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A Cowboy In The Deep Space

1963. This is the year when Mike S. Donovan began to get noticed, somewhere in the Far West. Mike is a nice guy, honest to himself, loyal to friends, sometimes a bit undisciplined, but with a great heart. He’s also pretty handy with guns, as he rings his colt quicker than a bell. Maybe his name would mean little or nothing at all to most of you, but that’s just because I forgot to mention the nickname by which he is best known: Blueberry.

In a span of, well, more than forty comic books published from 1963 to these days, Lt. Blueberry is probably one of the most famous Far-West characters ever, sharing his Olympic glory with the likes of Tex Willer (Italy), Lucky Luke (France) and a few others. The man behind the drawings – the scripts of the first adventures were written by Jean-Michel Charlier –  is a 25 years old guy born in Fontenay-sous-Bois whose name is Jean Giraud, but  that some time later will be known by the name of Moebius.

But who’s this artist, and how comes he wanted to change his name? When dit it happen and why? Well, if you ever thought that Giraud became ‘Moebius’ in the 70s, think again.

In the early 60s, French satirical magazine ‘Hara-Kiri’ began to publish some comics written and illustrated by Jean Giraud. These strips were far different from the western stuff Giraud was realizing for his Blueberry, and quite groundbreaking for the period, mixing science fiction, social satyr and surrealism with unusual ease, therefore he wanted to give to his new material a peculiar, revolutionary mark. To make sure this new production of his had nothing to do with the whole ‘Far West’ phenomenon, Giraud operated a proper transformation of his ‘artistic’ self. The result was the name ‘Moebius’, that came out after a German mathematician of XIX century, very well known for his invention: a curve strip or tape that, after being cut lengthwise generates a paradoxical unique strip of double-length, rather than two separate strips. Giraud, fascinated by the very paradox of the strip, created a new course in his own work, highlighting  the difference with his more ‘traditional’ Blueberry – a true Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hide split of personality.

Under the name of Moebius, Giraud realized quite a lot of strips for Hara-Kiri in the former half of the 60s, along with new stories of Blueberry, when – all of a sudden, we would say – he temporarily dropped his Moebius-Mr Hide side for a while. Eventually, this side emerged again around 1973-74, with a more SF oriented production. The time was different, now: it was the 70s, and counter-culture was spreading its influence over Europe as it did in the USA. With a crew of likewise people (Jean-Pierre Dionnet, Philippe Druillet, Bernard Farkas and few others) Moebius joined Les Humanoides Associées and instantly found himself at perfect ease. The Humanoides starship took off in 1974 and by then Arzach (aka Harzack, Arzak, etc.) was born. Arzach was a strange character indeed, a lonely man dressed with a bizarre outfit and a high, conical cap on his head, riding a huge bird from one side to another of a no less bizarre landscape. Most of the episodes of Arzach were coloured with vivid tints, and had no text or dialogues whatsoever, leaving the meaning of the story to the readers’ imagination alone.

Science fiction became a staple diet for Giraud, from now on better known for his alter ego Moebius. Writer and director Alejandro Jodorowsky wanted to involve him in his project about a film version of Dune, ten years before the 1984 David Lynch one. This surrealistic script, based upon Frank Herbert’s book, should have had Salvador Dalì playing as the emperor. Jodorowsky’s Dune was never realized, as many financial and technical problems occurred. Despite this, only four years after the Dune fiasco, Moebius was called to contribute with his pioneering view to the most shocking SF movie of the Seventies: Ridley Scott’s Alien. His baroque concept of spacesuits was universally accepted as ‘revolutionary’ by both the director and the producers.

In the latter half of the Seventies, Moebius launched one of his better known series: Le Garage Hermétique de Jerry Cornelius (The Airtight Garage of Jerry Cornelius). This new work didn’t have a proper story, nor it had a script to be followed strictly. In an interview, Moebius said that there wasn’t even a plot for Le Garage. He realized three 2 page episodes that – apparently – had nothing to do with one another. In the fourth episode he tried to connect all details and characters and create a story, but that was that and ‘Le Garage’ still remains an excellent example about how a comic strip can be adventurous even without a script, a work-in-progress whose universe and single episodes can be expanded indefinitely beyond limit.

Shortly after ‘Le Garage’, Moebius and Jodorowsky meet again to plan a new series. The Incal, probably the best known work of Jodorowsky and Moebius, is a proper space saga, but with very strong mystical and esotheric elements. Realized in six volumes (L’Incal Noir, L’Incal Lumière, Ce qui est en bas, Ce qui est en haut, La cinquième essence – Galaxie qui Songe, La cinquième essence – La planète Difool, these are the French titles), from 1981 to 1989, The Incal saga is the story of a clumsy private detective, John Difool, who – rather reluctantly – becomes the key element of a plot of cosmic importance, whereas a whole human galaxy is threatened by a combination of negative factors.

