Zagor is a long-running series from the Italian publisher Sergio Bonelli Editore about a hero of the same name. Its creators were writer Guido Nolitta, who was Sergio Bonelli himself, and artist Gallieno Ferri. The publisher’s website has an English description of the feature here and a English FAQ with responses by Bonelli here. It also has synopses of past issues which one can translate using Google Translate. For a long time Ferri did all the covers. Bonelli died in 2011.

The feature is set in America in the first half of the 19th century. Zagor makes his home in a region called Darkwood which has swamps and forest and is in the north-east, south of the Great Lakes. He wears a red shirt with a thunderbird chest symbol and his chief weapon is a stone axe. He fights to protect the weak against those who would oppress them, often taking the side of Indians, from whom he received the name Za-gor-te-nay, “The Spirit with the Axe”. He is accompanied in his adventures by Cico, a plump Mexican who provides the comic relief. Zagor’s adventures have had fantastic elements of all kinds. His arch-enemy is an evil super-scientist called Professor Hellingen. Comic Vine has a detailed summary of his origin story here.

Epicenter Comics has just published a graphic novel called Zagor: Terror from the Sea, by Mauro Boselli and Stefano Andreucci. I believe this must be a translation of Zagor #386-#388 from 1997. The Bonelli website has a cover image for a volume called Zagor: The Red Sand which I assume is upcoming from Epicenter. This might be a collection of the Nolitta/Ferri/Franco Bignotti story from #113-#116, 1975. Terror from the Sea is apparently one of the strip's fantastic stories, and The Red Sand a grim frontier one.

More information, and preview pages from several issues, can be found at the Bonelli website. The panel here is from the character's first appearance, and this page has an image of the strip's many characters as of Zagor #600.

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I have a Serbian edition of the three-parter from Zagor #107-#109 and the opening pages of #110, 1974. The writer was Nolitta and the artist Franco Donatelli. The original comics were already long by American standards - in the region of 96 pages - so it has 284 story-pages. It’s B&W, as the original comics were, and about 20.6x14.8 cm. It uses the cover of #109 and the title of #108 (or rather its Serbian equivalent).

Donatelli's art is in a style close to Ferri’s. It's a bit like Curt Swan's. His storytelling is strong, better than that in a lot of Silver Age US comics. All the pages have three tiers. I can't read Serbian, but the balance of words and pictures seems good. (I don't like comics that are word-light. Silent movies aren't superior to sound ones.) The captions are pretty brief and there are no thought balloons but there is much dialogue, including scenes of conversation.

The story begins with Zagor and Cico returning home to Darkwood after a long journey. The local cabins are deserted and an Indian village has been destroyed. In one cabin they find a trapper who tells them that fires occurred in three Indian settlements the same night. These were apparently caused by lightning, although the nights were clear. The Indians took them to be a divine warning and left. As for the trappers, Fort Bravery, the local outpost, has gotten a new commander called Colonel Kraizer who has revoked their licenses to trap in the region.

While they are talking soldiers take up a position near the cabin. Zagor shouts to them they’re coming out, but when the trio emerge the soldiers fire, killing the trapper and injuring Ciko. Zagor defeats them and tends to Cico. Cico realises that all the soldiers are dead, which astonishes Zagor.

Zagor takes Ciko to the fort to get him attention. The soldier at the gate is hostile but Col. Kraizer is helpful. When Ciko has recovered Zagor and he return to their cabin.

Zagor tries to contact the Indians by sending a drum message using a hollow log. He finally receives a reply, and he and Ciko leave. They hear a deafening whistle and see a dazzling trail in the sky which is followed by an explosion that knocks them flat. They realise their cottage has been destroyed and they have narrowly escaped death.

Zagor hears some people approaching. They turn out to be soldiers, who are astonished to see them still alive and prepare to kill them. Zagor pleads that he spoke to Col. Kraizer...

At this point (p. 78, p.79[1]) the volume has filler tiers that appear to correspond to the end of part 1 and the start of part 2. (The story opens with a tier with the title and writer's and artist's credits.) The note on which part 1 ends is a bit odd, though: you'd expect it to end with the soldiers opening fire, as they do on the first page of part 2. I think it probably did, and that those panels (the bottom tier of part 1's final page) were eliminated from this edition because the sequence was recapitulated at the start of the next part.

To be continued!

(1) Bonelli's website indicates the original issue had 96 story pages but the first 20 completed the previous adventure. Which leaves 76 pages, in my copy pp.3-78.

Pt 2.

Zagor repeats that they spoke with the commander of Fort Bravery, but the soldiers open fire. Cico takes cover and Zagor fights back, first using his gun, then his stone axe. One of the soldiers gets the drop on Zagor but is killed by a thrown knife before he can fire.

