Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tex Willer -- Italian Cartoon Cowboy Turns 60

This year's "Romics" Festival of Cartoons and Animation , held in Rome Oct. 2-5, is featuring celebrations to mark the 60th "birthday" of Italy's longest-lived cartoon/comic book hero -- the dashing Wild West ranger Tex Willer.

Back in March, I linked to an exhibit at the Comics Museum in Lucca ("...When the West Arrived in Italy") that celebrated Tex but also centered on Italy's Wild West cartoon heroes in general.

The first comic featuring Tex Willer appeared Sept. 30, 1948 -- and he is still going strong. A Tex Willer comic book is published each month by Sergio Bonelli Editore and appears in various languages.

Tex's 60th birthday is being marked by Issue 575, called "Sul Sentiero Dei Ricordi", or "On the Trail of Memories."

Tex was created by the Italian comic book writer Gianluigi Bonelli (father of the current publisher) almost a generation before the “spaghetti westerns” were produced, at a time when the mythology of the Old West in Italy was still based largely on Hollywood movies. Tex Willer was the first Italian western hero to incorporate the point of view of Native Americans. His philosophy was (and remains) simple: to fight against all kinds of injustice and defend the rights of the Navajos and of all oppressed individuals. In addition, the Tex Willer stories blend classical Western themes with subplots verging on horror and the fantastic (alien space ships in Arizona, voodoo sects, mad scientists and above all Tex’s arch enemy, the diabolical Mefisto).

Tex’s "maverick" attitudes opened up a new and broader horizon for the post-war reader's imagination and enabled the comic, its characters and its self-contained universe to achieve a pop cult status that endures to this day.

In an interview some years ago, Bonelli (who died in 2001) discussed the unique traits of his hero: “In my Tex there's a strong reaction against injustice, ill-treatment, abuse of power. And when the so-called ‘bullies’ are whites moving further and further towards the west, then you do also find a reaction against genocide and against racist intolerance. However, I have always considered the struggle against discrimination within the wider context of rebellion against any form of oppression. On the other hand if you consider the atmosphere of the period in which Tex was born, then my choice has to be seen as a reaction against the prevailing conformism of that time. But why was I that way whereas other people weren't? Well, even at that time I used to read a lot of books about the Native Americans and I'd learned to respect those indomitable peoples.” (Click HERE to see the full interview.)

No comments: