1921
Italin American Cartoonists and Illustrators - The influence of Gregory La Cava and others in the field.


Cartoons were part of the popular culture well before the beginning of mass immigration in the 1880s. From that time on newly arrived Italian immigrants could see an abundance of stereotyped images of themselves that satirized their dress, manners, food, etc. The depiction of a mustachioed Italian playing an organ and entertaining with a dancing monkey titled "The Dago, the Monkey and the Cable Slot" was a popular portrayal in some American newspapers. Italian Americans started to enter the field in the early 1920s, first in animation and later in cartoons, comic strips and comic books. Gregory La Cava was a pioneer in animation who trained others who became legendary in the field. Walter Lantz, for instance, (Lanza) created "Woody Woodpecker" and "Joe Palooka," Dan Carlo was the chief artist for the popular "Archie" series, and John Romito was responsible for the popularity of "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "Captain America." Frank Frazetta is acknowledged as the best comic book artist for his exquisite skill in drawing the characters of "Thunda," "Conan," and "Tarzan," while Brooklyn's Buscema brothers were acclaimed for drawing Marvel comic strips. In addition, Carmine Infantino was credited with revamping "Batman," and Joe Orlando gained fame as creator of science fiction comics. On another level, Giovanni Fischetti became famous for political cartoons that appeared in many newspapers. In addition to performing as artists, Italian Americans have played an important part in administrative leadership in the field of comics. Notable examples include Gerard Calabrese, president of the Marvel Comic Group, Joe D'Angelo was president of King Features, and Steve Geppi oversees the a comic book empire that grosses 200 million dollars in annual revenue. So while Italian Americans were largely absent in the early phase of comics and cartoons, they would come to play a more important role by the mid-20th century.





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