Diabolik and the Giussani Sisters
Angela Giussani (Milan, June 10, 1922 – Milan, February 10, 1987), is a cartoonist, editor and creator of the famous comic book character Diabolik, the first Italian black comic in pocket format.
She was born in Milan in 1922, she has a strong, extroverted and rebellious character. In the 1950s, when the few women who drive a car are still looked upon with curiosity and suspicion, Angela even holds an airplane pilot’s license. In addition, she goes horseback riding, skiing and playing various other sports. And she works hard. She initially as a model for fashion and advertising photos (unforgettable in the Lux soap advertisement) and then also as a journalist and editor.
At twenty-seven she marries the publisher Gino Sansoni: a guy full of ideas, who has the courage and the audacity to send them all to print. At that time, the young Angela worked in her husband’s publishing house – Astoria Edizioni – and willingly let herself be drawn into the whirlwind of her husband’s initiatives as an author, editor and even a model. Alongside such a dynamic character, she would seem destined to remain in the shadows. And she instead finds the strength to become independent, she resigns from the Astoria publishing house to be able to dedicate herself to her own projects. In fact, she founded the Astorina Publishing House and she dedicated her entire working life only to Diabolik, directing the publishing house until the day of her death, which took place in February 1987.
After thirteen issues of the new comic, Angela calls her sister Luciana (Milan, April 19, 1928 – Milan, March 31, 2001) to work with her. Together they begin to take care of the publishing house and write together the daring adventures of the “Re del terrore” (King of terror). Apparently more rational and concrete, Luciana initially promises a quiet career as a clerk, but alongside her sister, she immediately becomes passionate about editing subjects and scripts for Diabolik and will carry on the direction of the magazine even alone, after the death of her sister. The last episode she signed dates back to a few months before her disappearance, which took place in March 2001.
Two beautiful, cultured, witty and restless ladies of the Milanese bourgeoisie who had the courage to become entrepreneurs of themselves in years when such a thing was at the very least anomalous, and who did not hesitate to face accusations, criticisms and trials in order to persevere in their “great adventure”. Two brilliant creatives who did not invent “only” the character that has now entered the collective imagination of Italians, but also their own way of making comics, of thinking about it, of writing it, of managing it, of living it.
The first issue of Diabolik, entitled “Re del terrore”, with the subtitle “Il fumetto del brivido” (The comic of the thrill), hit the newsstands in November 1962. Rereading that first episode today it can be said that the character’s setting was already perfectly defined: Diabolik was a thief of out-of-the-ordinary skill and ingenuity, a genius in crime and disguise, capable of taking on different faces thanks to the masks he himself made. He was then joined by the third issue onwards by the wonderful Eva Kant, who will become his life partner as well as his most trusted accomplice. As an adversary, here is Inspector Ginko, an upright policeman who, since then, has dedicated his entire professional life to hunting for the elusive.
The Giussani sisters publicly declared that to design their character they were inspired by a crime story occurred in Turin. On Wednesday, January 26, 1958, a man was brutally killed and his killer signed Diabolich, challenging the police with letters and riddles. He remains in memory as the killer of via Fontanesi.
1962 represents a turning point in the world of comics not only for the appearance of the black hero, but also for a great invention: the “Diabolik format“. Small pocketbooks with only two or three cartoons per page, large enough to accommodate long shots (necessary for action comics) but also usable for rich and articulated dialogues. The Giussani sisters, who then lived near Milan’s northern station, wanted to create a format suitable for reading on the train, calibrated for the thousands of commuters they saw passing under their windows every day.
Diabolik’s success was dazzling and in a short time it reached high circulation, becoming a social phenomenon studied by sociologists and communication experts. A brilliant marketing intuition not coincidentally copied in the years following by dozens of comic book publishers, but also by filmmakers, to the point of inspiring a large number of similar characters: all masked and elusive. The lowest common denominator among them was the presence of the “k”. This is how Kriminal, Satanik, Cattivik up to the Disney character Paperinik were born, as well as Dorellik and Sadik.
Since 1999 Mario Gomboli becomes a partner and general manager of the Astorina publishing house and after the death of Luciana Giussani, he assumes responsibility for the management of the character and the magazine of Diabolik.