In 1982, Moebius was also involved in the making of  “Tron”, one of the most groundbreaking films ever made and probably the first to talk about virtual reality, in an age when the most sophisticated personal computer was the Commodore 64!

Despite Moebius – in his other, traditional self – didn’t stop to write and draw new stories of Blueberry, in 1983 he produced another SF masterpiece, a graphic portfolio for the French car manufacturer  Citroën called ‘The Star’ (Sur L’Étoile in French). The Star proved to be a great success both with critic and public, and spanned other five books known as “The World of Edena”, earning a place alongside other Moebiusian series.

During the years, Moebius fame went from strength to strength, his masterpieces translated in  many languages, his fans being a continuously growing community. Among his supporters and friends can also be counted other worldwide famous artists like Federico Fellini, Hayao Miyazaki, Milo Manara and many others.

Moebius’ career was dense of revolutions in the very way of making comics. If there’s a world ‘top 10’ of the most innovative artists, I believe Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud should be included in the first five places, his work extremely influential to – at least – two generations of illustrators.

It’s a long way from Blueberry’s first appearance, don’t you think? Has Moebius fired his last shot? I don’t think so. I’d rather imagine him, in an indefinite time, jumping on Arzach’s huge bird and flying away – as a cowboy in the deep space – in search of an airtight garage where to spend the remains of life.

Max Galli

Max Galli was born in Rome in 1969, the son of a photographer and a housewife. Illustrator, graphic designer and writer, he embraced the culture and the aesthetics of the Sixties more than two decades ago. Max published three novels, an anthology of short stories and four comic books, and contributed to several magazines ( "Storie", "Vintage", "Blue" and "Misty Lane"). During the years he realized loads of cartoons, pin ups, record and cd covers and posters for Italian and European bands. He lived in London from 1998 to 2003, joining in the London Mod scene, from which he took inspiration for his work. His comic books “The Beatnix” and “The Adventures of Molly Jones” reached international success, especially in United Kingdom and USA.

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June 5, 2015 By : Category : Art Comics Cult Culture Media Style Tags:, , , ,
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KPM Library and the ‘London sound’

A FISTFUL OF GREENSLEEVES

 KPM Library and the ‘London sound’ – By Max Galli

Close your eyes.

Few notes in the air: a Hammond organ is playing, along with a well assembled brass section. It sounds like the typical R&B riff, but with something more. Something you can’t explain.

The year is 1968.

The place is a low ceiling basement, somewhere in London’s West End.

There are few girls around, you can guess their steps on the wooden dancefloor. Low heels, overknee boots. Tick tock tick tock. If you could judge a girl’s beauty by the sound of her shoes, no doubt you’d think she’s very attractive.

You turn your head, just for a couple of seconds.

Yes they are.

They are really attractive, as they approach the dancefloor with their perfect moves.

And there’s this music, this sound: the London sound.

 When KPM, a London based recorded music library, begun to run the ‘1000’ series, it was 1966 and London was the centre of the Universe. Or – at least – of the young Universe. Some people renamed those records ‘greensleeves’, as they all had these monochromatic, olive-green covers with a bold ‘kpm’ white logo on the top right corner.

 “The Mood Modern” (KPM 1001) was the first record of the new series, and it was followed by many others, a collection of incidental music that was about to influence a good slice of all the pop and rock music of the 60s and 70s.

This music had a strong rhythmical appeal, as well as a captivating structure made of long established ‘pop’ sounds with a lot of new, exciting and exotic notes, added to the mix by instruments whose strange names were never heard before (well, at least in Europe): sitars, tablas and many other ones, and it was about to become very peculiar of most late Sixties London clubs.

As Psychedelia was sweeping away a lot of R&B based combos (or – maybe – leading them straight into the ‘new’ sound), London ravers found themselves much more involved with a ‘wide angled’ music, rather than the usual mid-60s Stones-Yardbirds groups based on the ‘classic’ rock guitar riff, whose talents and glories were now disputed by the likes of Jimi Hendrix. Obviously, KPM session musicians were already there to catch the new direction.

In 1968, few of those KPM session men united under a project called The Mohawks: organist Alan Hawkshaw, bassist Keith Mansfield, guitarist Alan Parker and drummer Brian Bennett launched a cover of mostly known Lowell Fulson’s hit “Tramp”, with a different, organ led arrangement and opportunely renamed “Champ”, that proved to be an instant success in the London club scene and it was followed shortly by an LP with the same name. The album included a few covers and some previously released KPM tracks, but with alternate arrangements and a brass section to add a more ‘soulful’ appeal. Alan Hawkshaw’s killer Hammond riff on Champ became immediately acknowledged as a new, funky way to play the organ and is still one of the most imitated styles to date.

 Between 1968 and 1973 KPM explored a lot of popular music genres, from jazz to r&b, from soul to funk, from beat to psychedelia, as well as orchestral, latin jazz and electronics (moog and other synthetizers). This wide spectrum of music can be traced from ‘Soul Organ Showcase’ (Alan Hawkshaw, Keith Mansfield and David Gold – KPM 1027 – 1968) to ‘Afro Rock’ (Alan Parker and John Cameron – KPM  1130 – 1973), going through the dancefloor-friendly ‘The Big Beat’ volume 1 and 2 (KPM 1044 – 1969 and KPM 1067 – 1970), the pop perfection of  ‘Flute For Moderns’ (KPM 1080 – 1971), the experimental, electronic space-age sounds of ‘Electrosonic’ (KPM 1104 – 1972) and many other albums, each one with its own personality.

KPM library, with its incredibly wide range of sounds, influenced many artists since the latter half of the Sixties. Versatile composers like Alan Hawkshaw and Keith Mansfield gave their contributions to pop music masterpieces like Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Melody Nelson’ (1971) and Love Affair’s ‘Everlasting Love’ (1968), to name but a very few.

KPM composers worked for television, cinema, advertising and mainstream music, and I believe it’s very difficult today not to come across some string of notes that wasn’t – in some way – influenced by KPM, even indirectly, often  hidden in records, 60s-70s TV series or even hip-hop sampled tunes.

No other music library was able to provide such a huge quantity and quality of sounds like KPM did, and with such a team of hardworking musicians and composers.

 It started all in London, in the mid 60s. What could be once called just ‘The London Sound’ went on to influence a variety of music and media situations – a proper, authentic heritage of British and European pop musical culture and a true, valued contribution to the ‘Swingin’ London’ phenomenon.

Today, many KPM tunes are regularly played in Mod-60s and funk clubs worldwide, by djs and collectors who know how these records sound incredibly modern, as they have the very same impact they used to have thirty or forty years ago.

Close your eyes.

Keep your ears listening and your legs moving on their own to the music.

There’s this music, this sound…

It’s the KPM sound.

*   *   *

 

Essential listening 1968-1973:

PAMA PMLP5          The Champ  1968

KPM 1001                  The Mood Modern – (VV.AA.)   1966

KPM 1002                  The Sound Of Syd Dale – (Syd Dale)  1966

KPM 1015                  The Sound Of  Pop – (VV.AA.)   1967

KPM 1027                  Soul Organ Showcase – (A.Hawkshaw, K.Mansfield, D.Gold)    1968

KPM 1029                  Colours In Rhythm – (VV.AA.)  1968

KPM 1043                  Beat Incidental – (A.Hawkshaw, K.Mansfield)  1969

KPM 1044                  The Big Beat – (A.Hawkshaw, K.Mansfield)  1969

KPM 1049                  Chorus And Orchestra – (K.Mansfield, S.Dale)  1969

KPM 1067                  The Big Beat Volume 2 – (Alan Moorhouse)  1970

KPM 1076                  Speed And Excitement – (J.Pearson, A.Hawkshaw, K.Mansfield)  1970

KPM 1077                  Progressive Pop – (VV.AA.)  1970

KPM 1080                  Flute For Moderns – (A.Parker, A.Hawkshaw, J.Haider)   1971

KPM 1086                  Music For A Young Generation – (A.Parker, A.Hawkshaw, R.Cameron)  1971

KPM 1096                  Music Pictorial – (James Clarke)  1972

KPM 1104                  Electrosonic – (D.Derbyshire, B.Hodgson, D.Harper) 1972

KPM 1111                  Brass Plus Moog – (Mike Vickers)   1972

KPM 1123                  Friendly Faces – (A.Hawkshaw, J.Clarke)  1972

KPM 1130                  Afro Rock – (A.Parker, J.Cameron)  1973

Links:

 KPM official website:                                    www.kpm.co.uk

Alan Hawkshaw official website:                   www.alanhawkshaw.com

KPM the ‘1000’ series on Myspace              www.myspace.com/kpm1000series

Max Galli

Max Galli was born in Rome in 1969, the son of a photographer and a housewife. Illustrator, graphic designer and writer, he embraced the culture and the aesthetics of the Sixties more than two decades ago. Max published three novels, an anthology of short stories and four comic books, and contributed to several magazines ( "Storie", "Vintage", "Blue" and "Misty Lane"). During the years he realized loads of cartoons, pin ups, record and cd covers and posters for Italian and European bands. He lived in London from 1998 to 2003, joining in the London Mod scene, from which he took inspiration for his work. His comic books “The Beatnix” and “The Adventures of Molly Jones” reached international success, especially in United Kingdom and USA.

