Comic panel by Federico Fellini
'The Book of Dreams', from Rolling Stone Magazine.

Federico Fellini was one of Italy's most famous film directors, widely considered one of the most influential directors of the 20th century. Fellini is best known for classic pictures like 'La Strada' (1954), 'La Dolce Vita' (1960), '8 1/2' (1963), 'Fellini: Satyricon' (1969) and 'Amarcord' (1973). His highly autobiographical work often borders to the sensational and surreal. Recurring themes are Rome, the Catholic Church, the circus and clowns, huge women, love for cinema, scenes of decadence and people with unusual physical appearances. His very recognizable and eccentric style inspired the eponym "Fellinesque". Little is known that before his cinematic career, in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Fellini was also a busy comic artist. He drew humorous series like 'Giacomino', 'Cico e Pallina',  'Geppi, La Bimba Atomica' and 'Storieline di il Professore'. Later in life he collaborated with Milo Manara and kept sketching comics and cartoons before each new movie project.

Early life
Federico Fellini was born in 1920 in Rimini, a bath town near the East Italian coast. His father worked as a baker, travelling salesman and a vendor. As a child, Fellini loved going to the cinema, praising Charlie Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy, Buster Keaton, Walt Disney and the Marx Brothers as much as Luis Buñuel, Roberto Rossellini and Sergei Eisenstein. He also enjoyed the circus, developing a lifelong fascination with clowns. Fellini additionally devoured numerous novels, fairy tales and comics. His favorite magazine was Il Corriere dei Piccoli, which published both local "fumetti" (photo comics) as well as translations of U.S. titles. Fellini was particularly mezmerized by Winsor McCay's 'Little Nemo in Slumberland', Floyd Gottfredson's 'Mickey Mouse', George McManus' 'Bringing Up Father', Frederick Burr Opper's 'Happy Hooligan', Lyman Young's 'Tim Tyler's Luck', Alex Raymond's 'Flash Gordon' and Lee Falk's 'Mandrake the Magician' and 'The Phantom'. All these forms of entertainment inspired his own outlook on life, which often mixed realism with fantasy.

Comics career
Fellini had a gift for drawing and caricaturing, which motivated him to become a caricaturist and portrait painter. Not interested in listening to boring teachers, Fellini only finished high school. His attempt to study law at the University of Rome in 1939 was merely a ploy to please his parents. In reality he never attended class and already had a more satisfying career as a columnist for the bi-weekly humor magazine Marc'Aurelio. Fellini had a gift for drawing and earned money as a caricaturist too. He sketched guests in restaurants and cafés and drew caricatures of film stars for the Fulgor cinema in Rimini. The cinema manager paid him with free film tickets. 

Between 1938 and 1942 Fellini contributed cartoons and comics to Marc'Aurelio and two other magazines, 420 and Domenica del Corriere. Among his titles were the gag comics 'Giacomino', 'Cico e Pallina' and 'Geppi, La Bimba Atomica'. 'Cico e Pallina' was based on a radio show, 'Terziglio', broadcast on EIAR. The scripts were written by Fellini, while the voice of Pallina was performed by actress Giulietta Masina, who would later become his wife. 'Geppi, La Bimba Atomica' was a gag comic about a little naughty pig-tailed girl named Geppi. Around this time Fellini also drew a four-panel pantomime gag comic titled 'Storieline di Il Professore', about a professor with a love for attractive women. 

As early as 30 November 1938, Benito Mussolini banned the import of all U.S. comics, such as 'Flash Gordon'. Nevertheless, the Italian magazine L'Avventuroso kept producing new adventures of Flash Gordon, albeit drawn by local Italian authors who simply invented their own narratives. It has often been claimed that, from 1942 on, Giove Toppi continued 'Flash Gordon', imitating Alex Raymond's graphic style, while Fellini wrote new stories. However, fumetti expert Leonardo Gori has cast doubt over this often-repeated story, claiming that the Italian versions of 'Flash Gordon' weren't drawn by Toppi - who passed away in 1942 - but by Guido Fantoni. In his opinion, the scripts lack Fellini's characteristic style. Fellini additionally had a reputation for often twisting personal anecdotes into more fantastic stories, so some of his recollections have to be taken with a grain of salt. 

Comic by Federico Fellini
'Geppi, La Bimba Atomica' (1940).

Film directing 
During World War II, Fellini wrote for radio shows and was screenwriter for various Italian movies. In 1944 he created some sketches for an animated cartoon, 'Hello Jeep!', about an anthropomorphic jeep. The film would be directed by Luigi Giobbe, but he was soon replaced with Niso Ramponi. In the end the cartoon was never finished. After the Liberation of Rome (4 June 1944), Fellini drew caricatures of Allied soldiers stationed in the city. He had his own 'caricature shop', but his life took another direction when film director Roberto Rosselini asked him to become his screenwriter. Soon he became his assistant-director too. Fellini debuted as a director with 'Luci del Varietà' ('Variety Lights', 1950), but this picture was still co-directed with Alberto Lattuada. His first completely self-directed picture was 'Lo Sceicco Bianco' ('The White Sheik', 1952). The film also marked his first collaboration with Nino Rota, who'd compose the soundtrack for all of Fellini's films until passing away in 1978. 

