From Fossati to the Inducks:
history of a database of Italian Disney comics

(translation by Armando Botto)

April 1982 is an historical date for Italian Disney comics fans. The first number of the new series of "IF" came out (edited by Gianni Bono and Alfredo Castelli), featuring a bulky dossier of 44 pages titled "Disney Made in Italy", in which Franco Fossati supplied the names of the authors and other information for all the Italian production of comics appeared on "Paperino" and "Topolino" until that time. In the following number, the dossier was completed with the data relative to the "Albi d'Oro", to "Almanacco Topolino", and to other lesser publications.
"A precious tool", Topolino himself commented in a panel at page 66. But it was much, much more than that. In fact, while the data about story titles, plots, and characters could have been collected by any fan (with a lot of patience and a rich collection...), the information about the authors (scriptwriters and drawers) had not been available - until that moment - outside a narrow circle of people connected to the publishing house (Mondadori, at the time). The data supplied by Fossati allowed all the fans, for the first time, to associate a name to those drawing styles they (perhaps) had laboriously managed to identify, and also to the scripts, even more difficult to catalogue.
Some years after, in 1986, the list of "collaborators" in the colophon of every issue of "Topolino" started to include only the scriptwriters and the drawers of the stories actually included in the issue itself (until then, all "collaborators" were listed in each issue, regardless of their involvement in it); later (coinciding more or less - with Walt Disney Italia's takover of the management of the publications), the names of the authors of Italian stories started to be indicated in the story's first page (strangely, that doesn't happen yet for stories of foreign production, with the exception of those published in the prestigious "Zio Paperone"). From 1937 (year of production of the first "Italian" story, "Paolino Paperino e il mistero di Marte"), it took 51 years before our authors received full and explicit acknowledgment for their Disney stories.

But let's get back to the Fossati dossier. Sixty-four pages loaded with data are a treasure, but not an easily manageable one. In which "Topolino" issue was the story featuring Codino, the sea-horse? In which story did OK Quack first appear? The information are in the Fossati dossier, but to find them one must leaf through all the pages with a lot of attention. So, when - five years ago - a visit to the Epierre stand at Lucca Comics allowed me to finally find the fabled numbers of "IF" from 1982 (of which I had been hearing for a long time), I immediately thought of converting the data into electronic format, to be able to browse through them using a word processor. I did not own a scanner yet, but (thanks to a more recent "IF" issue I bought in the same occasion) I had gotten in touch on the Internet - with a small group of Disney fans all over the world, and I easily found the help I needed to accomplish the enterprise.
I didn't know yet that the translation into electronic format of the Fossati data was only the beginning of an involving and amusing adventure. In the same group of passionate fans there was a Dutch youth, Harry Fluks, with the crazy idea of creating a world-wide database collecting information on all the Disney comics ever published. Clearly, the information from Fossati was precious in that context... but there were two problems. The first was the format of the data: that obtained from the Fossati dossier had to be opportunely translated. The second problem were the copyrights: Fluks' database was born public and free, while Fossati's work was evidently his property. Luckily, both problems were easy enough to solve: the "translation" was taken care of by an appropriate program by Francesco Stajano, an Italian "Disney philologist" and computer science expert who lives and works in Great Britain; and the permission to publish the information on the Internet, with the only obvious condition of crediting the source, was granted to us by Fossati himself, contacted by Gianfranco Goria.

Fossati's unexpected and premature death, a few months later, removed every hope that he could continue the work of cataloguing Disney stories by Italian authors. But in the meantime, as I have already said, Walt Disney Italy, new publisher of the Italian Disney series, had begun to indicate explicitly the names of the authors; it was just a matter of collecting and organizing the data, thus continuing Fossati's work. Therefore, with the help of many friends (all met on the Internet!) I am maintaining the index of the Italian Disney stories, not only updating it as new stories are produced (and old ones are reprinted: our index also keeps note of all the known reprints for the non-amatorial market - of every story!), but also continuously correcting the unavoidable errors in Fossati's dossier.
Yes, because Fossati gathered the information about the authors from Mondadori's payment invoices. But it sometimes happened that a story commissioned to a drawer was then "redirected" by him to a friend; the latter, then, is the real author, while the invoices (and, consequently, Fossati) carry the name of the former. Many artists, who are renowned today, have begun as "ghosts" for a colleague; this is one of the curious and interesting pieces of data that can be found in the updated index. In fact, the "first story" of Cavazzano, Asteriti, Scala, Amendola, and Massimo De Vita was attributed by Fossati to Scarpa, Gatto, Bottaro, Bordini, and Pier Lorenzo De Vita, respectively.

Then, there are dark areas into which it is very difficult to penetrate. Little we know, alas, about the period between 1982 (the year where Fossati' s work stops) and 1986 (when the official acknowledgement of the authors' names began to appear): these are the "dark years of the Middle Ages". And little we know about the authors who collected their wages not directly, but through a "studio" or "staff": both Fossati and the official acknowledgements write "Bargadà" in order to indicate the work for which the "Recreo Studio" was paid (but very rarely the drawer is Francisco Bargadà himself); and they use "Staff of IF" to indicate a group of authors who only recently (and not always) have started to be specified. The recent proliferation of Disney publications does not help us in our enterprise, either; unavoidably, we succeed in covering only partially some of these (Minni & C., Paperinik), while others (Cip & Ciop, Leg Friends...) escape us completely. It is evident, therefore, that every contribution is entusiasthically accepted: if you think you can help us, please e-mail me at the following address:

my e-mail address

The index of Italian Disney stories is now completely integrated in the world-wide database, that goes under the name of "Inducks Project". Our work is available on the Internet and its use is completely free, provided that some general conditions of use are respected, which I arbitrarily summarize here in two main points: he who uses our data must always acknowledge the source, referring to the address http://here.is/Inducks or (for stories of Italian production) http://www.cce.unifi.it/~marcobar/DisneyIndex/indice.html; he must also allow us to freely incorporate in our database whichever correction and addition possibly performed by him. Net-surfing from the above mentioned pages, you'll easily find: the complete text of the licence of use; the list of all the collaborators involved in the project; and - unavoidably - very many pages of interest to the comics fan: you are all invited.