|'Gli Esploratori dello Spazio' from 'Corriere dei Piccoli'
'Gli Esploratori dello Spazio' from 'Corriere dei Piccoli' - Space Explorers from the Courier of the Little Ones ...aka Children's Mail
The 'Corriere dei Piccoli' was, apart from Disney's Topolino, the main
Italian comic strip magazine. Its contents follow the continental
tradition of including 2 or 4 page episodes of comic strip stories,
which would usually later appear as a complete comic album.
Additionally, each CdP included one complete mini-story, an illustrated
episode of a text-based story, a number of sections devoted to
children's interests (sports, cars, music, coin collecting, etc.), a
Corrierino Club (Little Courier Club) page and a around a dozen
advertisements, mainly for toys.
After Baravelli's 1968 introduction of MMM in an advertisement in
Topolino, Mattel must have established itself in Italy. While the
Baravelli ad was still signed by Mattel International SA, the 1969
issues of CdP saw a great deal of advertising signed Mattel SpA
Gioccatoli (Mattel Inc. Toys), mainly for MMM and BruciaPista
(TrackBurners = HotWheels). Baravelli is also an advertiser in CdP, but
featuring different toys of the month, such as a Bonanza gun and GI Joe.
The first thing we get to see, however, is the MMM comic strip, with
storyline by L. Mari and art by M. G. Ungarelli. This runs for fifteen
consecutive 2 page episodes, but doesn't merit an appearance on the CdP
cover (it is, after all, a form of advertising).
Starting from episode 2 of the comic story, a series of MMM
advertisements appears as well (these are described in more detail
elsewhere in the Italian section).
Towards the end of the comic story, MMM appears in the last panel
announcing a great 'Space Surprise', for which 3 tokens need to be
collected in the next 3 issues. These are similar to other Corrierino
Club tokens, but respectively showing MMM, Callisto and Captain Lazer
instead of other comic strip characters. The surprise is announced in
issue nr 43, but this must have happened in a supplement or insert
(sadly missing from my copy), because no mention of it appears anywhere
in the regular pages of the magazine...
As comic strips go, the Esploratori story isn't at all bad by 1969
standards in Europe. There are certainly much better strips sharing the
CdP pages, but there also were a great many strips of much less quality
in those days. At any rate, it must have appealed very much to it's
target audience of 8-12 year old boys. It's got space, aliens, action,
exploration and capture, so what else do you need? Particularly when
compared to the Moon Mission book, it's pretty exciting stuff!
It's also a product of it's own time. Set in 2180, our heroes are still
equipped with a computer capable of blowing a tube! (That's a radio
valve for British readers). The Callistian city looks pretty much
inspired by SF book covers of the 1950-60's, while some of the graphics
show a kinship to popular styles in the late 60's.
The most obvious reference to late 60's 'state of the art' thinking are
the two spaceships. These bear a strong resemblence to those featured in
'2001 - A Space Odyssey' which had appeared about a year before this
comic strip was made.
Although travelling by nuclear 'astronave' (starship), MMM and friends
are of course equipped with items the readers could go and buy in the
shops. These appear here & there, and all have italian names (stated
mainly in the ads), except for a (green!) moon suit, which is referred
to by the english name 'Moon-Suit-Pak'...
The astronauts' helmets do appear to have evolved somewhat. Captain
Lazer is less gigantic and is shown riding a space sled tailored to his
size in one panel. Both MMM and Sgt Storm apparently find time to dye
their hair every other episode, but otherwise everything is pretty true
to 'real life'.
The only real exception is Doug Davis, who appears to have aged quite a
bit as well as having gone bald! Perhaps the artists didn't receive all
the figures as examples, perhaps they took artistic licence - it's hard
to say at present.
Italian syntax is either very compact, or pretty roundabout: sometimes
there's one word that's equivalent to four english ones, sometimes it's
the other way round. The translations have been kept pretty close to the
Italian originals (and therefore may appear slightly stilted here &
there), except in a few cases where the size of a balloon or text box
was too small.
I hope you all will enjoy this story like I have.
Finding these comics has taken me some 8 months from knowing they
existed, and translating took awhile too. I'd like to thank Simone for
starting me off with some necessary details; Andrea, Sergio, Franco and
Riccardo for helping me get them; and last but not least, my
brother-in-law Stefano Mancini for helping out with the more tricky bits
of the translations.
More than any other contribution that Paul Vreede has provided, I have found the most enjoyment from these Italian comics. I scarcely believed in their existence, until Paul came up with proof positive by acquiring a collection of them. Coming from a Comic Book and Science Fiction-collector mentality, these comics are truy inspiring. They make up for years of dissappointment from the 2-page Mattel ad/comic-strip combo found in DC Comics during 1967. For over 30 years I've been waiting for the next part of the one page comic story from that ad. While these comics do not directly continue that missing next chapter, they may, with a little imagination, flesh-out the "comic-that-should-have-been", The Further Adventures of Major Matt Mason, Mattel's Man In Space!
|Italian Comic (English Translation)