Comic fans of southern European countries will remember 2019 as the year of the nostalgic triple anniversary of the cult series: the 50 years of the publication of the influential Italian cartoon “Alan Ford” by Dikan or the “Asterix Yugoslavian ”and the Serbian magazine Stripoteka.
Alan Ford, Italian cartoon with cult status in the former Yugoslavia
Alan Ford, parody cartoon of the stories of secret agents, was created in May 1969 by the Milanese writer Luciano Secchi, known under his pseudonym Max Bunker and the artist Roberto Raviola, better known as Magnus. Max Bunker's company published the number 600 in Italy in May 2019.
Alan Ford's series combines the Italian tradition of art comedy with satirical irreverence with issues of injustice and backwardness, from politics and economics to human stupidity, intolerance and greed. It became popular two years after its publication with the introduction of the villain Superciuk (known as Superhik in the former Yugoslavia) in episode 27. This “alcoholic opposite of Robin Hood,” an anti-superhero who literally “steals from the poor to give to the rich ”because as a street sweeper he despises the lack of hygiene of the lower classes, he made the series a success in his country.
Although attempts to export this series of comics to France, Denmark and Brazil failed, Alan Ford, and with other Italian comics such as Corto Maltese, became a fixed element of Yugoslavia's urban culture in the 1970s and 1980s.
Alan Ford was first published in Yugoslavia in 1972 as part of the Superstrip label of the Croatian newspaper company Vjesnik. It soon became very popular and had a cult quality, mainly because the original humor benefited from the excellent translation of the editor and journalist Nenad Brixy and his son later. Both replaced entire segments of the text with their own jokes and used specific Croatian idiomatic expressions, and in 2015 the city of Varaždinske Toplice erected a commemorative plaque for Brixy for his contribution to the promotion of Croatian.
This cartoon had a huge influence on the popular culture of Yugoslavia, in the various languages spoken in the country. He inspired comedy productions such as Serbian films (The Marathon family, Balkan Express), the Bosnian television series “List of Surrealists' hits, and a political satire in the Slovenian newspaper Mladina (which made an 'apocryphal' episode of the comic strips with Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito) and underground music with critical lyrics from the ska-punk band Macedonian Superhiks.
The 50 years were celebrated with public exhibitions of original panels and paraphernalia in Milan, and also in Ljubljana, Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, and in two activities in Belgrade.
Some of these events were quite striking, such as the exhibition “Alan Ford runs a stretch of honor” (which refers to the local title of the Marathon Family movie) that took place in the National Gallery of Slovenia and can be seen in the following video:
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIryLA6RKo0 (/ embed)
Sociologists, media and communication experts from almost all former Yugoslav republics have studied the popularity of Alan Ford. The author of one of these books, Lazar Džamić, explained his appeal in an article:
Razlog zbog kog je Alan Ford jedino na prostoru bivše Jugoslavije postao to što jeste, postao je naš i nigde u svetu nije bio toliko popularan, uključujući i rodnu Italiju, je u take što je rezonovao sa tom bivšom zemlj na razom i na na bomšom zemlj na razom č na na j č ze U sebi ima veliku količinu nadrealne farse, ima veliku količinu satire koja satiriše svako nekompetentno, korumpirano, propagandističko društvo, or ono vreme je bilo smešteno or vreme Hladnog rat.
The reason why Alan Ford became what remains (a cultural phenomenon), which made it ours and gain as much popularity as anywhere else in the world, nor in his native Italy, is because it resonated with that ancient country ( Yugoslavia) in different ways. It contains a lot of surrealist farce, a lot of satire that denounces an incompetent, corrupt and propaganda society, at that time in the context of the Cold War.
A new book on this topic entitled “Hello Bing”, by Croatians Ivan Sršen and Antonija Radić, was promoted in April 2019 in Zagreb. The title of the book comes from a comic motto. It contains an interview with the author and editor Max Bunker, 80, and essays on the meaning and secret stories of this black humor classic that demonstrates the cross-border nature of the phenomenon.
Dikan, “former Slavic youth” also turned 50
Conceived as a Yugoslav version of the French classic Asterix and first published by the Serbian magazine Politikin Zabavnik in 1969, the Dikan comic is set in the Balkans during the so-called period of migration in the High Middle Ages. It portrays the comic adventures of two early Slavs, considered ancestors of contemporary South Slavs (Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Bosnians, Montenegrins, Macedonians and Bulgarians). The main characters are the heroic tall, blond and handsome Dikan; and his uncle buddy, the low and cunning Vukoje.
Dikan's comics were popular throughout the former Yugoslavia, with new episodes added every few years until the mid-1980s. The anniversary essay in the Politikin Zabavnik publication (number 3506, April 19, 2019 – not available online ) noted that the circulation of the comic was high, while the images of Dikan were used as pets for the then massive actions of voluntary youth work, in commercial advertising, and that there was even an initiative to adopt it as a Partizan pet, one of the four main soccer clubs in the country.
In that essay by Nemanja Baćković it was also pointed out that the editor had received the letter from an institution in Kosovo, a country of Albanian majority, protesting that there were no ilirians in the comic strips. The Illyrians are an ancient nation that some consider as ancestors of contemporary Albanians.
On the other hand, Dikan has been cited in many newspapers and books, and in 2019 his editions were reprinted in Politikin Zabavnik and his magazine for preteens Mali Politikin Zabavnik.
Stripoteka, one of the oldest cartoons in the world
Stripoteka, one of the oldest cartoons in the world, celebrated 50 years in May 2019. It was originally published in Novi Sad, capital of the Serbian province of Vojvodina, as a special monthly issue of Panorama magazine. It became so popular that it was published as a weekly between 1972 and 1985.
Its concept was to serve as a “review of the world's cartoons”, with its 60-page magazine format (similar to Spirou, 2000 AD or Heavy Metal), to present – in whole or in parts – high-quality graphic novels and Other forms of comics. Taken together, taken as a cross-section or an archive of the medium, balancing the classics and contemporary successes, it has gained the status of “encyclopedia” or “academy of cartoon science.”
On the cover of the 50-year edition (edition 1173, May 2019) a mixture of some popular characters was presented, from the Franco-Belgian Oumpah-pah, Gaston, Lucky Luke, Axle Munshine and Lieutenant Blueberry; even the American Tarzan, Mandrake the Magician, the Ghost, Hägar the Horrible, Thor and Marvel's Conan; Italians Corto Maltese and Cocco Bill; the Spanish Torpedo and the British Modesty Blaise.
In an opinion article published in that issue, the editor Milan Jovanović pointed out that, through all its diversity, Stripoteka was letting go of an important trend in world comics: manga. Therefore, that number included a story by the Japanese artist Jiro Taniguchi (1947-2017).