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June 16, 2015 By : Category : Exotica Icons Kitsch Picks Tags:, ,
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60s Comics: A Brief History (Part 3)

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series MaxComics

60s Comics: A Brief History – By Max Galli, (Part 3)

At the end of 1967, psychedelia was spreading everywhere. It began with the introduction of mind-expanding drugs, and went on to influence music and most visual arts, including – of course – comics.

A couple of young French artists called Jean Rollin and Nicolas Devil (being the first one a script writer and the second an underground painter) created the first psychedelic comic book ever: Saga De Xam. It’s the story of planet Xam, a peaceful world populated only by women, invaded by aliens who know the art of war. Beautiful Saga, the girl with the blue skin, begins her journey through various ages, looking for a way to save her planet. Magnificently drawn, with plenty of psychedelic graphics and details, Saga De Xam was way ahead of most of late 60s comic art. The book, published by Eric Losfeld (yeah, the same publisher of Barbarella, Jodelle and Pravda), was printed on heavy paper (300+ grams) and sold as a luxury edition. Nowadays, only few copies survive, as the book itself has become a most treasured possession for a very small group of discerning collectors.

In the UK, brilliant SF writer Jo Addams, one of the very few females writing in the medium, and Barcelona-born illustrator Luis M. Roca, created a space heroine who – because of a car accident –dies and becomes the guinea pig for a scientific experiment that reincarnates her with a new life and a new identity. The plot is quite interesting, as Scarth (our eponymous heroine) finds herself in an unfamiliar world, where she can’t remember anything from her previous life and has to rebuild everything from scratch. The year is 1969. The place is London, where pop culture is still producing new concepts. The comic strip, published in The Sun for a few years, proved to be an instant success, as Scarth was the first British comic character to appear completely naked in a newspaper, and one of very few spacewomen. Roca’s drawings are extremely suggestive and take inspiration from pop-psychedelic graphics as well as Art Nouveau decorative art, and the story is just irresistible, as it never runs out of new ideas. Space journeys, fashion, adventures in strange worlds … Scarth’s new life is full of interesting stories and catchy graphic solutions.

Back in the US, 1966 and 1967 were the years of a revolutionary American comic: Phoebe Zeit-Geist. The dynamic duo, Springer-O’Donoghue, created a bizarre adventure with – maybe – a bit too much emphasis upon necrophilia and sado-masochism, as 24 year-old Phoebe is submitted to various tortures and dies many times in many ways. Graphically speaking, Phoebe Zeit-Geist looks like a bizarre mixture of early 1940s comics and Liechtenstein’s pop-comic-art, as the authors didn’t introduce many significant new elements to it. The plot of this comic book intended to satirize violence in contemporary living. This, I believe, is only partially achieved.

In the US mainstream, Jim Steranko added precious and innovative op-art graphic details to the American comic industry, making his ‘Nick Fury, Agent of the S.H.I.E.L.D.’ one of the finest Marvel comics ever. His influence led to a sort of ‘new wave’ of US comic art.

In 1965, Madrid-born Esteban Maroto created one of the best SF comics ever. Cinco por Infinito, published in the US as Zero Patrol. This series was far ahead of its time, introducing interesting psychedelic graphic elements ahead of the breaking wave. The comic was slaughtered by Warren Publishing editor Neal Adams, who applied heavy ‘corrections’ to it, despite Maroto’s growing popularity in the US. The original version only survives in Spanish.

In the second half of the 1960s, eroticism replaced action as the main subject for comic strips. Georges Pichard, a former art teacher from France, started to draw adventure comics as early as 1963, but switched to erotica in 1967, creating Blanche Epiphanie, the saga of a chaste girl who is continuously abused by ruthless men. Blanche is a girl who expects life to be better than what it is. Very different is the other famous character from Pichard, Paulette. Created in 1969/70, Paulette is a spoiled rich girl who spends money to offset boredom, always looking for new kicks. Drawn in a rich black and white style, Paulette has beautiful Art Nouveau frames and psychedelic graphics.

There is much more to be said about 1960s comics. Take this as it is: a sort of ‘taster’ of the whole phenomenon. Hope you readers liked it and – maybe – would like to know a bit more.

Here’s a string of names and books for you. The rest is action.

