Mario Nerbini

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Mario Nerbini was born in Florence on November 9th 1899, his father Giuseppe being a publisher and journalist.

He began his career as head of production for the magazines of the publishing father company, with amongst them the publishing of “420” which is generally considered the first comic book published in Italy.

In the thirties father and son - seeing the success magazine of the magazine “Jumbo”, published by the company Vecchi (SAEV) and containing strips translated from English comics - had an intuition that changed the history of the publishing house : investing in comics, a new form of popular publishing coming from overseas and aimed at children’s entertainment.

With the collaboration of the drawners Gaetano Vitelli and Giove Toppi, on December 28, 1932 they turned the movie character of Mickey Mouse into paper comic with the comics weekly magazine "Topolino" (Italian name for "Mickey Mouse") presented in a large attractive format. This magazine had a big sucess, launching the best of the Mario Nerbini's publisher career.

However - and perhaps The Nerbini ignored that comic strips on the character already existed in the USA – Walt Disney was quick to protest and forced them to buy rights from “King Features Syndicate” (Disney's distributor in Italy) if they want to publish authentic stories.

On October 14, 1934 Nerbini launched “L'Avventuroso” consisted of stories drawn (accompanied by peculiar balloons, comics, and without the captions that usually accompanied them) and contained classical comics such as “Flash Gordon” and “Secret Agent X-9” both by Alex Raymond, “Radio Patrol” by Eddie Sullivan and Charles Schmidt, and, later, “Mandrake the Magician” by “Lee Falk” and “Phil Davis”. The success was immediate with 500,000 copies a week and Mario Nerbini was confrmed as one of the most famous publishers in Italy.

Later Mario Nerbini has the intuition to bind some of theses stories in complete versions to resell them in separate comic-books that remained on sale at newsstands longer than magazines and allowed a prolonged gain over time. See the example of "Albi grandi avventure - Mandrake".

In 1935, however, he made a false step when giving up the exclusive of "Topolino" to concurrent publisher Mondadori, an error destined to weigh considerably on the subsequent events of the publishing company.

Between 1935 and 1937, the then fascism regime began to consider that the success of the comics began present a lack of educational values and became increasingly critical about stories published by the Nerbini company, mainly as these stories were in fact imported from the United States.

In July 1938, the culture minister ordered all publishers to remove the imported stories (including imitations) from the newspapers, on pain of suppressing their publications. For Nerbini, it was a serious blow as he was suddenly in need of replacing large amount of material but it apears that new releases of only Italian comics were made like a qualitative decline.

As the only review outside the new power directives remained “Topolino, now owned by publisher Mondadori, Mario Nerbini soon realized that he had committed an unforgivable mistake by giving it a few years earlier.

In 1941, with the entry of the United States into the war, the situation became unsustainable. In reason of paper restrictions, the number of pages of “L'Avventuroso” was reduced until February 1943 when, after health problems, he resolved to sell this title to Mondadori publications. Shortly thereafter he was forced to leave Florence, sheltering in Milan, before to know in the summer of 1944, a total destruction of archives and machinery by antifascists and partisans.

Returning to Florence at the end of the war, in 1945 he tried to get in the business back by republishing some of his greatest successes in the books of the "Albi grandi avventure " series, but now most of them were drawings based on loss of the originals and the quality was modest.

In 1945 Nerbini declared a request for bankruptcy, but the court refused it. In 1946 he tried again the paper of periodical publishing, with "L'Italo-Americano illustrated", an innovative bilingual comic book, English and Italian, aimed at an adult audience, but which he had to close in 1947.

In 1948 Nerbini succeeded in obtaining exclusivity for the stories of the “The Phantom”, preparing to welcome a new weekly: "Il Giornale dell'Uomo Mascherato", which also contains other famous comics; after having changed its name several times, however, he was forced to interrupt the publication in 1949.

However after once ore a request from “King Features Syndicate” to have also paid rights on reprints of stories already published, he left the field and quits the company in 1953, entrusting the debt company to Gino Ghigoni, already faithful colleague of his father, but the publishing house kept the name of Nerbini.

In moved to Rome with his wife Tina Meli, who was married in 1949 and, there, started a new publishing house with the name "Edizioni Avventure Americana", giving from 1956 , a series of books in vertical format containing some of the adventures that had made the history of comics. The initiative was successful and, in 1958, Mario was able to produce the series "Il Vascello" (under the name of "EdizioniLa Freccia), containing some stories of the Phantom and Mandrake the Magician. Between 1960 and 1961, he finally launched the series «Collana super Albo» (see for Mandrake: "Super Albo – Mandrake (La Freccia)" and reprinted some of his great classics, taking advantage of the rekindling interest in comics, now re-evaluated as a means of expression and become the object of passionate collecting.

In 1962, undermined by precarious health conditions, he ceded almost all the material he owned to Edizioni "Fratelli Spada", long interested in purchasing: he kept only "Cino and Franco" comics magazine for himself, hoping for a reprint occasion, which never occurred. After the launch of some new characters and the edition of a new magazine (Avventura West in 1963), his career in the publishing world was interrupted in February 1966 with the last series of the series «Heroes dell'Avventura». He died on June 25, 1987 in Rome.

Various Documentation