Ferdinando Tacconi


Tacconi's Jet Morgan for Express Comic

Ferdinando Tacconi was born in Milan, Italy on 27 December 1922. After finishing school early he entered the School of Applied Art in Milan at the age of fourteen. In a long and illustrious career he has become associated with war illustrations, particularly images of flying, a passion of his. Between 1940 and 1942 he was buying German flying journals, his aim was to be a pilot, but instead he had to content himself as an air radio operator.

After the war he decided to earn his living as an artist and designer. He was introduced to the Italian publisher Mondadori in 1948, where he was employed to work on the womens magazines Confidenze de Liala and Grazzia.

Later when he met Paschal Giurleo, comic publisher, he began to work for him on the series Morgan il Pirata. From that followed the strips Jack Pilota and Miss Devil and Sciuscia (1949) . He then went to work for Torelli where he created Nat del Santa Cruz (1951) with texts by Dalmasso between 1951 and 1953: this series was published in France in Tarzan in 1951 as well as in 45 booklets entitled Nat del Santa Cruz between 1952 and 1954 by Sagédition. At this time he was also drawing El Bravo (1952-55) with Bignotti (published in France in Buck John and Don Z).

In the mid-fifties his career took a decisive turn. Through a friend, George Bellavitis who was an architect living in London, he met Rinaldo D'Ami and so through the D'Ami agency Tacconi began his collaboration with English publishers. His first assignment was the creation of the comic strip Jet Morgan based on a famous radio programme, (Charles Chilton's Journey into Space) for Express Comic. Tacconi had to meet Chilton at his house in the Kent countryside, and found him ecletic, informed and generally fascinating. While Chilton wrote the scripts for Jet Morgan, Tacconi, still staying in Chilton's house, drew the artwork and their working collaboration turned into a life long friendship.

Of that time Tacconi says: "The English working method surprised me a bit, because they were very serious, and even the smallest detail was fully documented. This was an enormous change to the method of working in Italy. This was my first experience, and I think that Kent really helped - it is indeed the Garden of England."

Look & Learn No 39. Tacconi cover for the series The Man who found Canada

Following the success of Jet Morgan another space adventure was offered, that of Jeff Hawke in Junior Express, but this only lasted for a year. 1957 found him drawing Riders of the Range for Eagle: due to the illness of regular Riders artist Frank Humpris, Chilton (who also scripted this strip), asked Tacconi to help out. The result can be seen in the issue of 20th December 1957 (Vol. 7 No. 51), where Humpris is still credited. This was followed by various work for Fleetway: War Eagle and Commando One for Comet, The Wind in his Hair, The Life and Death of James Dean, Death Rang Down the Curtain for Top Spot, The Roaring Forties for Buster, War Picture library [click here for titles], Air Ace Picture Library [click here for titles], Battle Picture Library [click here for titles], Thriller Picture Library [click here for titles], Fleetway Super Library [click here for titles]. Creating these war strips appealed to Tacconi's way of working: many of these were later published in Italy (by Dart). During this time Tacconi used to visit the old RAF airdromes to view some of the Spitfires and Hurricanes that were still there, (and also a pub where the air crews used to hang out) and they were just a short trip from Charles Chilton's house.

Tacconi also portrayed the softer side of life with his covers for Fleetway's Love Story Picture Library and True Life Library, and D.C. Thompson's Womens Weekly Library and Secrets Story Library. He also worked on Look and Learn, for which he drew many historical pages and some covers.

By the end of the sixties he was back in Italy, working on Il Corriere dei Piccoli, and then a move to publisher Barbieri in the early 1970's where he created Isabella, a sexy strip that proved a little too much for some people and was eventually banned. This was only part of Tacconi's eclatic career, for while his comic strip Isabella was attracting undue attention, he was also working on educational books drawing illustrations of historical characters in watercolour.

Les Gentlemen, the French version of Gli Aristocratici, by Tacconi.

In 1973, Il Corriere dei Piccoli underwent a name change to Il Corriere di Ragaza and he created one of its most popular series Gli Aristocratici (with the writer Alfredo Castelli). The strip was loosely based on the film Sette uomini d'oro (Seven men of Gold) by Marco Vicario. The strip was translated in France as Les Gentlemen in the magazine Super Ace or Les Nobs when it appeared in Rodeo). Tacconi worked on this series until 1976, when he left the review after a change in management. However German publisher Zack asked Tacconi and Castelli to continue the series for them, as they had been taking it from Il Corriere di Ragaza. This continued until 1982 when Zack also made cuts. Gli Aristocratici has been published from Finland to Greece, and from Argentina to Turkey: unfortunately never in English.

Gli Aristocratici was extremely popular in France, where it was instrumental in earning Tacconi work with Larouse for whom he created illustrations for their prestigious works L'Histoire de France and L'Histoire du Far West (although Tacconi did not like drawing horses) all in comic strip format with fellow Italians Toppi, Battaglia and Manara.

Italian publisher Bonelli asked Tacconi to collaborate with Gino D'Antonio (who wrote the scripts) on two new adventure strip series: L'Uomo del Deserte (1977) and L'Uomo del Rangoon (1980), which formed part of the Un uomo, un'avventura series. He and D'Antonio already knew each other from their days working on the Fleetway war stories in the 1950's. At the same time as they were working on these two new stories, they were also working for Giornalino, on Storia della Seconda Guerra Mondiale (Story of the Second World War). This was followed by La Storia del Volo (The Story of Flight).

In his later years, Tacconi returned to collaborate with Milanese publisher Sergio Bonelli and drew episodes of Dylan Dog and Nick Raider.

In November 2001 at the XXV International Hall of Comics held in Rome, Ferdinando Tacconi was presented with the Yellow Kid award for a life-times achievement in comics.

In recent years Tacconi had suffered serious health problems, particularly affecting his sight. In spite of everything, he passed away on Thursday 11 May 2006 in Milan, and will be sadly missed by his friends and the world of the comic strip.

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