Max Galli

Max Galli was born in Rome in 1969, the son of a photographer and a housewife. Illustrator, graphic designer and writer, he embraced the culture and the aesthetics of the Sixties more than two decades ago. Max published three novels, an anthology of short stories and four comic books, and contributed to several magazines ( "Storie", "Vintage", "Blue" and "Misty Lane"). During the years he realized loads of cartoons, pin ups, record and cd covers and posters for Italian and European bands. He lived in London from 1998 to 2003, joining in the London Mod scene, from which he took inspiration for his work. His comic books “The Beatnix” and “The Adventures of Molly Jones” reached international success, especially in United Kingdom and USA.

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June 5, 2015 By : Category : Comics Design Picks Vintage Tags:, ,
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60s Comics: A Brief History (Part 2)

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series MaxComics

60s Comics: A Brief History by Max Galli – PART 2

 

As the mid-Sixties gave space to new experiments in graphic arts, so comics evolved into a new age. Italian architect Guido Crepax – already famous for illustrating jazz records covers in the late 50s, published his carachter Valentina on the new comic magazine Linus in 1965. Originally named ‘Neutron’, starring a man with extraordinary psycho-cinetic powers hidden in the features of American art critic Philip Rembrandt, Valentina was intended to be only Neutron’s girlfriend, but things turned out to be a bit different. The girl, a professional fashion photographer with Louise Brooks-like haircut, was potentially a sexy character, so Crepax set about making Valentina sexier and sexier, also introducing new elements in the very way to draw comix – a new film-like cut of frames, close to Michelangelo Antonioni’s sense of visuals, ‘fetish’ details, the confusion between reality and dream. Every single page of Valentina was a piece of art, as the ‘comic’ orthodoxy was transcended. At the end of 1967, Valentina completely replaced Neutron as the main character of the story.  A curiosity: Valentina is also remembered for being one of the very first graphic characters to get older as time passes.

If italians did their best to join in the cultural revolution, the French didn’t sleep at all. Belgian-born illustrator Guy Peellaert created Jodelle in 1966, a swingin’ chick with more than a resemblance to pop singer Sylvie Vartan. Set in a rather funny and surrealistic ancient Rome, Jodelle lives together with his boyfriend, a bizarre young guy studying to be a druid (?!?), who gets angry quite often and occasionally sports a pair of long and sharp vampire-like teeth. Published by Eric Losfeld, the king of  French sexy comics, Jodelle is widely recognised as the first pop-art comic.

In 1967 Peellaert invented another pop-art comic strip, Pravda ‘la survireuse’ (one who lives day-by-day). If Jodelle was all about fun and a bit of optimism, Pravda is a cynical, disillusioned girl with an anarchic attitude. She hates almost everything and everyone, and she’s never satisfied with anything. This time, the model for Peellaert’s artwork is Francoise Hardy, and the story of Pravda is not even a story, but a mix of various episodes.

In the UK, Jenny Butterworth & Pat Tourret created Tiffany Jones around 1965. Tiffany Jones comes to London from ‘up north’, and sets up a new life at her cousin’s flat – evolving from a plain provincial chick to a fashion model, having a go to all those cool jobs that epitomised Sixties youth. Here, our girl looks like a bit of a do-gooder, although  representing (in part) the typical cultural zeitgeist of  the era.

Lovely Tiffany is basically a good girl who only wants to do the best she can in life, but without being particularly ambitious or original. All the other characters are just there to frame to Tiffany’s adventures: neither completely square, nor completely hip, just  somewhat  in the middle.

That said, let’s talk about the artwork – The drawings are captivating and much passion for the ‘Swingin’ London’ is included in every single frame. I should say that the beauty of this comic strip resides in its drawings and (pop) graphics.

In the US, the nascent counterculture was generating new horizons in comic design. Robert Crumb created Fritz the Cat in 1964, named after his own cat Fred. Fritz had nothing to do with the usual Disney or Warner Bros animal characters. He had all the human attitudes you can imagine, as he liked to smoke (both cigarettes and pot), drink, and have sex with his fox-like girlfriend and many other female characters. Fritz continued throughout the Sixties and lasted till 1972, when director and cartoon animator Ralph Bakshi made a film out of it. Robert Crumb – it must be said, with very rare coherence – didn’t like his underground cat going mass-media, so answered back with a bitter end, killing Fritz in an almost forgotten episode, stabbed to death with an ice stiletto by his last, ostrich-like, girlfriend.

Crumb also created another funny character, Mr Natural, a sort of  tricky guru who liked to annoy a certain ordinary guy called Foont.

