By Giuseppe Trovato
Re-Print Permission Secured by Kevin Patrick
(Click images to see a larger version.)
The following interview with Andrea Bresciani was recorded by Giuseppe Trovato in February 1997. It was first published in Italy by ANAFI (National Association of Friends of Comics and Illustration) in their quarterly fanzine, Fumetto (‘Balloon’), No.25, March 1998, and appeared as part of a 20-page insert devoted to the work of Andrea Bresciani.
The English translation of this interview1 was prepared by Vittorio and Giuseppe Trovato, Melbourne, August 2007. Additional background research and preparation for online publication was provided by Kevin Patrick.
Giuseppe Trovato (GT): Mr. Bresciani, your career in the comic book world has many dark spots. We lose track of you in the 1950s, after the success of Tony Falco and Geky Dor. Shall we start with your date and place of birth?
Andrea Bresciani (AB): I was born on 29 January 19232 in Tolmino, located in the province of Gorizia, which was later ceded to Yugoslavia.
Although his name sounds Italian, Andrea Bresciani was actually born into a Slovenian family – his Slovenian name was Dušan Brešan. The town of his birth, Tolmin, was originally part of Slovenia, but, with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of the First World War (1914-18), large tracts of Slovenian territory were ceded to Italy. As a result, Tolmin became known as Tolmino, and formed part of the Italian province of Gorizia.
GT: Did you have any formal artistic training?
AB: No, none.
GT: Was your passion for comics inspired by the work of other artists?
AB: No, I worked for an architect, where I designed furniture. I didn’t attend any drawing classes, nobody taught me. After the war, there was not much money. I worked in Milano, but I lived in Pavia.
One day, on the train, somebody left behind a comic magazine. I started to read it, out of curiousity. That was the first time I saw a comic book. Then I started thinking: “If I could draw comic books, I could earn some extra money!”
Every night, returning from work, I started drawing. After three months, I took my best drawings and went to see a publisher in Milano and asked his opinion of my work. Luckily, when I went to see this publisher, his artist had just resigned. When a comic series [was] started, the publisher is supplied with ten episodes in advance, in case the artist gets sick, etc – a supply of ten weeks is reasonable. But this publisher was at the end of the last two weeks [of work], and if he did not find another artist…So, after three months of personal experiments, I found full-time work as a comic artist.
Throughout the 1920s and 30s, Italy became home to a vibrant comics publishing industry, issuing both translated reprints of imported comics (particularly American) and locally-produced comics.
During the 1930s and 40s, Benito Mussolini’s fascist government banned American comics (fearing their ‘corrupting’ influence), but Italian publishers continued to produce unauthorised ‘pirate’ editions of American comic strips, as well as original Italian comics.
The postwar years saw the new format of ‘piccolo’ comics – small, pocket-sized magazines, usually numbering less than 20 pages – became immensely popular in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. Both Tony Falco and Geky Dor were examples of ‘piccolo’ comics.
GT: Do you remember which comic strip that was? Perhaps they were some episodes of Saette? [Published by Edizioni Alpe]
AB: Yes, I think so, yes. But my memories are very confused.
GT: Did you also draw episodes of the humourous comic strip, Poldo?
AB: I did so many things that I do not remember. You showed me the collection of Tony Falco, but I have forgotten everything. Truly, you are awakening the past.
GT: What do you remember of the late 1940s-early 1950s, when you drew Tony Falco?
AB: For me, it was a job. I liked drawing for money and for fun. This is all; I do not know what else to add.
GT; Still, for [comic strip writer] Andrea Lavezzolo [1905-1981] you drew Geky Dor.
AB: Geky Dor… [Sighs]. It was a job like any other. I worked for a living.
Sadly, there are many gaps in our knowledge of Bresciani’s work for Italian publishers during the immediate postwar period. He drew many stories anonymously (a common policy enforced by publishers at the time), or he used to sign his artwork as ‘BRADUAN’. While exact records do not exist, it appears that, between 1945-50, he did draw some episodes for the weekly comic book,
Albi Dell’Intrepido (Intrepid Comic Books), for the publisher, Universo.
GT: After the 1950s, we lose all trace of you.
AB: I migrated to Australia.
GT: Why Australia? [Was it a] work agreement?