Zagor guesses this was thrown by his Indian friend Tonka. Tonka shows himself and they greet each other. Cico, not knowing the fight is over, swings onto the scene like Tarzan and hits a tree. Zagor tweaks him for joining the fight late.

Zagor is sure he didn’t kill all the soldiers but they turn out to be all dead, as when he and Cico were previously attacked.

Tonka says when his people left Darkwood he remained behind and witnessed the expulsion of the trappers. Zagor tells him the commander of Fort Bravery believes the soldiers patrolling the forest come from Forts Henry or Pita. Tonka replies they come from the hollow mountain (extinct volcano crater) which the Whites call Devil’s Eye.

He tells his story. He was tracking a deer when he was surprised to find a disused road had been cleared. Hearing a vehicle coming, he hid and saw a wagon train. He followed it to Devil’s Eye and saw it enter through a passage which was then closed by a large rock. Cico thinks he must be deluded but Tonka says he saw several more caravans enter the same way.

Zagor asks him if he climbed the mountain to look in from the top. Tonka says he did, by night, and found the crater surrounded by a barbed wire fence. He was spotted and held at gunpoint by a guard who rudely asked why he hadn’t left with the other Indians. On his reply that nothing could chase him out of his own country the guard laughed and made ready to kill him. Tonka evaded his bullet and they fought. When Tonka knocked him into the fence there was a flash of light and his body was left burned out.

Zagor tells Tonka they’ve encountered energy like that before. Cico realises what he means and says he felt it when he touched the machine of Professor Talbot,(1) who called it something like “electricity”.

Zagor decides to investigate Devil’s Eye. Cico notices that the dead soldiers have odd belts with digital display faces but Zagor is in too much of a hurry to look.

The journey to Devil’s Eye takes several days. They come in sight of it. Tonka tells the others a caravan is coming. Zagor decides to enter with the caravan. He sends Cico and Tonka to fetch the soldiers from Fort Bravery.

Zagor topples a boulder to block the road. While the soldiers are clearing the rubble one is sent to cut a lever. Zagor waylays him, takes his uniform, and binds him, hoping the night will hide the substitution. By the time he gets back to the caravan the road is cleared. The sergeant berates him for taking so long. (A leaf is repeated in my copy here.)

The caravan resumes its journey. As it approaches the mountain the entrance stone rises. The sergeant orders the caravan to enter, and after the last man enters the tunnel it closes again…

To be continued! At this point we're 36 2/3 pages into part 2, which in this edition has 96 pages.

(1) A Frankenstein-like scientist from Zagor #76-#77.

This post displaced the thread Remaining Fanzines and Magazines? from the homepage.

Pt 2 cont.

The tunnel is illuminated by electric lights, which Zagor recognises from one of his previous encounters with Prof. Hellingen. When they emerge into the crater he finds it is brightly illuminated. There are barracks buildings and what the reader recognises as a set of missiles.

The men begin unloading the wagons. Zagor is distracted by the missiles, wondering what they are, and the sergeant accosts him. He realises something is up as Zagor’s uniform is too small for him and holds him at gunpoint, calling a captain and other men over. They figure out what’s happened.

Zagor decides to fight his way out and disarms and KOs the sergeant. The other men get their guns out but the captain tells them to take him alive so they can find out who he is. A fight begins. Zagor initially holds his own he is eventually overwhelmed and knocked out. The victorious soldiers kick his unconscious body.

During the fight the captain sent a messenger to someone he called the old man. The messenger returns and says Zagor is to be bound and taken to the old man’s laboratory.

Soon, Zagor is in the lab, bound to a chair. The scientist, his face concealed from the reader, sends the captain away and slaps Zagor and dashes water on his face to awaken him.

Zagor recovers his senses and sees his captor is - Professor Hellingen! He can’t believe this, as he saw him impaled through the heart the last time they met.

Hellingen doesn’t really explain how he survived. I think he indicates he was only injured. He explains what his missiles can do. Zagor realises the missiles were responsible for the explosions that drove out the Indians and destroyed his cabin. He asks why the men he fought died. Hellingen tells him those patrolling the area are equipped with special belts. They are monitors and he used them to follow the battles. When the soldiers lost he killed them with electric shocks.

Hellingen wants his genius to be recognised. Zagor asks him why he seeks recognition by building machines of destruction. Hellingen says in a world like ours violence is what wins recognition.

Hellingen tells Zagor Zero Hour is approaching and will bring a new era for humanity. Zagor says he sent word to Col. Kraizer at Fort Bravery and even now soldiers are coming to defeat him. (Dude! DON’T TELL HIM!) Hellingen laughs, then slaps him angrily. He calls in the captain and tells him to take Zagor away and imprison him.

