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'Gli Esploratori dello Spazio' from 'Corriere dei Piccoli'

the Captain saves the day!

'Gli Esploratori dello Spazio' from 'Corriere dei Piccoli' - Space Explorers from the Courier of the Little Ones ...aka Children's Mail

Paul's Notes:
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.

John's Notes:
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)
Issue One Page One..320k Issue One Page Two..300k
Part One
Issue Two Page One...358k Issue Two Page Two...339k
Part Two
Issue Three Page One...290k Issue Three Page Two...291k
Part Three
Issue Four Page One...269k Issue Four Page Two...253k
Part Four
Issue Five Page One...232k Issue Five Page Two...226k
Part Five
Issue Six Page One...251k Issue Six Page Two...261k
Part Six
Issue Seven Page One...264k Issue Seven Page Two...257k
Part Seven
Issue Eight Page One ...327k Issue Eight Page Two...345k
Part Eight

All Mattel images and captions are copyright Mattel and used without permission. All other content, including images and editorial, is Copyright © 1997-2018 John Eaton, Paul Vreede and/or contributors unless otherwise stated. If there are any comments or objections, please contact John Eaton, by clicking here or Paul Vreede by clicking here.

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