AB: No. I had heard how much comic books were in vogue in America, how much they earned, what was involved. As my town had become part of Yugoslavia, I gained the right to emigrate as a refugee. It would have cost me nothing to go to America.
Again, a brief historical discursion is needed to understand Bresciani’s personal circumstances after the war. During the interwar decades, the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs was formed in 1918. Renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929, it struggled to remain neutral in the face of Nazi Germany rise to power, but was unable to repel the German invasion of April 1941. Andrea’s mother took him and his two sisters, Bozena (‘Natalia’) and Vera, to northern Italy at the outbreak of the Second World War, where they adopted the Italian name ‘Bresciani’.
Bresciani’s Slovenian homeland was divided up between the ‘Axis Powers’ (Germany, Italy and Nazi-occupied Hungary) and remained an occupied nation until it was liberated in May 1945.
After the war, Slovenia became a ‘constituent republic’ of the larger Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Over 15,000 ethnic Italians were expelled from Slovenia in 1946-47, once the Communists assumed power. Many of these refugees fled back into northern Italy.
AB: I was given a list of jobs available in America – but there was no demand for artists! I was advised that I could not fill any of the listed categories. “I am an artist”, I said. I was asked to find myself a contract. I sent my artwork to five publishers, three of which expressed interest – Fawcett being one of them and they wanted me to come to America. With contract in hand, I went to the office to complete the paperwork. They asked me about my citizenship. “I am Italian,” I said. “That is a pity, [because] our quota of Italians to America is now closed. Why not try Australia?”
Australia? Australia? Who ever heard of it!? “Look,” they told me, “it is a rapidly advancing country, with many things to do.” I asked for information [and thought to myself] ‘well, I will go to Australia, it will cost me nothing, I will get a [free] trip, if it doesn’t work out, we will go back to Italy.’ So, I came to Australia [with my mother and two sisters.]
Beginning in 1947, the Commonwealth of Australia initiated a massive assisted migration programme, to boost Australia’s population (then numbering over 7.5 million) and assist in postwar reconstruction. New migrants (along with wartime refugees) were initially housed in quarantine centres and government-run hostels located around Australia. Migrants carried out work under government direction, until they could secure permanent employment. Approximately 1.68 million new migrants settled in Australia from 1947 to 1960.
GT: Did you disembark in Melbourne or Sydney?
AB: No, we arrived in Perth [Western Australia], and then we drove to the government hostel in Northam, not far from Perth. We had an agreement with the government of two years’ work. We had to accept one of the jobs available. At the hostel, I kept drawing. From Northam, I often went to Perth with my precious bundle of cartoons. I visited an advertising agency and showed them my artwork – they immediately gave me a contract for work, freeing myself from the agreement with the government.
I heard about Sydney, where life was much better, with more possibility for work and a better future for a comic strip artist. So, I moved to Sydney and started working for Atlas Publications. It was 1951.
Atlas Publications was the brainchild of Jack Bellew, the former Editor in Chief of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper (then owned by Frank Packer’s Consolidated Press). Bellew relocated to Melbourne in the mid-1940s, where he formed his new publishing venture with his former Consolidated Press colleagues, George Warnecke and Clive Turnbull. The popularity of its first comic book publication, Captain Atom, drawn by Arthur Mather, allowed Atlas Publications to expand its comic book range and expand into mainstream magazine publishing throughout the 1950s. In addition to his comic book work, Bresciani also provided interior artwork for the company’s other publications, such as Squire (a men’s magazine). Although Bresciani worked for the company while living in Sydney, Atlas Publications was based in Clifton Hill, Melbourne.
AB: I illustrated front covers of various comic books published by Atlas. One comic I remember well was Sergeant Pat of the Radio Patrol, for which I drew a complete story. Radio Patrol was an American series, written by Eddie Sullivan and drawn by Charles Schmidt. Atlas published its own stories of Sergeant Pat under licence. The official artist was the Czech-born Yaroslav Horak, better known as ‘Larry’, who was already famous for such comics as Skyman, Ray Thorpe, Jet Fury [and] Brenda Starr.
The first 30-40 issues of Atlas Publications’ Sergeant Pat comic book contained reprints of the original American newspaper strip, before the comic was initially passed on to Yaroslav Horak, followed by Bresciani, then onto Arthur Mather. Yaroslav Horak’s principal work for Atlas Publications during this period was The Lone Wolf (a western series originally created by Keith Chatto) and Brenda☆, a locally-drawn edition of the American comic strip, Brenda Starr.
