The origins of Paperinik

The hero Donald Duck, alter ego of the famous Donald Duck, is one of the clear proofs of the exceptional nature of the Disney publishing experience in Italy.

Paperinik is one of the proofs of the exceptional nature of the Disney publishing experience in Italy. In fact, in 1962 Diabòlik by the Giussani sisters made its debut on our newsstands, quickly becoming a commercial success. In an attempt to take advantage of the “K fever”, the bunting of newsagents were soon filled with black comics with titles full of that disturbing consonant. A mania so widespread that Franco Bonvicini – aka Bonvi – parodied the phenomenon by inventing the Cattivik strip in 1965; two years later Giorgio Guidi – aka Johnny Dorelli – will even make a comedy film with his “Arrriva Dorellik”.

The screenwriter Guido Martina was instead the author of a parody of Diabolik so effective as to make readers forget its derivative nature, placing it in the ghota of the comic characters most loved by Italians. At that time Martina was already a well-established author in the panorama of Disney Italy. Born at the turn of the century, in the first post-war period he made himself known as a theater and film director. The Second World War and its aftermath had however destined him to imprisonment and misery, from which he escaped above all thanks to the publishing giant of Arnoldo Mondadori. For the Italian publisher of Topolino he had written in 1949 “Mickey’s Hell”thus inaugurating a thriving parody genre which over the years allowed the characters owned by Walt Disney to interact with the milestones of international literary production.

It seems that it was Elisa Penna – editor-in-chief of “Mickey Mouse” – who advised Martina to direct her imagination towards the creation of Disney’s first ‘kappato’ characterperhaps because she was fascinated by the icy eyes of the thief in tights or amused by the performance picaresque by Dorellik. Although the episode was dismissed by the Disney cartoonist Massimo De Vita as one of those “little clever things” that Penna was able to get attributed to him as an authoritative figure in the editorial staff, the fact is that in 1969 Martina and the illustrator Giovan Battista Carpi created the first story of this unlikely hero: “Paperinik the diabolical avenger”.

Since it is thealter ego of Donald Duck, what Donald Duck was an avenger of is easy to say. After having found the hideout of the famous thief Fantomius in the basement of Villa Rosa (a parody of that Fantômas which inspired Giussani for Diabòlik), the unfortunate uncle of Qui, Quo and Qua exploits the found paraphernalia to take revenge for the oppression suffered by the relatives, very abundant and humiliating in the stories previously written by Martina himself. It will then only be with the next two stories –”Paperinik to the rescue” and “Paperinik strikes again” – that the influence of the designer Romano Scarpa will cleanse the character from the familiar shadows, leading him to more frequent clashes with real ‘villains’ such as Rockerduck and the Dachshunds and providing the solid foundation that has allowed both the success and the evolution of the character until to the modern, albeit short-lived incarnation of Pikappa.

But this will be the subject of another article.

by Camillo Bosco

The origins of Paperinik – Reason