The Italian Almanac

Tex Willer

Tex Goes to Portugal

Sharp-shooting Italian comic-book hero Tex Willer is the star of a top international graphic-art fair in the southern Portuguese town of Moura. Tex, Italy's most famous comic character of the 20th century, is a kind-hearted Western hero who believes in justice. He was created in 1948 by Italian cartoonist Gian Luigi Bonelli (1908-2001), who is thought to have based him initially on American actor Gary Cooper.

Unlike Hollywood Western heroes of that time, Tex is a friend of Native Americans and their cause. After marrying his beautiful Indian wife Lilyth, the US ranger becomes an honoured member of the Navajos, who call him Eagle of the Night, and one of his side-kicks is Navajo warrior Tiger Jack. As a result, some critics have hailed Bonelli's creation as an early crusader against racism and discrimination.

The 16th edition of the Moura fair, which runs until June 3, features an exhibition of some of the stunning original artwork produced by Tex's illustrators over the years.Much of the material has never been on public display before. There is also a show of Tex's comics, including a selection of books from the massive collection belonging to his biggest fan in Portugal. Tex cartoonist Fabio Civitelli is attending the fair to receive an award and present some behind-the-scenes secrets to enthusiasts.

According to publishers Sergio Bonelli Editore, each edition of Tex sells around 200,000 copies in Italy. He is also popular outside the country, especially in Norway, Brazil, France, Turkey and Croatia. During his adventures, Tex has fought in the American Civil War, defeated Butch Cassidy's 'Wild Bunch', met Geronimo, thwarted an attack on President Ulysses S. Grant and much besides.

Italy has produced some of the world's finest comic-art stylists. These include late greats Angela and Luciana Giussani, the creators of the iconic black-clad supercriminal Diabolik; Hugo Pratt, the maker of the Conradesque adventurer Corto Maltese; and Guido Crepax, the master purveyor of comic erotica.