Italian comic author Giovanni Romanini died at age 75 on March 20, 2020, in Bologna, his hometown, from a brain aneurysm. A public funeral will take place after the completion of the COVID-19 quarantine in Italy.
His colleagues, who affectionately called him “Grand Master” or simply Giò, admired Romanini for the wide scope of his talent as a comic artist, including pen drawing, inking, painting, and script writing.
In his homeland, Romanini was hailed as a permanent contributor to the late comic book legend Magnus, the pseudonym Roberto Raviola (1939-1996). The Italian newspaper La Stampa named Romanini the “squire of Raviola” in an obituary.
Their collaboration began in the 1960s with the series “Kribal” and the book “Satanik,” both of which are classics of the genre. fumetto nero (“Black comic”) —black and white police thrillers with elements of horror and sex.
Their joint work continued with “Alan Ford,” a grotesque parody of the espionage genre created by writer Max Bunker and Magnus, which Romanini helped illustrate. The acclaimed series celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019, achieving cult status throughout the ex-Yugoslavia (still in print in Italy and Serbia).
After Romanini's death, some media in the Balkans published obituaries describing him as the “‘ Alan Ford 'illustrator “, implying that he was doing it alone. Actually, he was one of several illustrators in the series and only received credit as such in issues 114, 121, and 124.
In the late 1970s, Romanini rejoined Magnus to produce “La Compagnia della Forca”, a mixture of epic fantasy and humor in a format similar to that of Alan Ford.
Composed of 20 issues of 120 pages each, the story revolves around a soldierly group of Renaissance mercenaries and their misfortunes in Europe and Southeast Asia, inspired by the impressions the authors had of traveling to those places.
“La Compagnia della Forca” is considered the masterpiece of Romanini and Magnus.
In the 1980s, Romanini illustrated “Donald Duck” to Topolino, Italian magazine that published Disney comics. In parallel, Romanini worked with Lucio Filippucci on a comic about Cicciolina, a Hungarian porn actress who was an Italian MP in 1987.
Many Yugoslav fans of Romanini's works only found out about him in 1986, when a Croatian translation of “La Compagnia della Forca” was published. That happened because Yugoslav licensed comic book publishers omitted the names of some contributors and mentioned only “stars,” such as Magnus and Bunker. That was the case for the Disney comics, which were quite popular in Yugoslavia at the time – they were also signed as “Walt Disney,” even though Disney had passed away decades earlier.
In the seven years leading up to his death in 1996 from cancer, Magnus worked with Claudio Nizzi on a special project for Tex Willer, the main character in the influential Italian western comic book series “Tex”.
In the graphic novel “Tex: The Valley of Terror”, Magnus's sickly perfectionist, insisted on doing justice to the beloved character and spent four years immersed in the work after the original publication deadline. When he decided that he was not satisfied with the quality of his horse drawings, he asked Romanini for help.
The following video shows Romanini's skill in drawing and inking Kit Carson, iconic character from the “Tex” stories.
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlgepPXkFGY (/ embed)
Except for four bullets, Giò ended up drawing all the bullets with horses in the graphic novel and also helped with the inking. His contribution was recognized in the introductions of all editions of the book, which was published in 1996 in Italy, 2013 in Croatia and 2014 in Serbia.
Romanini's work on Tex resulted in a lasting working relationship with Sergio Bonelli Editore, the largest comic book publisher in Italy, which in southern Europe has a role similar to that of Marvel in the United States.
In his last decades, Romanini illustrated 30 editions of “Martin Mystère”, including some memorable ones like “Gli dei del tramonto” (Twilight Gods in Spanish). This comic series enjoys considerable popularity in Italy and throughout the former Yugoslavia, and was also published in other countries. Additionally, it became a profitable franchise by producing an animated television and video game series.
Many of Romanini's colleagues recalled his life on social media, which often featured photos of joint work, which does not fit the stereotype of the introverted genie that is often associated with comic book creators in America.
For example, comic book writer and filmmaker Giovanni Eccher, who directed a documentary on Magnus in 2007, posted a photo of Romanini riding a motorcycle at full speed with the caption “This is Giovanni Romanini for me.”
In reality, many comic book artists lead very colorful lives, full of adventures that would oppose those of their fictional characters. One of the figures who are bigger than life is Hugo Pratt (1927-1995), who spent parts of his life in Ethiopia, Argentina and has children in Brazil.
Many comic book authors who worked with Romanini would also fit perfectly. The picnics for employees of Gian Luigi Bonelli (1908-2001), creator of Tex Willer, included taking a boat ride and shooting cans with Colt 45 revolvers. His son Sergio Bonelli (1932-2011) explored the Amazon jungle, which turned out to be the stage for his series “Mister No”.
Romanini wrote on his website:
A personaggio che non fa mai errori and if it always behaves in impeccable way, non è affatto interessante.
A character who never makes mistakes and always behaves impeccably is not an interesting character at all.