Thursday, March 10, 2016

Kremos: The Life and Art of Niso Ramponi, Part 4

By guest author Joseph V. Procopio

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.

(Above: a scene from a Ramponi-animated Carosello commercial cartoon, c.1960s)

Concluded tomorrow...

Kremos: The Lost Art of Niso Ramponi, Vols. 1 & 2 are the first collections of the artist’s work anywhere in the world.

Kremos Vol. 1 & 2

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.


  1. Thanks, Joe and Leif, for this eye-opening series. His drawing ability is out of this world. Love the one with the old man holding a cane behind his back. Nice penwork, brushwork, and drybrush, all to show that posture exactly but economically. He was the master of sexy ladies, too. Would Frazetta and Elvgren and all the American cute-girl artists have been aware of Niso?

  2. Thanks for the note, James! It's really hard to know how much cross-pollination would have taken place. Seemingly no American cartoons were being reprinted in the Italian magazines I've come across from the 1950s. Niso's "good-girl" art period was pretty neatly confined to 1948-63, and it was very much concentrated in two magazines, Il Travaso, and its sibling, Il Travasissimo. Reprints of Ramponi's work did appear in a couple of places in which American audiences/artists might have come across it: the Humorama line of digest humor magazines from about 1955-1960 (which would run an occasional Ramponi cartoon) or a series of cartoon anthology books I talk a bit about in my volumes called "Best Cartoons From Abroad," which were hardback annuals from 1955-59. Other than those two venues, I don't know where else Ramponi would have appeared on this side of the Atlantic. If Ramponi did make an impact on any of the artists you mention, I would think it would have been via the "Best Cartoons From Abroad" books because (a) they seemed to have decent print runs and (b) they each reprinted a number (maybe 5 to 8) of Ramponi's cartoons in each volume, thus the only way anybody in the United States would have likely seen a grouping of his work. (You might be lucky to see a Ramponi cartoon in every fourth or fifth issue of those Humorama digests.)