Ramponi’s pen name, Kremos, was born of necessity: Like many of his generation, after the war Ramponi was conscripted into the Italian army for a year of service. Loath to abandon his budding cartooning and illustration career but barred by military regulations from working as a freelancer, Ramponi conspired with a friend named Sandro Cremo, who acted as his intermediary to secure and deliver freelance art assignments on Ramponi’s behalf. To maintain the ruse, Ramponi signed his work Kremos, a pseudonym that stuck even after his discharge from military duty.
In the mid-1950s, however, after a dispute with another artist who tried to lay legal claim to the name Kremos, Ramponi abandoned the handle and began to sign his work simply by his first name, Niso.
Keen-eyed U.S. collectors of 1950s men’s magazines such as Jest, Gaze, or Gee-Whiz will find the occasional Kremos or Niso-signed cartoon within those pages.
For the most part, though, Ramponi’s work — while every bit as accomplished if not superior to his U.S. counterparts — was rarely seen outside of his homeland until the publication of the two Lost Art Books devoted to preserving his work.
By the late 1950s and into the 1960s, Ramponi’s popularity had reached a point where he was now also creating most of the covers for Il Travaso, which allowed him to stretch into other media, painting with a sensuous verve that sacrificed none of the fun of his ink drawings.
Yet on top of those assignments, Ramponi kept working on animated features. But the workload must have swamped even Ramponi’s seemingly Herculean capacities when he accepted an offer in 1962 to teach animation at the Scuola della Vasca Navale. In short order, Ramponi’s appearances in Il Travaso became infrequent and eventually stopped altogether in 1963.
But Ramponi certainly didn’t stop producing work. In addition to his teaching, he worked for the next couple of decades in television on a wide variety of projects, winning top industry awards for his animation on some of Italy’s most popular TV programs, such as Carosello in 1972.
Kremos: The Lost Art of Niso Ramponi, Vols. 1 & 2 are the first collections of the artist’s work anywhere in the world.
A decade in the making and benefiting from careful restoration, this new two-volume set covers the Italian cartoonist and animator’s entire career. Volume 1 collects over 200 of Kremos’s bodacious black and white cartoons and illustrations and is fronted by a 6,000-word introduction by Ramponi’s friend and current-day animator, Mario Verger. Volume 2 adds 250 curvaceous color comics and covers to the set, with a foreword by contemporary comic artist Jerry Carr. Combined, these volumes offer over 500 professionally translated examples of his work and a comprehensive overview of a maverick artist at the height of his powers. Both volumes are available for immediate order from the publisher, Lost Art Books and select online retailers.
Joseph V. Procopio has been working in publishing as a writer, editor, and creative director in print and Web media for over 20 years. He has a lifelong passion for illustration, cartooning, and the graphic arts.