared as its own title at Gráfica Editora Penteado (GEP) in 1967-1968.

O Gato
Directly inspired by 007 was 'O Gato' (1967-1968), Estúdio D-Arte's spy superhero for Editorial Jotaesse. Colonnese gave his character the looks of 'James Bond' actor Sean Connery. Drawn by Colonnese and written by Rubens Lucchetti and Luiz Meri, 'O Gato' ("The Cat") had no superpowers, but served as the secret identity of Agent Red Brant. His costume was limited to a coat and a mask. The title lasted only four issues though, as crime comics generally failed to interest the Brazilian public.

Pele de Cobra
A more down-to-earth superhero was 'Pele de Cobra' (1967), a wandering biker without either mask or superpowers. Roaming the uninhabited lands that surround the highways, the savage "Snakeskin" was "astutute as a snake" with the "bravery of a lion". The short-lived title published by GEP was written by Rivaldo Amorim and drawn by Eugênio Colonnese and Rubens Cordeiro.

X-Man
Colonnese's superhero 'X-Man' (no relation to the Marvel Comics mutant team created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) was a left-over from the artist's association with Fleetway Publications. Refused by the British publisher, the masked crusader with an X on his chest was picked up by editor Álvaro de Moya, who ran one single story in his Suplemento em Quadrinhos in 1967. The story was drawn by Colonnese written by partner-in-crime Roldolfo Zalla.

Other 1960s comic book work
For the collection 'Classicos de Terror' of Editorial Taika, Colonnese made a comic book adaptation of Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' in 1968. Around the same time, Colonnese illustrated comic books about 'Juvêncio' for Editora Prelúdio. The comic books were based on the radio play of the same name, about a masked Lone Ranger-like vigilante in Northeast Brazil. For the same publisher he also illustrated books with cordel literature (popular budget booklets or pamphlets containing folk novels, poems and songs). Colonnese drew the anniversary book 'Chamada Geral - Epopéia' (1970), celebrating the 25th anniversary of the publishing house EBAL. Written by Pedro Anísio, the comic stars nearly all the characters published by the legendary publishing house, including the foreign icons 'Superman', 'Tarzan', 'Mickey Mouse' and 'Flash Gordon'. For this publisher, he also made an educational comic book about the Brazilian independence, 'A Independência do Brasil em Quadrinhos' (1970).


'Chamada Geral'.

Art director and illustrator
The glory days of the Brazilian comic book industry were short-lived. By the 1970s the market collapsed and most artists sought refuge in other art forms. In 1969 Eugênio Colonnese began an enduring collaboration with Editora Ática, a publisher of text books. His educational artwork continued to make use of the comics format, though. Colonnese was Ática's art director from 1979 until 1999. He also served as art director for the publishing house Saraiva. He additionally produced posters for the Brazilian films 'Esta Noite Encarnarei no Teu Cadáver' (1967) and 'Volúpia de Mulher' (1984), and made advertisements in comic book format for the correspondece courses of the Instituto Universal Brasileiro in the 1980s.


Comic story based on Edgar Allan Poe's 'Morello' (Calafria #1).

Return to comics
Eugênio Colonnese returned to comics in the 1980s, when he and Rodolfo Zalla revived their former studio, this time as the publishing house Editora D-Arte. Again their focus was horror comics, resulting in the titles 'Calafrio' (1981-1993) and 'Mestres do Terror' (1981-1993). He also turned to celebrity comics, drawing stories based on cowboy/theme park owner Beto Carrero for Wagner Augusto's CLUQ (1985), and the South Korean naturalized Brazilian Taekwondo master 'Mestre Kim' for Bloch Editores (1990).

Erotic comics
In the late 1990s he was making erotic comics for the 'Art Sex' comic book by Marfe Editora, and in comic books published by Editora Gênero (the erotic imprint of Editora Escala). For his erotic work he often used the pen name P. Hall, but also Banzai for a manga story. With Franco De Rosa, Colonnese made the comic book 'Bruuna X' (Opera Graphica, 2004), an erotic parody of Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri's 'Druuna'.


'Mestre Kim'.

