Saturday, 5 September 2009

Off the shelf: Giovannetti

If any book has influenced me to end up as a cartoonist it must be this one, 'The Penguin Max', published in paperback by... Penguin, in 1962. It belonged to my dad and it sat on a shelf behind glass, in his bureau, among various highbrow books on Plato, Emerson, Shakespeare, etc. It must have been a gift from someone as my dad was hardly a cartoon fan - it was the only cartoon book in the house when I was a young child.
If I was careful with it and had clean hands I was allowed to sit quietly and 'read' it, usually at Christmas. In it's pages were silent stories of a hamster called Max trying his hand at various activities, usually getting over-excited and ending up the worse for it, though now and then coming out on top. Many of the stories, and Max himself, made me laugh out loud, and still do.
'Max' is by Pericle Luigi Giovannetti. I can find nothing about him on the internet, and yet he created one of the best characters in cartoonland. In the front of the book is a biography of Max:

Max was born in Punch, London, in April 1952. Before his tenth birthday he had achieved an international reputation and is particularly well known in Great Britain, the United States, and Japan (where he passes under the name of Mr Makkusu-san). After service in the R.A.F., in which he reached the honorary rank of pilot officer, he transferred to the Royal Navy and was appointed mascot to H.M.S. Birmingham in 1953. In 1957 he was an honorary member of the Mount Kenya Expedition and that year, in order to underline his neutrality, joined the Swiss Air Force as heraldic beast of Jet Fighter Squadron No. 21. In 1958 he was placed on Enzo Ferrari's desk.
Max receives and deals with innumerable letters from his public in almost every country of the world. In addition to the present volume he has also published Max, Nothing but Max, and Max Presents, which he edited. Max receives minor assistance, such as drawings etc., from Pericle Luigi Giovannetti, who lives at Ascona in Switzerland.

... and that's it. If anyone knows anything more please let me know.
I should warn you that this blog may, for a while, become the Max Appreciation Society. Over the next few days I'm going to post, perversely perhaps, a single drawing a day of one sequence. Then follow that up occasionally with other sequences. I know it would be more intelligent to post whole sequences at once but each drawing is worth seeing large and you won't have to click on it to see it properly - and it will take up more days for this blogger, who is struggling to find new things to post from an ever-dwindling supply of material... So there.

14 comments:

dave Follett said...

Max is brilliant. I pored over max books when I was a kid. I pored over a lot of books when I was a kid....

nonstickplans said...

Glad you're a fellow Maxist, Dave.

Shame there's so little about Giovannetti around - he's not even in my World Encyclopedia of Cartoons, which has 'more than 1200 alphabetical and cross-referenced entries on cartoons and cartoonists'.

Vincent said...

Just found my first Max book here at a local used bookstore. Found your site while trying to find out more about his creator. I agree with you these strips are great. Too bad there is not more out there about Giovannetti. Enjoyed seeing your work also.

Sue said...

This evening I stumbled across Giovannetti's name and Max on an art blog (not this one) and my long long search for Max's books (whose name I could not remember from childhood and whose books have gone missing from my possessions) and so was nearly impossible to find because of that missing information. I am so happpy to see pics of Max and his antics at last and I have already found a book and bought it online this evening. What a relief! It has been bugging me for years and no-one seemed to know who I was talking about when I described Max.
Thanks for your lovely posts.

nonstickplans said...

Thanks Vincent and Sue. It's nice to know Max is still remembered and appreciated, even if his creator isn't.

Nikita said...

OK, here is how profound Max can be.
As kids my sister and I rented the book from the local library and laughted at it with our older sister again and again. Time went by and we became adults. My sister found him again and gave him to our older sister as a gift. Her house burnt to the ground and almost everything was lost, one exception being Max who managed to survive smoke damaged, and tattered, but all the more precious because of it. Max is on display in her home and she has a tattoo of him. Her husband also got a tattoo of him in honor of her. Max is very, very special to us and I am also on the search for Giovannetti. I think he may have died in 2001. I wish I had thought to contact him sooner to let him know how special that little hamster is!

aalison.berry said...

Was lent this book by a neighbour. Enjoyed reading it - some make you smile, some make you laugh out loud.
Then enjoyed watching the family read it - seeing them switch from smiles to explosive laughs and back as they turned the pages.

TankieGirlie said...

Nikita, I too have a Max tattoo! (from the bubble blowing scene) It's really cool to know there are some people out there that know and love Max! I just found a Max book on Etsy called "Nothing But Max" I'm excited to get it!!

aalison.berry said...

I've put a Max group on facebook - would it be OK to post a link to your blog?

nonstickplans said...

Thanks for all the comments about Max. It looks like there are quite a few Maxists still around.
Doesn't seem to be any more info about Giovannetti though. Perhaps facebookers can help - you're welcome to link here. What's your group called?

aalison.berry said...

Thanks, it's 'Max - by Pericle Luigi Giovannetti'

Anonymous said...

Got my 1954 hardback left to me by my Dad. I grew up loving it, and along with my Punch compendiums I will always laud a different, but far more pleasant time.

James Dylan Rivis said...

I just snagged a First Edition HC of 'Max Presents' and must say that he looks very familiar. Absolutely adorable and hila5rious !! Having grown up (1950's)in a literary household in England I am sure that I must have encountered Max in Punch as the magazines were often lying around. What a great find !!

Anonymous said...

Max è semplicemente meraviglioso!

acquistai un volume delle sue avventure, molti anni fa a Berna in Svizzera Max das Murmeltier, über das die Welt schmunzelt ...

http://kammeo.blogspot.it/