GT: Did you draw the whole saga of Frontiers of Science?
AB: Yes, over approximately 12 years, one strip per day, five days per week. The scientific text was provided by Professor Stuart Butler, from the University of Sydney, while the comic strip script was written by Robert Raymond. I am trying to locate the original comic strip artwork and offer them for sale to some collectors.
Around the 1960s, the Australian comic book industry was at the end of its glorious era. A pity to say, but it was true. One of the last comic books I remember doing was drawing a few episodes of Smoky Dawson for KG Murray Publishing, around 1960. Smoky Dawson was originally a daily strip drawn by Albert De Vine for the Sydney Sun [newspaper]. In my spare time, I did illustrations for Adam, Man and Pocket Man, published by KG Murray of Melbourne. The one in Sydney was a branch office.3
GT: After you established yourself in Australia, did you go back to Italy?
AB: I migrated to Australia in 1950. So… [SIGHS], my first marriage broke down! When I remarried, we went to Spain for our honeymoon, where we lived for two-and-a-half years.
GT: While living in Spain, did you draw any comic strips?
AB: Yes, I did something for Brughera Publishing.
Juan Brughera established his publishing company, El Gato Negro, in 1910 and eventually launched his first humour magazine, Pulgaricto, in 1921, which featured comic strips. His sons, Pantaleon and Francisco, changed the company’s name to Editorial Brughera in 1939 and began publishing comic books in 1947, eventually dominating the Spanish comics market until the early 1980s.
GT: From Spain, did you return to Italy?
AB: No. I stayed in Europe until around 1980-81.
During his stay in Europe, Bresciani once again illustrated stories for the Italian comic, Albi Dell’Intrepido, including such stories as Il Sosia (The Double) and La Notte in Cui Nacque Lenny (The Night when Lenny was Born), between 1976-77.
GT: You told me of your stay in Germany. Did you do any work for local publishers there?
AB: No, not for a publisher. It was a bank which published a children’s magazine, which taught them how to save money. I established my residency in Monaco Di Baviera [West Germany], but frequently I went to Trieste, Italy, where I lived with one of my cousins. After living away from Trieste for some time, I telephoned [my cousin] to see if there were any letters for me. My cousin said, yes, there was a letter from Genoa. “From Genoa? But I do not know anyone there!” I told myself. My cousin could not see properly, but she managed to give me a name and a telephone number. The name was unknown; I cannot recall it even now…
I rang the number and I told him “I am Bresciani.” “Bresciani? Do you know that we have been looking for you for years? I have to come and interview you.” I told him, “Look, I am in Germany, in Monaco.” He replied “It doesn’t matter, we will come to Germany.”
I thought it was all a joke. Since I often travelled to Italy, we agreed that I would call them. So I did and we met at the Principe train station in Genoa. When they came, there were three of them. I cannot recall what we said and which magazine they were interviewing [me] for. I do recall, however, that in Italy they held annual comic exhibitions and begged me to participate in one. Each year they gave a trophy to the best artist – and one of these trophies was being kept by them for me, as they were unable to find me. But, since I was always on the move, I could not attend the exhibition and receive the trophy – I think it is still waiting for me in Italy! I remained in Europe, from 1976 until approximately 1981, when I returned to Sydney.
The abovementioned interviewers were Mr. Gian Mario Traverso and his son, Carlo, who met Bresciani on 4 June 1981. The interview, titled ‘Emergono Dal Limbo’ [They Emerge from Limbo] was not published until years later, when it appeared in the December 1998 edition of Fumetto. The trophy referred to by Bresciani was ‘La Targa Di Fumettoamicizia’ (Comic Friendship Plate) which was presented by the International [Comic] Fair of Genoa.
GT: Frontiers of Science was your last comic strip work. What else did you do?
AB: I did men’s and women’s fashion design. I had an office and an advertising agency with a Frenchman, John Tish, who also drew political cartoons for a newspaper. Then I moved away and we lost touch. We met again after ten years and celebrated with a lunch. Tish asked me if I have ever been inside an animated cartoon studio. “No, never,” I said. “Next time, come to lunch half-an-hour earlier and I will take you into the studio. We make animated cartoons for Hanna-Barbera.”