(continued in Part 3)

Max Galli

Max Galli was born in Rome in 1969, the son of a photographer and a housewife. Illustrator, graphic designer and writer, he embraced the culture and the aesthetics of the Sixties more than two decades ago. Max published three novels, an anthology of short stories and four comic books, and contributed to several magazines ( "Storie", "Vintage", "Blue" and "Misty Lane"). During the years he realized loads of cartoons, pin ups, record and cd covers and posters for Italian and European bands. He lived in London from 1998 to 2003, joining in the London Mod scene, from which he took inspiration for his work. His comic books “The Beatnix” and “The Adventures of Molly Jones” reached international success, especially in United Kingdom and USA.

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June 5, 2015 By : Category : Comics Design Picks Vintage Tags:, ,
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60s Comics: A Brief History (Part 1)

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series MaxComics

60s Comics: A Brief History by Max Galli – A sort of Introduction.

The Sixties brought the wind of revolution into modern life. We now take this simple fact for granted. The decade gave birth to a brand new philosophy, created a whole culture and – for the first time ever removed the young from their parents’ grey world. All of a sudden, if you were 16-18, there was an exciting new way of life ready for you. A way of life made of sharp, tailored clothes, Hammond-led dancefloor music, Italian scooters and many other interesting things, like pop-art, design objects and, well, comics.

I started to post a shorter version of this feature about four years ago on Yahoo 360, a Myspace-like blog page, originally aimed at a collectors-only audience. Then, after Yahoo discontinued these pages, I moved to Myspace, carrying on finessing this project. At the time, I couldn’t maintain the 60s Comics Collectors page I had because I was busy with my job at Ultrapop Publishing, so I had to stop it. The page is still there, somewhere in the Myspace melting pot, but it somehow needed to be updated. Moreover, Myspace went a bit ‘funny’, as I found that updating text, images or whatsoever resulted in a complicated struggle (something like a man-against-machine conflict) wherein, you can’t win in any way. The same ‘collectors-oriented’ version also appeared on the New Untouchables network.

To cut a long story short, this ‘brief history’ of 60s comics would like to suggest a new way to explore the art of a decade that has for too long been underrated by most readers (except, of course, all those very few involved with the Mod/60s scene worldwide).

I can’t claim this ‘history’ as complete, nor am I able to include all comic books published in the Sixties (virtually impossible), but it should be considered as a ‘summary’ of a much wider topic. Most of the impressions will be based on first-hand knowledge, as I own a quite huge collection of original books to talk about.

With the aim of being as clear as possible, and presenting close examinations of each and every comic book presented, with a pinch of criticism, this ‘brief history’ will describe in few words the work of a small group of revolutionary writers and illustrators whose creations have achieved the status of ‘cult books of the 60s’.

1962 was an interesting year, full of fruity flavours. There was something in the air, and somebody was ready to sniff around and discover it. Obviously I’m not talking about good wines (yet I’m tempted to). 1962 was the time when comics broke the mould and came out from children’s world, straight into the one of grown-ups.

 When The Amazing Spider-Man initially appeared, he was the first superhero to have typically human problems, including those of a moral and psychological nature. This was a new concept for traditional American comics market, already filled with Superman-like flying heroes and cheap horror and SF magazines later known as ‘pulps’. Spider-Man – as you guessed – wasn’t like any other US comic. It had these bright, saturated colours, a pop-art appeal and the main character was Peter Parker, a typical boy-next-door, slightly shy student type. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko – the geniuses who created him – didn’t know how successful he was going to prove. He represented a revolution in comics.

Also in 1962, Hugh Hefner’s Playboy magazine launched ‘Little Annie Fanny’, a funny and sexy character whose name was partly inspired by Little Orphan Annie. Needless to say, the authors’ intentions were far different from the original orphan Annie, being this one the typical Marilyn-esque sexually attractive American ingénue.

That was in the US.

In the UK, Peter O’Donnell introduced another major innovation. Modesty Blaise was the first modern girl spy. Originally drawn by Jim Holdaway, whose artwork was already widely known because of the late 50s funny strip Romeo Brown, Modesty Blaise demonstrated how a woman can be smarter than her male secret service colleagues. Sexier than Matha Hari, sharper than James Bond, and with such an attitude to make people like Dick Tracy and Phil Corrigan (Agent X-9) look pedestrian, she sported a shock of Brown hair, brown eyes and led life of risk and difficulties. Raised from obscurity somewhere in the Middle-East, she was always ready with her stiletto-heeled shoes ready to kick enemies and even lovers. The phrase ‘dressed to kill’ suits her like no one else. Modesty Blaise eventually became a film in 1966, starring a beautiful Monica Vitti and Terence Stamp.

