Romano Scarpa

Romano Scarpa at home, from the Blue Book

Considered by many the best of the Italian Disney authors, Romano Scarpa was both an artist and a writer. Born in Venice in 1927, he joined Disney (actually Arnoldo Mondadori, the Italian publisher that, at the time, had the rights to Disney comics) in 1953 after having worked in cartoon animation for his own small studio. A great fan of Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse adventures, he soon followed in his master's steps: when in 1955 the U.S. daily strips became self-contained gags instead of long adventures, he set himself to recreate the atmosphere and suspence of the old classics. He succeeded so well that many thought his stories were Gottfredson's. Many of his greatest stories were written by him, but much of his work is also based on other writers' scripts. He preferred Mickey, but this didn't stop him from drawing wonderful duck stories. He enriched the Disney universe with many new characters, several of whom have been adopted by other writers both in Italy and abroad; among his creations are Atomino Bip Bip, Trudy, Brigitta, Filo Sganga, Plottigatt, Paperetta Yč-Yč, Bruto and others. He has been an inspiration and a model for many other Italian artists, first and foremost Giorgio Cavazzano who started as his inker.

In 1994 he left Venice for the warmer climate of Fuengirola, Spain. He died there in 2005. At the request of the Danish fanzine DDF(R)appet I wrote a short piece to commemorate the Master. A memorial page on Francesco Spreafico's Dimensione Delta site holds the loving comments of hundreds of his fans.

The definitive reference on Scarpa used to be "the Blue book", my nickname for

Luca BOSCHI, Leonardo GORI, Andrea SANI,
Romano Scarpa, un cartoonist italiano tra animazione e fumetti,
Alessandro Distribuzioni, 1988.

Among other things it contains a 40-page interview with Scarpa and a detailed story index compiled by Alberto Becattini. Scarpa's photo above and the panel with Scarpa's own characters were scanned in from this book.

Long out of print and very hard to obtain, it has now been superceded by an updated and almost totally rewritten edition in 2001:

Alberto BECATTINI, Luca BOSCHI, Leonardo GORI, Andrea SANI,
Romano Scarpa: Sognando la Calidornia,
Vittorio Pavesio Productions, 2001.
ISBN 88-87810-16-8.

There is also some more information on Scarpa in "the Yellow book" by the same authors, a comprehensive treatise on all the Italian Disney authors.

Luca BOSCHI, Leonardo GORI, Andrea SANI,
I Disney Italiani,
Granata Press, 1990.

For an up-to-date index of all the Disney stories written or drawn by Scarpa, and their reprints in any country in the world, rather than any printed book you should consult the free INDUCKS database and its search engine COA. (All Disney comics publishers do, and they find its carefully updated info is more accurate than their own!)

Scarpa's periods

This is my personal breakdown of Scarpa's periods; of course, anything involving aesthetic judgement is going to be highly personal, so your mileage may vary and you may disagree with some or all of my classification. Note that the boundaries between the periods are based primarily on art, not scripts. Of course the transitions are never as abrupt as the years seem to indicate -- there is substantial overlap. The names identifying the periods are of my invention. For the references I am indebted to Alberto Becattini's excellent chronology of Scarpa's work, to be found in the Blue book quoted above. I have read all the stories I quote, of course, but sometimes only in a reprint. Most of the pictures have been scanned in from reprints and for this reason the colour is occasionally missing.

1953 - 1963 : Ancient.

His mice start out very Gottfredson-like; indeed, many readers thought his stories were actually from Gottfredson himself. The stroke is spiky but attractive. His ducks are peculiar, sort of squeezed. In this period he writes some of his best plots, although he hasn't yet attained his graphical apogee.

Sample stories:

1963 - 1966 : Dirty, Modernizing.

This is a transition phase. The characters are drawn very dynamically, so much so that they sometimes look slightly out of proportion. They seem to want to grow out of the simpler and more naive shapes they had in the preceding period and the nervous stroke is part of the attractiveness of this otherwise minor phase.

Sample stories:

1967 - 1973 : Archetypal.

Graphically, this is Scarpa at his best. An uncluttered, neat, elegant stroke with beautiful proportions. To me, very few Disney artists have ever come close to this perfection. And it sure didn't hurt that the great Giorgio Cavazzano, then at the start of his career and virtually unknown, was inking his pencils.

Sample stories:

1974 - 1983 : Maturity.

A long period of consistently good art. The style and proportions are those perfected in the Archetipal period, although there is that little bit that is different. Hard to precisely define the boundaries of this period.

Sample stories:

1984 - now : Modern.

Same proportions again but the stroke becomes heavier; the characters are simpler, more rubber-like. In this phase many new young artists start to take him as a model and there almost is an inflation of would-be Scarpas (not as many as the would-be Cavazzanos though!) Perhaps due to this, there is in some stories a certain feeling of tiredness in the art, which however disappears in others, most notably in those beautiful long stories where the Master writes his own plot. In this period he also introduces the "strip stories", a tribute to the Gottfredson days.

Sample stories:

It must be noted that the differences between Archetipal, Maturity and Modern are in fact rather subtle when compared to the differences with and between the previous periods. If one wanted to simplify, one could identify only two periods, the "old" one with the best plots and the "new" one with the best art, with the boundary somewhere around 1966-1967.

Frank (Filologo Disneyano)
All the comic images available from this page are © The Walt Disney Company Italia. They are provided for purposes of study and reference, to allow the reader to personally compare the periods being talked about and/or identify a foreign translation of a story. Disney's copyright is acknowledged and respected.

I also recommend visiting Sprea's Dimensione Delta and Eta Beta's The Last Balaboo, both Scarpa-specific. On Disney comics in general I also recommend Paolo Castagno's Papersera and, of course, the INDUCKS.

"Scarpa's periods" was originally written on 1995-09-04 (disney-comics digest 775) and was shortly afterwards transformed into this page in order to provide graphical references for the cited stories. It was, to my knowledge, the first ever web page about Romano Scarpa and probably one of the first web pages dedicated to any Disney author, except for the ones at Anonima Fumetti. Apart from minor touch-ups in 1996, there were no changes to this page until the sad news of the artist's death in 2005.

Last updated: 2005-05-22