Over the years Fellini gained international fame as a highly regarded and influential director. Among his classic films are titles such as 'I Vitelloni' (1953), 'La Strada' (1954), 'La Dolce Vita' (1959), '8½' (1963), 'Fellini: Satyricon' (1969), 'Roma' (1972), 'Amarcord' (1973), 'Il Casanova di Fellini' (1976), 'Prova d'Orchestra' (1978) and 'E La Nave Va' (1983). They attracted praise from film critics, intellectuals and fellow film directors, but some pictures, like 'La Strada', 'La Dolce Vita' and 'Amarcord', were popular with general audiences too. 

Fellini is praised for his magical-realistic style and visual inventiveness. He observed the world with an eye for wonder. His trademark are disturbing scenes of decadence, accompanied by the dreamy and frenetic soundtracks of his home composer Nino Rota. From '8 1/2' (1963) on, his films got increasingly more extravagant and surreal. Fellini portrayed society in a satirical way, where everyone looks, talks and/or acts bizarre. He often cast people with odd personal appearances and gave them prosthetics and make-up to make their faces even more unusual. Soon his pictures were filled with clowns, nuns, priests, dwarfs, giants, hermaphrodites, hunchbacks, androgyns, transvestites, physically handicapped people, obese people, big-breasted women... His approach drew controversy, particularly his not-too-flattering depictions of high society and the Roman Catholic church. Critics often accused him of depicting people as walking caricatures. Terry Gilliam defended the often heard accusation that Fellini's characters were too grotesque, odd and bizarre: "Fellini was a cartoonist, I was a cartoonist. We both came from the same background. Which means you look at the world and you stretch it, you pull it, you distort it." Still, nobody denied that Fellini had an instinctive talent for powerful and inventive images. 

Artwork by Federico Fellini
'The Book of Dreams'. 

Influence of comics on his films
Apart from depicting actors as colorful, cartoony looking characters, Fellini's films were also inspired by comics in different ways. His second film, 'Lo Sceicco Bianco' ('The White Sheik', 1952), was a satire of popular photo comics aimed at female readers. The character of Gesolmina in 'La Strada' (1954) was inspired by the hobo character 'Happy Hooligan' by Frederick Burr Opper. Fellini even claimed that Charlie Chaplin had based his Tramp character on Opper's creation. When Fellini made the film 'Giulietta degli Spiriti' ('Juliet of the Spiritis', 1965), he was inspired by the costumes and backgrounds in the comics of Antonio Rubino. In preparation for his nostalgic film 'Amarcord' (1973), Fellini studied the look of several 1930s comics. Winsor McCay's 'Little Nemo' was a direct influence on 'La Città Delle Donne' ('City of Women', 1980), where a man encounters all kinds of dream-like women. In 'Intervista' (1986), Marcello Mastroianni plays the comic strip character Mandrake the Magician.

Film producer Dino De Laurentiis considered Fellini as his first choice for directing a movie version of 'Flash Gordon', based on Alex Raymond's epic science fiction comic. Although Fellini was a fan of the series, he rejected the offer because he disliked literal comic book adaptations. Fellini: "Comics and the ghostly fascination of those paper people, paralysed in time, marionets without strings, unmoving, cannot be transposed to film, whose allure is motion, rhythm, dynamic. It is a radically different means of addressing the eye, a different mode of expression." The 1980 'Flash Gordon' was released in theaters, directed by Mike Hodges. Interestingly enough, the extravagant sets, costumes and presence of a few Italian actresses, are closer to Fellini's style than Hodges. 

As an adult, Fellini often praised comic artists during interviews, like Guy Peellaert's 'Les Aventures de Jodelle', which he called "literature of intelligence, fantasy and romanticism." The cineast also considered Moebius more important than Gustave Doré: "He's a unique talent endowed with an extraordinary visionary imagination that's constantly renewed and never vulgar. Moebius disturbs and consoles. He has the ability to transport us into unknown worlds where we encounter unsettling characters. My admiration for him is total. I consider him a great artist, as great as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse." Around the time when the 1957 Academy Awards were held, Fellini and his wife Giulietta Masina visited Disneyland in the presence of Walt Disney. Years later Fellini also met Stan Lee and told him how much he adored his work.

Fellini and Manara
Sketches by Fellini and Manara for 'Il Viaggio di G. Mastorna'.

