Benito Jacovitti is probably the most famous Italian satirical cartoonist, best known for his absurd and humorous series full of grotesque characters and bizarre events, like 'Cocco Bill' and 'Zorry Kid'. He was born Benito Franco Iacovitti in Termoli, in the province of Campobasso, as the son of a railroad worker and a mother of Albanese origins. His father had a fascination for the powerful political figures of the time, hence his son's first names. Young Benito drew his first comic stories on the stones of the Termoli pavements at the age of 6.
He eventually headed to Florence, where he attended Art School. By 1939, Jacovitti (he artistically exchanged the first letter of his family name for a J) contributed his first cartoons to the satirical weekly Il Brivido. At this time, he also made the sole continuing story of his career for the Turin based publisher La Taurina, titled 'L'Eroe delle Cinque Giornate'.
L'Arcipippo (Il Vittorioso, 1962)
But national fame came through Jacovitti's collaboration with Il Vittorioso, that lasted from 1939 to 1969. One of his first creations for his magazine was the character 'Pippo'.Together with his companions Pertica and Palla, Pippo formed the hilarious threesome 'I tre P' ('The Three P's'), whose adventures appeared in the Catholic weekly until its disappearance in 1969. His trademark became the fishbone with which he signed his artwork, resulting from his nickname "Lisca di Pesce" (fishbone).
Jacovitti produced a great many other hilarious series for Il Vittorioso, including 'Giove il bove', 'Le Babbuce di Allah', 'Arcipoliziotto Cip', 'Jack Mandolino', 'Il Barbiere della Prateria', 'Chicchirichi', 'Raimondo il Vagabondo', 'Pasqualino e Pasqualone', as well as adaptations of 'Ali Baba', 'Don Quichotte' and 'Pinocchio' and parodies of Lee Falk's 'Mandrake the Magician' and Hal Foster's 'Tarzan'.
Between 1949 and 1980, generations of Italians grew up with Jacovitti's 'Diario Vitt', a series of school diaries that Il Vittorioso's publisher A.V.E. published as a companion to their main magazine. Jacovitti enlightened the pages of these diaries with his many well-known characters, and dealt with themes like loyalty, friendship, brotherhood and solidarity.
Jacovitti was additionally present in the satirical weekly Il Travaso delle idee from 1949 throughout the 1950s. He made an anti-communist story with Federico Fellini, as well as the comic stories 'Sempronio', 'Pasqualino Rififì' and 'Alonzo'. To avoid problems with his main employer, publisher A.V.E., he signed his work for Il Travaso "Franz". Starting in the early 1950s Jacovitti made editorial cartoons for the frontpage of newspaper Quotidiano.
In 1956 started his ten-year collaboration with the Milanese newspaper Il Giorno and its supplement Il Giorno dei Ragazzi. There, he introduced his well-known riotous, nonsensical western parody 'Cocco Bill' in March 1957, as well as journalist/detective 'Tom Ficcanaso' (1957-58) and subsequently the science fiction serial 'Gionni Galassia' (1958-59). Other creations include 'Gamba di Quaglia', 'Chicchirino' and 'Microciccio Spaccavento'.
Jacovitti was also present in the parent paper Il Giorno with the three Roman characters 'Tizio, Caio e Sempronio', who always spoke pidgin Latin. Upon his departure from Il Giorno, Jacovitti worked for Il Corriere dei Piccoli from 1968 to 1982. He introduced an updated version of his Vittorioso character 'Jak Mandolino', but added the little devil Pop Corn, and he reprised 'Cocco Bill'. But his best known creation for this magazine was 'Zorry Kid', a clever parody of the famous masked hero Zorro.
By 1965 he was present in Linus, where he collaborated with Oreste del Buono on 'Gionni Peppe' and 'Joe Balordo'. Jacovitti's work has additionally been published in such magazines as Il Piccolo Missionario, Domenica della Corriere, La Notte, L'Europeo, Intervallo, Comic Art, Sorry, Eureka and Albi Costellazione, as well as a great many publications abroad.
Jacovitti's characters have starred in many advertisements, like for Eldorado icecream, Theorodora oil and Fiorucci salami. Jacovitti's cartoons were furthermore featured in L'Europeo, Il Tempo, Il Male, Cuore and Tango, and he has illustrated Collodi's 'Pinocchio' at three different stages of his career. Besides children's comics, Jacovitti made an adaptation of the Kama Sutra, together with Marcello Marchesi, in 1977. This erotic work eventually resulted in the end of his tenure with he Catholic publisher A.V.E. and thus of the annual 'Diario Vitt'.
Jacovitti began his final association in 1978, when he joined Il Giornalino. There, he wrote new stories with 'Cocco Bill', but eventually left the artwork to Luca Salvagno. He continued to work on comics into the 1990s, like helping his assistant Nedeljko Bajalica to start his new series 'RAP' for Balacco Editore. After Jacovitti's death, 'Cocco Bill' was continued in Il Giornalino by Luca Salvagno.
Benito Jacovitti's work has been reprinted in several languages, including in Rizzoli's famous Bur collection. Throughout his career, Jacovitti has created over 60 characters and published more than 150 books, which have influenced many cartoonists, such as the Spanish artist Francisco Ibañez.