I went along and it was like entering a new world! I was fascinated. I went back to my office, called my workers together and said: “You know the work…there are plenty of clients…the studio is yours! I go now to enter another world!”
So, I left all that for animated cartoons! I started working there around 1970, before going to Spain for my honeymoon. We worked for Hanna-Barbera in an independent studio. Only later did Hanna-Barbera open their studio in Sydney.
During the 1970s and 80s, the American animation production company, Hanna-Barbera, opened a string of international production studios in Europe, South America and Asia. Hanna-Barbera’s Australian animation studio was established in Sydney in 1972 and branched out into animated TV commercial production in 1974. Hanna-Barbera’s Australian operations were eventually bought out by Walt Disney’s Australian subsidiary in 1989.
GT: You mentioned that you stayed in the Philippines.
AB: Yes, I moved to Manila around 1981. The Sydney studio of animated cartoons sent me there to open another studio. In Manila, we worked for the American company, Marvel [Productions]. I remember the TV series we did – Defenders of the Earth.4 It featured the comic strip heroes Flash Gordon, Mandrake the Magician & Lothar, The Phantom and Ming, Tyrant of the planet Mongo.
The other two [animated] series I remember were Robin Hood and Swiss Family Robinson. I was the artistic director in charge.
Bresciani’s other animated film credits from this period include The New Scooby-Doo Movies (1972); 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1985); Alice through the Looking Glass (1987); Hiawatha (1988); The Corsican Brothers (1989); and Otherzone (1998).
GT: Australia was not your personal choice, but a destination decided by fate, even though you dreamed of living in America. Do you have any regrets?
AB: No, I do not mourn. I take life as it comes, positively.
GT: Professionally and artistically. Sydney would have offered you more job opportunities – so, why did you move to Melbourne when you returned to Australia?
AB: My sisters, my son and my ex-wife lived in Melbourne. I preferred to be close to them.
GT: Have you ever thought of restarting your comic book activities?
AB: No! I don’t believe that such activities would earn [me] a living in Australia today. At my age, one can no longer dream!
Towards the end of his career, Andrea Bresciani pursued other creative passions, such as sculpture. He specialised in creating dynamic sculptures of horses, sometimes with an American Indian theme. He received orders for up to 250 of these figures from Japan, France and the United States, but as he was unable to meet such high-volume demands for these figures, he ceased making them. However, he left his family an exquisite collection of statuettes.
Andrea was a modest man who demonstrated an exceptional, natural ability in both his comic book illustrations and all his creative endeavours. He always said, with pride: “The little I have learnt, I have learnt by myself.”
Andrea Bresciani passed away on 7 February 2006 at his home during his afternoon ‘siesta’. He enjoyed every drop of his life; not only did he enjoy travelling and fine food, but loved hang-gliding, which was his favourite sport. He died happily, as if he were dreaming of flying to freedom.
Giuseppe Trovato was born in Italy, but together with his wife and two children, migrated to Australia in October 1973, where he eventually settled in suburban Melbourne. A lifelong comics fan, his personal library includes collections of international comic strip characters specially prepared by Italian publishers (many of which are unavailable in English), along with an extensive collection of Australian comics. He has written extensively on Italian and Australian comics for such publications as the Australian edition of Il Globo, and the Italian comic fanzine, Fumetto.
1 A modified version of Giuseppe Trovato’s original interview with Andrea Bresciani was published in the Australian edition of the Italian-language newspaper, Il Globo, on 2 March 2005 (Melbourne, Victoria.) Other articles on Andrea Bresciani by Giuseppe Trovato include: ‘Addio, Andrea Bresciani’ (Farewell, Andrea Bresciani), Fumeto, March 2006 and Il Globo (Melbourne), 21 April 2006; ‘Tony Falco (In Memory of Andrea Bresciani)’, Il Globo (Melbourne), 27 March 2007.
2 Andrea Bresciani was born on 27 January 1923, but due to a mistaken transcription on his Australian passport, it was recorded as 29 January 1923. It was Andrea’s wish to use only the second date of birth and, out of respect for his wishes, this has been done.
3 KG Murray Publishing Company’s editorial offices were always based in Sydney (Australia), not Melbourne.
4 Although Defenders of the Earth was, a TV showcase for comic strip characters owned by King Features Syndicate, the animated series was produced by Marvel Productions, while a spin-off comic book was briefly published by Marvel Comics in 1987.