The Italian artist Mario Morelli di Popolo was the author of 'The Adventures of Zouzou', the first comics series in African history. He was born in Pontassieve, Italy, in 1901, but his family emigrated to Alexandria, Egypt in 1907. Due to the premature death of his father, he was forced to work as an accountant from the age of 15. By 1938 he fled back to Italy, where he took a government job in Florence. At the end of the war, he was interned in a refugeee camp in Cinecittà. He was considered fascist by some because of his work for the Ministry of Agriculture, and an anti-fascist by others because of a booklet with cartoons of Mussolini and Hitler he had published.
Morelli returned to Egypt in 1947, where he settled himself as a self-taught artist. He initially worked on advertisements for clients like Coca Cola and Johnny Walker, before finding employment with the publishing house Dar el Maaref. He was an illustrator for the publisher's children's books and textbooks, and participated in the launch of Hussein Bikar's children's magazine Sindibad in 1952. Morelli's character Zouzou was a playful, clumsy and dreamy child with one single hair, and in his stories, Morelli treated the Egyptian habits and customs with respect, while drawing inspiration from his own children.
In 1958 and 1959 he designed the certificate that was given to pilgrims that came to Mecca, but remained anonymous because was a Christian. He had to leave Egypt in 1960 because his residence permit wasn't renewed. He passed away in Florence in 1969 without having received any recognition for his work as an illustrator and cartoonist in Egypt.