Collaborations with comic artists
Fellini collaborated with some iconic comic artists too. He hired Roland Topor to draw the illustrations for the magic lantern scene in his film 'Il Casanova Di Fellini' (1976). In 1981 Fellini wrote the foreword to a reprint of Nick Meglin's classic book 'The Art of Humorous Illustration'. Milo Manara, whose comic strip, 'HP et Giuseppe Bergman' was directly inspired by Fellini's films, drew a comic strip called 'Untitled' (1983). 'Untitled' is a homage to the maestro's works, down to Marcello Mastroianni being used as a main character. Fellini read 'Untitled' and was flattered. The two men met and worked together on two graphic novels 'Viaggio a Tulun' (1989) and 'Il Viaggio di G. Mastorna' (1992). 'Viaggio a Tulun' was originally meant as an adaptation of the works of cult novelist Carlos Castaneda, but the project fell through and was published as a comic strip in Il Corriere della Sera instead. 'Il Viaggio di G. Mastorna' was another lifelong project of Fellini that never came to be, because a magician had warned him that if he ever filmed it, he would die soon afterwards. So Fellini and Manara made it a comic book instead, published in Il Griffo. In 2011 the collaboration between the two iconic Italian artists inspired Laura Maggiore's book, 'Fellini e Manara', as well as Tiahoga Ruge's film 'Soñando con Tulum' (2012), based on Fellini and Castaneda's preparations for 'Viaggio a Tulun'.

Drawing by Federico Fellini
Self-portrait by Fellini from August 1991, depicting himself and his wife, actress Giulietta Masina. Translation: "Federico and me, Giulietta from the film 'La Strada', have been very pleased that we were invited to take part in Mickey Mouse's glorious gang, the greatest of them all!!!"

Artistic film design
Even though he was more preoccupied with film making, Fellini never left his crayons, pencils and water paint alone for long. He sketched his own film posters, before handing them to more professional artists. Two of the more notable were Jacques Tardi, who designed the poster of Fellini's 'E La Nave Va' (1983), and Milo Manara, who designed the posters for 'Intervista' (1987) and 'La Voce della Luna' (1990). Fellini also sketched the kind of characters and actors he needed for each project. His wife, Giulietta Masina, said that whenever he drew a small figure with a round, oval head, she knew he was going to cast her. Following the advice of a psychiatrist, Fellini made many drawings of his dreams, some in comic book form. A two-page story was published in Rolling Stone in the 1970s and collected and published posthumously in 'The Book of Dreams' in 2008. In 1982 sixty-three of his drawings were exhibited in Paris, New York and Brussels. He also published 350 more under the title 'I Disegni di Fellini' (Editori Laterza, 1993). 

Fellini won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film four times, namely for 'La Strada' (1956), 'La Notti di Cabiria' (1957), '8½' (1963) and 'Amarcord' (1974). It still makes him the record holder. The director won an additional Honorary Academy Award (1993) for his entire career. At the Festival of Cannes, 'La Notti di Cabiria' won the OCIC Award (1957), 'La Dolce Vita' the Palme d'Or (1960) and 'Intervista' the 40th Anniversary Prize (1987). At the Festival of Venice, 'La Strada' won the Golden Lion (1953), 'I Vitelloni' and 'La Strada' the Silver Lion (1953) (1954), and 'Fellini: Satyricon' and 'I Clowns' the Pasinetti Award (1969) (1970). At the same festival, Fellini was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award (1985). The director was also bestowed with the Grand Prix (1963) and Golden Prize (1987) for respectively '8 1/2' and 'Intervista' at the Moscow International Film Festival, while 'Amarcord' won the New York Film Critics Circle Award (1974). In 1989 Fellini also received the European Lifetime Achievement Award, while in 1990 the Japanese prince Hitachi handed him a Praemium Imperale award for his contributions to the world of art. Since 1960 an asteroid has been named after Fellini. 

Federico Fellini passed away in 1993. His funeral was an extravagant event, comparable to a scene from his movies. Among the celebrities who paid him a salute were fellow film directors Michelangelo Antonioni, Franco Zeffirelli, Alberto Lattuada, Luigi Magni and Lina Wertmüller, actors Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimée, Vittorio Gasman and Philippe Noiret, and Italian Prime Minister Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. Fellini's wife, Giulietta Masina, also attended the memorial service and passed away half a year later. 

Legacy and influence
Fellini inspired fellow film makers Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Tim Burton, David Lynch, Marco Ferreri, Lina Wertmüller, Ettore Scola, Juan Antonio Bardem, Emir Kusturica, Wes Anderson and Terry Gilliam. After watching Fellini's film 'Giulietta degli Spiriti' ('Juliet of the Spirits', 1965) on LSD, S. Clay Wilson came up with his character 'The Checkered Demon' (1968). The Roman orgy scene in the 'Astérix' story 'Astérix Chez les Helvètes' ('Asterix in Switzerland', 1970) by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo is a direct reference to a similar scene in 'Fellini: Satyricon' (1969). In 1991 scriptwriter Massimo Marconi and artist Giorgio Cavazzano created a 'Mickey Mouse' story loosely based on the plot of Fellini's film 'La Strada'. Their interpretation was titled 'La Strada. Un Omaggio a Federico Fellini' (1991). Sylvain Chomet (of 'Belleville Rendez-vous' fame) plans a film, 'The Thousand Miles', based on Fellini's unpublished drawings and writings. Other celebrity fans of Fellini are Kim Duchateau, Georges Simenon, Robert Crumb, Lana del Rey, Matt Groening and Madonna.

Federico Fellini
Federico Fellini at his drawing board.

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