Two days later Zagor is manacled to a wall. His captors seem to have forgotten him. He wonders what’s happened to Kraizer. He strains at his manacles but they’re too strong for him.

Hellingen has been watching through the door grill and jokes about his morning gymnastics. He tells him Kraizer will arrive soon. Zagor thinks he’s lying. Hellingen tweaks him for his lack of faith and tells him thousands of soldiers are approaching the crater. He orders the captain to bring him to the space before the tunnel entrance and leaves.

Zagor is released, bound, and brought to the area. He is puzzled by the fact that the soldiers aren’t preparing for a fight. They are watching the tunnel expectantly, but not as if they expected an enemy.

Then Kraizer emerges from the tunnel, with some of his men-

-and the soldiers greet each other as friends!

To be continued! At this point part 2 still has 27 pages to go.

Pt 2 cont.

Hellingen and Kraizer greet each other. Zagor calls Kraizer a dirty traitor. Kraizer pulls a gun but Hellingen says Zagor is his. Again calm, Kraizer makes Hellingen a gift of Cico and Tonka, who have been bound like Zagor.

Hellingen tells the soldiers to take Zagor to his laboratory. He tells Kraizer he thinks it time to begin something and Kraizer says he’s glad: he has a thousand men ready to move on Washington. They talk about a man, Major Pedzet, who has been sent to Washington.

Using his loudspeaker system Hellingen gives a speech from his laboratory that culminates with his declaration that Zero Hour has arrived. The men cheer.

The scene switches to Washington. The President, addressing Congress, announces that a Major Pedzet from Fort Bravery wishes to address Congress on a matter of vital importance. Pedzet enters followed by two men pushing a machine with a television screen. He says the device will allow them to visually and aurally communicate with Colonel Kraizer, the man he represents. The congressmen and President are incredulous, but Pedzet says the device has been created by the most brilliant scientist in the world and turns it on. Colonel Kraizer appears on the screen and addresses them.

Back in the crater Kraizer is standing in front of a camera and Zagor is chained to a chair, watching. Hellingen, running things, derides the lawmakers’ lack of scientific knowledge. He directs Kraizer to deliver their ultimatum.

Kraizer tells Congress they have weapons that will turn Washington to ashes if they do not submit to the demands he will make on behalf of Professor Hellingen. He regards himself as having been given an assignment below his talents and derides the lawmakers as useless. He declares the President dismissed and names himself and Hellingen as the new rulers. Their rule will bring a golden age.

The President asks what means they have to back up their demands. This makes Hellingen laugh. He tells Kraizer to say as their demonstration is ready. (“You just need to push a button! Ha-ha-ha!”) Kraizer tells the President they have the means to raze the building he’s in and to destroy Washington, and anything else in a two hundred to two hundred and fifty mile radius of their Darkwood secret base.

Congress is unbelieving and the President defiant. Kraizer says they will demonstrate their power by destroying the Department of War. Hellingen orders the dome over the base to be opened and launches one of his missiles.

Hellingen guides the missile as it flies. It has a camera in its nose. Kraizer says he will be able to recognise the War Department building as he knows it well. The Washingtonians who see the incoming missile think it a shooting star. It strikes and destroys the target building, causing panic.

Hellingen instructs Kraizer to again contact Congress. Zagor calls them disgusting, cowardly killers and promises Hellingen he’ll pay dearly. Cursing, Kraizer reaches for his gun…

To be continued! As was the case with part 1, part 2 ends with a moment of danger about to arrive followed by a filler tier. If a tier has been dropped it presumably showed Kraizer about to fire.

Pt 3.

Kraizer is greatly angered by Zagor’s insults and wants to kill him, but Hellingen won’t let him. He strikes Zagor to punish him.

Kraizer again broadcast to congress. The President and congress believe the attack was faked. Kraizer tells them to name a target and the President names a bridge. Hellingen launches a missile for the bridge and then two more at residential areas for added effect.

The explosions break the will of congress and the President. The President asks Kraizer and Hellingen their terms. Kraizer announces the rebel troops will occupy Washington and orders the President to send two ships for them.

Kraizer ends the broadcast. Hellingen and Kraizer discuss their victory and Kraizer leaves.

Hellingen savagely whips Zagor in revenge for his past injuries and defeats. Zagor refuses to cry out. Hellingen promises him he’ll find a way to break him. He has Cico released to tend to Zagor’s wounds, so he’ll be in shape for further torture.

Cico tends to Zagor’s back. Zagor tries again to pull his chains free, and fails.

