Diabolik  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Diabolik is a fictional character, an anti-hero featured in Italian comics. He was created by sisters Angela and Luciana Giussani in 1962. His stories appear in monthly black and white digest-sized booklets. The character was inspired by several previous characters from French and Italian pulp fiction, primarily Fantômas.

Contents

Story

Diabolik is a ruthless master thief. He typically steals from criminals (and has no issue with killing them if need be, but rarely, if ever, kills the innocent or the police), and has a set of lifelike masks which he uses to fool his opponents, assuming every identity at his will. He seems to have a deep knowledge in many scientific fields, including chemistry, mechanics and computers. In his first appearances, Diabolik was a more straightforward villain who did not hesitate to murder anyone in order to accomplish his deeds. He was later given a more “Robin Hood”-like persona and was shown stealing essentially from criminals, in order to soften the series’ violence and amorality.

He was raised as an orphan on a secret island hideout of a criminal combine, where he learned all his criminal skills, including developing his special masks, before killing the head of the combine. Diabolik’s true name had never been revealed in the series, and he doesn’t know it himself. Diabolik took his name from a dangerous black panther that the head of the combine killed on the secret island. From issue #3 of the series, Diabolik is aided by his “moll,” Eva Kant, who has gained an increasing role as his partner.

Diabolik always drives a black Jaguar E-type car. Graphically inspired by the actor Robert Taylor, he usually wears a skintight black body suit that leaves only his eyes and eyebrows (very distinctive ones) exposed when going “into action.” Diabolik does not use firearms: his main weapons are the daggers he throws with uncanny ability, as well as a small dart gun with knockout darts. Eva drives a white Jaguar, and unusually goes into action wearing a heavy sweater and pants, no mask and no revealing clothing. The stories are set in a fictional town, Clerville, loosely inspired by Geneva, Switzerland.

Diabolik’s main opponent is Inspector Ginko, known only by his surname, a fierce police officer who however is always cheated by the astute tricks devised by Diabolik. The only other stable character is the noblewoman Altea, Ginko’s fiancee.

Publication

Diabolik first appeared in print on November 1, 1962 with the title Il re del terrore (in English: “The King of Terror”). Since 1997 a series of annual books with more complex stories exists. The Giussani sisters wrote much of the stories until 1980s, passing them gradually to Patricia Martinelli’s hands and others. The most significative artist working to the graphical part is Sergio Zaniboni, who has been drawing Diabolik since 1969 (currently sharing the role with Giorgio Montorio). Other artists working on the series include Brenno Fiumali, Franco Paludetti, Enzo Facciolo and Lino Jeva.

Some American reprints have appeared. The Pacific Comics Club published a couple in the 1980s. Most recently an American publisher called Scorpion started to publish digests in 2000 and did six before stopping.

Film

Italian filmmaker Mario Bava adapted the story for a 1968 feature film, Danger: Diabolik, produced by Dino DeLaurentis and starring John Phillip Law.

Influence

The popularity of Diabolik spurred a long series of characters directly or indirectly inspired to him, generally noticeable by the final “K” in their name. Some of them are a kind of satire.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Diabolik" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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