Revival
Colonnese's classic heroes were also ready for renewed exposure. While Wagner Augusto's Clube dos Quadrinhos (CLUQ) reprinted the classic 'Mylar' stories in 1991, Opera Graphica published the tribute album 'A Última Missão' (2001) by Watson Portela, featuring a new cross-over adventure with many of Eugênio Colonnese's 1960s creations. Also in 2001, the maestro himself was invited to draw new 'Mirza' stories for Opera Graphica from scripts by Osvaldo Talo and Franco De Rosa. A 'Morto do Pântano' collection was released by the same publisher in 2005. Completely new was the comic book 'Cangaceiros - Homens de Couro' (CLUQ, 2004) written by Wilson Vieira, about the 19th century nomadic bandits who sought freedom and justice in the Brazilian northeastern deserts.

Final work
In tandem with Fabrizio Busticchi and Luana Paesani, Colonnese provided the art for the 2005 episodes 'Atterraggio forzato' (#362) and 'Il Marchio del Traditore' (#363) in the 'Mister No' series, published by Sergio Bonelli Editore in Italy. In 2006 he drew a story with the sexy 'Tianinha', created by Laudo Ferreira Jr., for issue #69 of Total, a digest-sized spin-off of the erotic men's magazine Sexy. In the 51st issue of Panini's Wizmania (December 2007) appeared Eugênio Colonnese's final 'Mirza' story, in which the vamp has a fictional encounter with her creator. Mythos Editora released a special album on the occasion of the character's 40th anniversary in March 2008.

Teacher
Considered one of the most talented comics artists of his generation, Eugênio Colonnese has served as a tutor and inspirator for other comic artists. With Mozart Couto, he created 'Eugenio Colonnese - Curso Completo de Desenho', a five-issue drawing course in magazine format, published by Editora Escala in 2004. Similar was 'Métodos De Desenho Figura Feminina', another five-issue drawing course focused on drawing women. This was also the subject of the book 'A Arte Exuberante de Desenhar Mulheres' ("The Exuberant Art of Drawing Women"), published by Opera Graphica in 2002. In the final years of his life, the veteran artist was a drawing teacher at the Escola Estúdio de Artes.

Death
A heavy smoker, Eugênio Colonnese's health deteriorated over the course of 2008. In June of that year he suffered a stroke, followed by multiple organ failures. He passed away in Santo André on 8 August, at the age of 78. At the time of his death, he had been working with Franco De Rosa on a graphic novel about the Brazilian philanthropist and spiritist medium Chico Xavier. The story was eventually drawn by Rodolfo Zalla, en published by Ediouro in 2010. A graphic novel about the life of Jesus Christ ('A Vida de Jesus em Quadrinhos'), written by Osvaldo Talo, was published posthumously by Mythos in 2009. Editora Escala released a compilation of Colonnese's 1960s 'Dracula' adaptation for Editoral Taika under the title 'A Hora do Terror: Drácula de Bram Stoker'.

Recognition
During his lifetime, Eugênio Colonnese was awarded the Angelo Agostini (1985) and the HQ Mix Trophy (1994), both in the category "Comics Master". A few months after his death, he was honored by the Bigorna.net comics portal with the Troféu Bigorna for his "Life Dedicated to Comics". Mirza stood model for the 2009 HQ Mix Trophy. The São Bernardo do Campo comics library was named after Eugênio Colonnese in 2010. The Italian-born cartoonist was also appointed "commander" by the "Circolo Italiano di São Paulo", the society of São Paulo's Italian community. In 2019, the cartoonist Marcio Baraldi released a documentary dedicated to Colonnese entitled 'Sobrou alguma coisa no tinteiro?' ("Is there anything left in the inkwell?").

Family legacy
Eugênio Colonnese had five daughters. One of them is the actress Lili Colonnese. His grandson Rene Simionato ("René Iron Hell") has been a guitarist with the death metal bands In Ruínas, Guillotine and Torture Squad. Eugênio Colonnese illustrated the cover for Guillotine's 2007 debut album 'Morto do Pântano'.

Series and books by Eugênio Colonnese in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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