Dick Fulmine, the Italian-American hero

Dick Fulmine was born in 1938, the same year Superman was first published by DC Comics in the United States. It was also the year the Fascist regime in Italy reinforced its embargo on American comics, giving way to the creation of a new range of indigenous superheroes, and to the Italianization of the most popular American characters. This sometimes meant inventing a local substitute… though sometimes changing the name – from Superman to “Ciclone, l’Uomo d’acciaio” (“Cyclone, the Steel Man”), and later “Ciclone, l’Uomo Fenomeno” (“Cyclone, the Phenomenal Man”) – was considered enough.

Dick Fulmine, “the great Italian-American policeman, feared by every gangster”, was the most popular of these new de-Americanized comic book heroes. He was invented by publishers Gino Cesarotti and Nino Della Casa, journalist Vincenzo Baggioli, and illustrator Carlo Cossio – some say in Milan’s “Bar degli sportivi”, where the group regularly met to chat and exchange ideas.

Their stroke of genius was this American plain-clothes cop of Italian origin: a pugnacious, boastful giant who tackled the bad guys with violent strength, shouting his battle cry, “Fatevi sotto, piccioncini miei!” (“Square off, my dears!”). The “bad guys” obviously reflected the common stereotypes of the regime’s racist prejudices, and were usually Afro-Americans, Latinos, Asiatic or, quite often, Jews.

On March 29, 1938, Dick Fulmine – whose face combined Mussolini’s, Gary Cooper’s, and Primo Carnera’s – was unchained for the first time in an episode titled “La banda del pazzo” (“The Madman’s Gang”), in the second issue of “Albi dell’Audacia”, published by Vittoria (also the publisher of “L’Albogiornale”, another publication on which the cop “feared by every gangster” would repeatedly give proof of his courage).

And thanks to the relentless talent of Carlo Cossio, Dick Fulmine didn’t retire from the fight against evil until 1955.

January 28, 2014