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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Alvaro Mairani

Back on 12 May 2014 I posted a short piece highlighting a Commando cover artist named Alvaro, about whom I knew nothing. He produced only 15 covers in total, 13 in 1963-65 and two additional covers in 1967. At the time I suspected he was Spanish, but that turns out not to be the case.

Alvaro Mairani Vicini was born in Milan in 1913. I know nothing about his background but he was active during the Second World War drawing 'Fra Diovali' [Brother Devil] (1941-42), the popular nickname of the 18th century French resistance leader. Around that time, Alvaro was illustrating books for Torino-based SEI, including Regine di poesia by Olga Visentini (1943), Pippo e Claretta by Daria Banfi-Malaguzzi and Un tesoro tra gli stracci by Ida Spinelli (both 1946) and Belfiore – Romanzo dei Martiri by Olga Visentini (1952).

He became more active in comics in the late 1940s, sometimes using the pen-names Almay and Ginger Ted. Strips drawn in the period include 'Maor e Evy' for Il Super-Albo (1947-48), Fantax (the first French caped superhero, 1948), 'Red Bill contro l'atomica' [Red Bill against the atom] (Salgari, 1948-49) and 'Barbara Tiger' (Tiger, 1949-50).

He became more widely known  'Il Principe Azzurro, Il Cavaliere Ideale' [Prince Charming, the perfect knight] (Albi dell'Intrepido, 1949-51), the story of Aimos, a young adventurer who is accompanied by an Eagle, Adar, on his adventures to save a kidnapped noblewoman, Lady Curzon; Aimos's adventures became increasingly fantastic, eventually veering into science fiction territory, although this was after Alvaro's departure.

Alvaro was also establishing himself in  the pages of Italy's cineromanzi magazines in the late 1940s, producing line & wash strips for Luci del Luna Park and Albi Festival before contributing to the most famous of all fotoromanzi papers, Grand Hôtel in 1951-54. A couple of stories from the latter made their way to the UK, translated as 'Shadowed Love' and 'Forbidden Man' in the pages of Mirabelle in 1956-57.

Alvaro also established himself as a leading cover artist for Avventure (where his 'Il viaggio di Marco Polo' appeared in 1952), Aldi dell'Intrepido (1951-63), Intrepido (1952-60), La Domenica del Corriere, La Domenica dei Ragazzi and Wampus (1969-70). He was also illustrating books for a variety of publishers (Musicisti, 1955, Michele Strogoff, 1963, Scuola Amica, 1966) as well as producing work for overseas, including Commando and Digit Books in the UK.

Alvaro continued to illustrate books as late as 1991, his later works including editions of David Copperfield, Robinson Crusoe, Uncle Tom's Cabin and Robin Hood. He also devoted himself to painting. He died in 1996.

Commando Covers
Strike in the Dark (77, Jul 1963), Phantom Sergeant (81, Aug 1963), Hero from Hollywood (84, Sep 1963), Spy in Battle Dress (89, Oct 1963), Mission Most Secret (99, Jan 1964), The Man They Couldn't Hold (105, Feb 1964), Hit the Beach (112, Apr 1964), Fighting Breed (113, Apr 1964), Fighting Fool (122, Jun 1964), Silver Bugle (137, Oct 1964), Ten Bullets for Freedom (147, Jan 1965), Ghost Sergeant (165, May 1965), Sky Warrior (175, Aug 1965), The Burma Run (282, Sep 1967), Blaze of Glory (299, Dec 1967).


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