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Monday, January 30, 2017

Alessandro Biffignandi (1935-2017)

Alessandro Biffignandi (photo: Aldi di Gennaro)
Alessandro Biffignandi, one of Italy’s finest painters of cover art and illustrations for comics and magazines, died in Rome on 21 January 2017, aged 81. He is primarily associated with his decade-long supply of cover art to British war pocket libraries published by Fleetway in the 1960s and his decade plus association with Italian erotic pocket books. His signature rarely appeared, so even in Italy he was little known and only in recent years has his work been celebrated.

Appreciation for his work was slow in developing, Erotic horror comics began to appear in the late 1960s but exploded when Renzo Barbieri set up Edifumetto to publish titles like Biancaneve, an erotic version of Snow White, and Zora la Vampira. The covers painted by Biffignandi and his contemporaries, featured bare-buttocked models, colourful monsters and hints—often more than hints—of sadism. The sexy fumetti inside covered everything from horror to history, fantasy to fairy tales, but the best feature was inevitably the eye-popping covers by some of the most talented Italian artists of the day, notably Biffignandi, Emanuele Taglietti, Roberto Molino and Carlo Jacono.

These pocket titles sold in their millions every month at their peak in the mid-1970s, but sales had collapsed by 1984, although some title would continue to be published until the end of the decade.

Biffignandi’s preference for painting in oil and use of models gave his artwork the look of classical paintings, but it was his use of colour that made them stand out. It reflected the early influence of film posters and the arrival of giallo films, which used vivid colours, disorientating composition and fetishistic close-ups… all terms that could equally apply to Biffignandi’s covers.

Born in Rome on 8 October 1935, Alessandro Romano Biffignandi developed an early interest in art and cartoons through reading the Italian Disney comic Topolino. At 17 he made his debut as a cartoonist working on Captain Walter for AVE.

After graduating from art school, where he developed a fascination with film posters, he became an apprentice to movie theatre billboard designer Averardo Ciriello. After working briefly for movie theatre advertisers Enzo and Giuliano Nistri, at the age of 20 he was head-hunted by the studio of Augusto Favelli, at the time Italy’s most prolific provider of movie posters.

His poster designs included La voice che uccide and Orlando eI paladini di Francia (1956), L’invasione degli ultracorpi [Invasion of the Bodysnatchers; this poster was later used as the cover of Sexton Blake Library #418, Biffignandi's first UK appearance in 1958], La diga sul pacifico, L’incanto della foresta and il momento più bello (1957), Agli ordini del re, La sfida and La morte viene dallo spazio (1958), America di notte and Un giorno de leoni (1961) and Pasqualino Cammarata (1974).

He settled in Milan in the late 1950s, initially providing work for French comic strips ‘Flambo’, ‘Agent K-3’, ‘Peter Berg’ ‘John Kine’ and ‘Rombo Bill’ and covers for Nevada, Hondo, Kiwi, Rodeo and Zemla, published by Lyon-based Lug, who specialised in petits formats (pocket library) titles, some of them also published in Italy.

An association with the D’Ami studio in Milan meant that from 1960 he became a very prolific cover artist for the pocket libraries published in the UK by Fleetway Publications. His major contribution was to the various war libraries (Air Ace, War, Battle, War at Sea, Giant War) and the latter days of Fleetways early adventure titles (Super Detective, Thriller, Cowboy); his talents ranged from sports (a dozen covers for Tiger Sports Library) to schoolgirls (Schoolgirls’ Picture Library) and the fantastic (Fleetway Super Library Stupendous Series).

He also provided illustrations for 8 episodes of the Treasure series ‘The Wonderful Story of Britain’ in 1963 and covers for weekly comic Hurricane (1964) and annuals. For Tell Me Why he drew 12 episodes of ‘Strange Facts’ in 1968-69, as well as more covers for both Tell Me Why and its replacement World of Wonder (1970). In all, Biffignandi produced some 500 covers for the UK.

Biffignandi was also an illustrator for Italian magazines, amongst them La Tribuna Illustrata, Domenica del Corriere, Grazia and Confidenze and cover artist for I Rosa Mondadori, Intrepido, Il Monello, Lanciostory and UFO.

During the 1970s Biffignandi became a busy painter of covers for dozens of Italian adult horror-erotic comics published by Giogio Cavedon (Ediperiodici), who began launching a series of adult horror titles in the late 1960s, and Renzo Barbieri (Edifumetto) and others. Titles included Lucrezia, Rolando del Fico, Terror, Biancaneve, I Notturni, Playcolt, Vampirissimo Presenta, Il Vampiro Presenta, I Sanguinari, Wallenstein, Zora la Vampira, Sciacallo, Fiabe Proibite, Sexy Favole, Sexy Favole Doppie, Lo Scheletro, Le Avventure di Pinocchio, Fumetti Mezzanotte, Top, Naga, Zorro, Belzeba, Sukia, La Poliziotta, Ilula, 44 Magnum, Misteria, La Peccatrice, Casino, Telenovela vietata / Telefilm Proibiti, Scandali, Strega, Jeans Fumetti, Serie Mezzanotte, Serie Rosa, Tropici Crudeli and Serie Shock.

Beginning in 1995, Biffignandi began producing cover art for American paperbacks and recently, in 2012, he painted a handful of covers for the Swedish Fantomen comic.

To tie in with an exhibition in Perguia Palazzo della Penna (19 April-2 June 2014), Lo Scarabeo published L’arte di Alessandro Biffignandi as a limited volume of 560 numbered copies; the same publisher also released Biancaneve, a portfolio of 10 new paintings in a deluxe edition of only 60 numbered and signed copies, with a further 100 ‘standard’ edition copies (numbered 61-160) featuring 8 illustrations. A further collection of his covers, Sex and Horror: The Art of Alessandro Biffignandi, was published by Korero Press in 2016.

2 comments:

Johny Malone said...

Sad news, one of the creators of the graphic explosion of the 60s-80s.

Fumetti Man said...

The book is "Sex and Horror". Not "Sex and Blood".