Cico says the only way out is death. This gives Zagor an idea. Tonka has a medicine pouch. In the pouch he has a plant that can cause a death-like trance. Zagor wants Cico to give it to him. Cico fears he’ll be buried alive, and Tonka warns it can cause death, but Zagor is sure. Cico complies.

When it has taken effect Cico calls to the guard, saying Zagor seems dead and to get a doctor. The soldiers inform Hellingen. He examines Zagor’s body and finds no heartbeat. He curses and kicks the body in frustration. Asked for instructions he says he’ll have Zagor buried later since everyone’s busy, and tells the soldiers to chain Cico next to Tonka. Leaving, he cheers up at the thought of his coming power.

The next morning two soldiers bring the prisoners their breakfast and decide to eat it themselves. While they’re eating Zagor revives, and he knocks them out. He disposes of the soldiers’ belt devices to make sure they’re not monitored through them and releases Tonka and Cico.

One of the soldiers wakes up. Zagor asks how many men have been left in the crater, and when he won’t say beats him up. The soldier gives in and says twenty or thirty men. Zagor knocks him out again.

The trio set off to grab Hellingen. But there are too many men about, so they change tactics. Tonka and Cico put on uniforms and pretend to be soldiers carrying Zagor’s body to be buried. The soldiers recognize them, but not before the trio have gotten close enough to Hellingen’s hut to make a dash for it.

Zagor breaks open the door and grabs Hellingen. Tonka and Cico take up positions inside and hold the soldiers off. Zagor threatens to kill Hellingen if the soldiers don’t throw down their guns and leave, but Hellingen shouts to them not to listen: Zagor won’t kill him as he’s the only one who could stop Kraizer.

Enraged, Zagor throws him down, then pulls him to his feet and tells him he'll use his own weapons to destroy his forces. The soldiers prepare to launch an attack in force…

To be continued!

The first version of this post displaced the thread Mars One #1 by Good Ideas Comics! from the homepage.

Pt 3 cont.

As the soldiers launch their attack Zagor uses Hellingen’s equipment to kill them all through their belts. Tonka and Cico didn’t know the equipment could do this and are shocked.

Zagor shows Hellingen what he’s done. Hellingen says Zagor’s success won’t prevent him becoming master of the United States, as Kreizer’s men will soon reach Washington. Zagor tells him that he, or rather his flying bombs, will prevent it! He means to force Hellingen to launch missiles at Kraizer’s troops. Kraizer’s forces aren’t strong enough to take on the government without the missiles' support. Hellingen is reluctant but gives in after Zagor starts using violence.

Hellingen contacts his launch staff. They saw the carnage and don’t know what’s up. Hellingen says he’ll tell them later. He orders them to launch a missile.

At his camp Kraizer is told the lookout has signalled the boats are approaching. He tells his men all that’s left is to march in triumph in the capital, and they cheer. As they celebrate he’s disconcerted to hear what sounds like a flying bomb. It strikes the camp with devastating effect, and is quickly followed by another.

After the second explosion an officer finds Kraizer’s body. He advises the soldiers to scatter before government troops come after them. When the ships arrive they find the camp deserted, except by the wounded.

Zagor talks with congress over Hellingen’s television system. (The President doesn’t recognise him, so they haven’t met before.) He introduces himself and says the danger’s over. He tells them to send the major who formerly commanded Fort Bravery to reoccupy the fort and to meet him at Devil’s Eye, where he’ll hand over the prisoners.

Senator Pikenz, the Minister of War, consults with the President and accompanies the major and his troops to Darkwood. Zagor and Cico show themselves. The major introduces Pikenz.

The minister gives Zagor a medal, but Zagor and Cico treat this lightly and Zagor inquires after his other motive in coming. Pikenz admits he’s there to acquire Hellingen’s missile technology. Zagor thinks it’s too dangerous. He presses a plunger that he and Cico have readied and blows the installations in Devil’s Eye up.

Pikenz is angry and says they can get the technology from Hellingen. Zagor says he shouldn’t be too sure of that. He takes them to a covered wagon and reveals Hellingen, tied up. His defeat has driven him insane, and he thinks the major and Pikenz are ambassadors come to pay him homage.

Pikenz accepts his defeat and bids Zagor goodbye, thanking him again. Zagor promises the major they’ll visit him at Fort Bravery soon, but says they first have to take care of something else. Cico knows what he means: they’re homeless!

I think this is the end of the instalment from #109. If no pages were dropped and it starts where I think the instalment had 98 story pages. My volume has 14 story pages to go at this point, but I think they’re the opening pages of #110. Zagor and Cico are rebuilding their house, and they are visited by some of their trapper friends.

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