Meanwhile, in Italy, two sisters with a great passion for Hitchcock movies and classic thrillers, Angela and Luciana Giussani, created Diabolik, the ‘King of Terror’, a fascinating criminal with Robert Taylor’s eyes and a blonde, attractive girlfriend named Eva Kant. Always looking for a crime to commit, stealing huge diamonds or rare pearls, Diabolik drives his deep-black E-type Jaguar in and around Clerville, the imaginary city where the action is set. Diabolik was the first noir comic to be published in Italy, and it generated a plethora of imitations across the subsequent three years, all of which sported a prominent ‘k’ in their name – a proper ‘mark of krime’. Police inspector Ginko chases Diabolik and his girlfriend all the time, but – as you know – is not so easy to catch them.

In France, revolution in comics meant revolution in sexual attitudes. In 1962, Jean-Claude Forest invented Barbarella, a character with a strong resemblance to Brigitte Bardot, for Magazine V – it was an instant scandal. French censorship enabled the space heroine to be sexually uninhibited and often appear semi-naked. Two years later, in 1964, Barbarella appeared in her first hardcover, luxury edition comic book – adults only, of course. With this big size (a whopping 9.85 x 13 inch), a striking pop-art cover, monochromatic print (each episode was printed in a different colour) and bold lettering, the book earned Le Terrain Vague (the business name of Eric Losfeld, a truly illuminated publisher) an immediate and unexpected success. A US edition followed in 1966 and so on, until the very last ‘first edition’ in Europe – the Italian one, in 1975!

Soon, Barbarella became a cult character, almost a symbol to modern, emancipated girls, and became a best seller in spite of censors’ attentions. Eric Losfeld became the first European publisher to produce quality sexy comics (Jodelle, Pravda, Saga de Xam, to name but a few) with loads of innovative graphic styles, influenced by pop-art as well as the nascent psychedelia.

(continued in Part 2)

 

Max Galli

Max Galli was born in Rome in 1969, the son of a photographer and a housewife. Illustrator, graphic designer and writer, he embraced the culture and the aesthetics of the Sixties more than two decades ago. Max published three novels, an anthology of short stories and four comic books, and contributed to several magazines ( "Storie", "Vintage", "Blue" and "Misty Lane"). During the years he realized loads of cartoons, pin ups, record and cd covers and posters for Italian and European bands. He lived in London from 1998 to 2003, joining in the London Mod scene, from which he took inspiration for his work. His comic books “The Beatnix” and “The Adventures of Molly Jones” reached international success, especially in United Kingdom and USA.

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June 5, 2015 By : Category : Art Comics Picks Vintage Tags:, ,
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The Short Happy Life of Joe Colombo

Modern life and the future in the vision of an enlightened designer

This year, 2011, is the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy.

But in the very same year there’s not only one anniversary to take notice of: Forty years ago, Joe Colombo – one of the top Italian industrial designers of all times – died of heart attack, aged only 41.

This coincidence (1971-2011) brings to light an age when Italian design – along with the Finnish one – represented the aesthetics of a whole cultural phenomenon, which I personally would like to call Modernism.

Born in Milan, 1930, Cesare ‘Joe’ Colombo had a vision of the future dominated by an almost childish dream of re-building people’s living spaces and everyday life. Childish, I said, therefore incredibly serious (who said that children’s games are easy?), while paying attention to the smallest details. In his vision, simple objects like tables, armchairs and even ashtrays, clothes and shoes had to become something more. More appealing to the view, but also more practical, like a late Sixties science-fiction film (2001: A Space Odyssey was Colombo’s favourite film – you can easily perceive what interiors, volumes and general aspects that he wanted to highlight in his own work).

His contribution to the most important Italian furniture design houses was (and still is) immense. During the 60s, his revolutionary ideas and concepts were realized in an industrial quantity by the likes of Kartell, Zanotta, Oluce, Boffi, Arflex and Alessi, to name but a few.

Joe Colombo loved being photographed, often comfortably seated on one of his creations, with a grin and his pipe, a proper living-trademark of his own style. A white Elda armchair with its soft black or brown leather padding would have been fine for that, as he lived his design, like every user – he imagined – was supposed to do.

Contemporary life, from the early Eighties till now, demonstrates how mass cultural philosophy changed from the ‘design for living’ concept of the late Fifties to early Seventies to the ‘living for design’ ethos that explains – so far – how the more recent culture of brands replaced the whole concept of ‘life improvement through design’.

According to Colombo, design was the way to morally and physically make human life more enjoyable, in an age – the Sixties – when the term ‘future’ was about to be dominated by modular furniture and compact, all-purpose spaces that could have been taken from popular TV series like Star Trek or UFO, Joe Colombo had the intuition to turn ‘space age’ shapes, concepts and materials into normal life objects, with a fairly optimistic view of what the years to come should have looked like. The future is in your hands, the future is now.

