By the end of April, the book “Hello Bing” was published in Zagreb, commemorating the first issuing of Alan Ford comics in May 1969. Written by Ivan Sršen and Antonija Radić, the book is based on an extensive interview with Max Bunker, one of the authors and the publisher of the Italian comics which has cult status across former Yugoslavia.
The book, announced as a present for the 50th birthday of the Group TNT to its fans, has been promoted through a marketing campaign, which includes billboards and availability and bookshops and through the distribution network od Večernji List, one of the most influential newspapers in Croatia.
Besides the interview, made in Milan, the new book also contains essays about the meaning and history of this dark humor classic, as well as an afterword by Serbian columnist Teofil Pančić. For instance, the readers can learn about the subtle mocking of fascism through the slogans on the t-shirts worn by the character Grunf. The book’s format mimics the format of the comics, containing a set of caricatures and crossword puzzle.
Alan Ford, the comics parody of secret agent stories was created by the Italian writer Max Bunker (Luciano Secchi, born 1939) and the artist Magnus (Roberto Raviola, 1939-1996). Magnus had drawn the first 75 monthly episodes, returning to the series only once, to draw the 200th issue.
The series become widely popular two years after its 1969 origin, with the introduction of the character Superciuk (known as Superhik in ex-Yugoslavia), an ‘alcoholic opposite Robin Hood’ who steals from the poor to give to the rich. The episode number 600 is expected to come out in Italy in May 2019.
Publishing of Alan Ford comics in former Yugoslavia first began in 1972 as part of the Superstrip imprint of the Croatian newspaper company Vjesnik. It soon become widely popular and gained cult status mainly because the original humor was upgraded with the excellent translation by the editor and journalist Nenad Brixy (1924-1984). In 2015 the town of Varaždinske Toplice erected a memorial plaque to Brixy for his contribution in promotion of the Croatian language.
The grotesque comics which mercilessly satirized all aspects of society had enormous influence on the popular culture in the region of former Yugoslavia, inspiring comedy production in various media, from Serbian movies (The Marathon Family, Balkan Express) to TV series like the Bosnian “Surrealists,” as well as political satire of Slovenian newspaper Mladina (which fabricated an ‘apocryphal’ episode of the comics featuring Josip Broz Tito) and underground music with critical lyrics by Macedonian ska-punk band Superhiks.
According to unofficial sources from Croatian comics community, Bunker recently refused to renew the agreement with the Croatian publisher Strip-agent d.o.o. Therefore the Serbian publisher Color Media International remains the only company providing new issues of Alan Ford from Slovenia to North Macedonia.
The book “Hallo Bing” joins a growing library of cultural research works which referred to Alan Ford phenomenon, from the book “Comics, inscription with human face” by Tomislav Osmanli (1987) to “Flowershop in the House of Flowers” by Lazar Džamić (2012) which first included interviews with authors and translators.
The 50-year anniversary was celebrated in Slovenia also, through an exhibition “Alan Ford runs the victory lap” in Ljubljana, presenting 162 original panels drawn by Magnus between 1969 and 1975.