The Italian Almanac

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Spiderman & Superman

Italian News - May 23

A fascinating and fittingly colourful show in the northern Italian town of Rovereto looks at the influence comic books and cinema have had on one another. In recent decades Hollywood blockbusters like the Superman, Batman and Spiderman series have highlighted the close ties between the two worlds. But organizers of the Rovereto show stress that this relationship has always existed, in part because these art forms grew up together.

Richard Felton Outcault's The Yellow Kid, considered the first modern comic strip for its use of balloons for dialogue, was published in 1895; the same year France's Lumiere brothers gave the first public showing of a cinematic film in Paris. Organizers say that the relationship has been fruitful for both sides ever since - few films based on comic strips have flopped at the box office. The exhibition, entitled 'Cinema & fumetto. I personaggi dei comics sul grande schermo' (Cinema and Comics. Comics characters on the big screen), kicks off at the town's museum of modern and contemporary art on May 27.

It features over 350 original movie posters, set photographs, comic strips, costumes and video clips, including one specially made by Universal Studios. The show takes a chronological approach, starting at the beginning of the 20th century and working up to the present day. It looks at film interpretations of 34 comic-book characters. Among the stars are American heroes like Buck Rogers, Dick Tracy, Flash Gordon and classic Italian characters, such as cowboy Tex and criminal genius Diabolik.

The rest of Europe is also well represented, especially the Franco-Belgian contingent of characters like Tintin, Asterix and Lucky Luke. There are beautiful shots of Larry 'Buster' Crabbe holding a space pistol in the 1939 version of Buck Rogers and of Kirk Alyn as the Man of Steel in flight in The Adventures of Superman (1948). There is also set photography of Jane Fonda starring as Barbarella, in the 1968 screen adaptation of the French strip, as well as material from Tim Burton's Batman (1989).

The show runs at Rovereto's until September 17. It will then go on a tour of Italian towns.