But such a revolutionary man did not survive to his creations and had no time to see that the Seventies – aesthetically speaking – were about to be pretty much the way he imagined them. A good visual proof is the 1971-1976 seasons of European and American TV series, wherein interior design, furniture and accessories echoed Colombo’s vision.

What remains of Joe Colombo’s concept of the future? In an age – the twenty-first century – with a strong emphasis upon dull square/cubical shapes (probably suggested by the lack of creativity of designers and users); there is still a need for more rounded, compact environments. They now call it ‘vintage’ or ‘retro’ furniture, just to dismiss that very idea and bury it into an indefinite past, but – as we know – it couldn’t be more modern than that.

It’s neither vintage, nor retro. It’s not past at all.

It’s the future.

By Max Galli

Max Galli

Max Galli was born in Rome in 1969, the son of a photographer and a housewife. Illustrator, graphic designer and writer, he embraced the culture and the aesthetics of the Sixties more than two decades ago. Max published three novels, an anthology of short stories and four comic books, and contributed to several magazines ( "Storie", "Vintage", "Blue" and "Misty Lane"). During the years he realized loads of cartoons, pin ups, record and cd covers and posters for Italian and European bands. He lived in London from 1998 to 2003, joining in the London Mod scene, from which he took inspiration for his work. His comic books “The Beatnix” and “The Adventures of Molly Jones” reached international success, especially in United Kingdom and USA.

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June 5, 2015 By : Category : Design Objects Tags:, ,
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FocusOn: Max Galli

Max Galli was born in Rome in 1969, right in the middle of the ‘space age’, the oldest of two children of a photographer and a housewife.

From a very early age he always had a passion for drawing, inspired by various forms of art (painting, graphics, music), comics and television, and – obviously – from the many photographs of his father, a true, immediate source of inspiration as they were always at hand.

Precocious in learning, at the age of five he knew already read, write and draw. His early drawings used to be always inspired by the shapes of planes, trains and helicopters, while occasionally venturing into the representation of people.

At the age of ten he won the first prize in a competition about painting, sculpture and graphics for children organized by CIAS-UNESCO, an association connected with culture, art and school education. In the same period he started to write short stories.

As a teenager, thanks to a strong female presence that accompanied him until adulthood (aunts, cousins, friends, acquaintances) and a huge collection of vintage photos of his father (especially those of models and actresses of the period 1954-1972), began to draw female figures, while approaching to comic strips.

In 1991 he made his first, proper comic book, “Journey to Bilovar”. Published as a limited edition book three years later, “Journey to Bilovar” is a psychedelic and surrealistic tale around the theme of adventure, illustrated in pen and ink, with an eye to 60s american “underground” comics and inspirated to the Franco-Belgian style of drawing (Moebius, Caza, Bilal).

In the second half of 1991 Max joined the Roman Mod-60s Scene until 1994, creating an impressive number of illustrations, graphics and “optical motifs, all related to the visual arts of the Sixties.

From 1994 to 1997 he worked with local and national magazines, writing articles and producing illustrations for their features and working on commission for many private clients.

In 1998 he moved to England, in London, where he lived until the second half of 2003. During this “English” period, Max joined the London Mod-60s club scene, that soon became a constant source of inspiration for his illustrations. Several of his works were exhibited in group and personal exhibitions in the London area. In 2000 attended a college course in computer graphics and web design in central London, and produced posters and record and CD covers for local bands.

He returned to Italy in 2003, specializing in Sixties-style pin-up illustration, while appreciation for his works rose to international level.

In 2004 he was interviewed by Italian erotic magazine “Blue”, which published some of his works.

From 2005 to 2008 he worked as a graphic and web designer for “Ultrapop”, a small, 60s-oriented publishing company, for which produced an industrial quantity of graphics, posters and three pin-up calendars.

In 2010 he was interviewed in Greece, from the mod-60s Athenian magazine “Belle Vue Press”.

In october 2010 Max celebrated 20 years of illustrations.

 

Max Galli

Max Galli was born in Rome in 1969, the son of a photographer and a housewife. Illustrator, graphic designer and writer, he embraced the culture and the aesthetics of the Sixties more than two decades ago. Max published three novels, an anthology of short stories and four comic books, and contributed to several magazines ( "Storie", "Vintage", "Blue" and "Misty Lane"). During the years he realized loads of cartoons, pin ups, record and cd covers and posters for Italian and European bands. He lived in London from 1998 to 2003, joining in the London Mod scene, from which he took inspiration for his work. His comic books “The Beatnix” and “The Adventures of Molly Jones” reached international success, especially in United Kingdom and USA.

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June 16, 2015 By : Category : Art Comics Design Vintage Tags:, , ,
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