Recently, I received a surprise in the mail — a large padded envelope. I tore it open before realizing who’d sent it, or where it had come from. Inside were two copies of the Italian comics publication Il Nerbiniano, sent to me by an overseas blogger with whom I’d recently connected with via email. We’d made plans to trade a couple issues of Il Nerbiniano for a book on “Kevin the Bold,” but it had slipped my mind. (I hastily placed an order).
I first became aware of Il Nerbiniano earlier this year. After some research, I began to get a handle on what it was, sort of an Italian Menomonee Falls Gazette. Because everything I saw online about it was written in Italian, it made sleuthing more difficult (so much for that one semester of the language at SUNY-Buffalo 30-some years ago!). Published in Florence, Il Nerbiniano existed from about 1973 until 1980. The editions varied in length but were usually ran 32–36 pages. Initially, there were six issues produced yearly, but by 1980 it seems to have become a quarterly.
The covers had a heavier paper stock, and the text pages were generally black and white, with occasional two- or four-color pages. Its trim size was quite large, about 9-3/4″ x 13-1/2″, nearly tabloid-sized.
I grabbed the one with the more striking cover. I had seen an Australian comic book from the 1950s that utilized the same panel as its cover, but the art was heavily modified. Il Nerbiniano was truer to the original.
This edition was the first issue from year eight. The table of contents listed page numbers for its features, but the book’s pages weren’t numbered. The front of the book consisted of a seven-page feature/interview with noted Disney artist Floyd Gottfredson, and was illustrated with some very nice artwork. The next page had a beautiful full-page Hal Foster illustration. Opposite this was what I was looking for — but what was going on?
Flipped 90° so it appeared with a landscape orientation was half of a “Kevin the Bold” tabloid comic, translated into Italian. It was the bottom portion of the comic that concluded the strip’s initial sequence. Here it served as a transition to the following sequence, highlighted by Kevin’s tournament showdown with Count de Falcon.
The balloons were redrawn, and the dialog changed, ever so slightly. Details in the original were smoothed over because of the truncated appearance of the comic, and to blur the ethnicity of the protagonist.
Ma prima, ditemi qual’e’il vostro cognome translates to “But first, tell me what your surname is,” while the original states “Kevin, you are no mere shepherd. What’s your full name, lad?” More tellingly, Ho Capito! Hai un segreto che non vuoi svelare. Allora per noi sarrai per sempre Kevin il Temerario! (“I get it! You have a secret that you do not want to reveal. Then for us you will always be Kevin the Bold!”) originally ran as, “Keep your secret, lad! But the Irishman who wields this sword shall be known as Kevin the Bold!”
By splitting the tabloid comics in half and running them on two separate pages, they are printed about 12-3/4″ wide, larger than the original Sunday versions. However, because they are both oriented so that the tops of the comics align with the gutter, reading them requires a bit of book spinning. The next two pages consist of the first episode in the Count de Falcon sequence. It originally ran on December 17, 1950.
The December 25, 1950 episode follows on the next two pages.
Page 14 consists of the top half of the December 31, 1950 comic, but readers are left hanging because a three pages of “Flash Gordon” material begins on the next page. Recapping, that’s two full “Kevin” tabloids and two partials.
“Collectors Corner” followed the “Flash Gordon” comics, and in turn was followed by four pages of Neil O’Keeffe and Max Trell’s “Dick’s Adventures” (running in two colors, black plus magenta). Three pages were devoted to an interview with some Italian comics collectors, and the remaining six pages consisted of five weeks of “Lone Ranger” dailies. I didn’t see any sign of the comics’ original publication dates.
The inside back cover featured “Tim Tyler’s Luck,” a half-page 1928 comic by Lyman Young, and the back cover listed a bunch of comics for sale (4.000 lira apiece).
I’ve heard of half-page comics turned into tabloids, but vice-versa? Interesting. By running landscape-oriented versions, they appear twice as large as they would otherwise, but only half as many comics fit in the six pages allotted to Kevin. Either way, there wouldn’t be enough room for the entire sequence, so it’s nice to see them enlarged like this, it must be a sign that Il Nerbiniano’s editors appreciated the quality and detail of Kreigh Collins’ comics. Perhaps this sequence continued in the next issue of Il Nebiniano?
For more information on the career of Kreigh Collins, visit his page on Facebook.