Comics artist Mario Capaldi, one of the unsung stalwarts of British comics, and Marvel UK’s junior titles for many years, has died.
Mario drew every type of strip and illustration work imaginable from then on, for a wide range of publishers including IPC and successor, Fleetway, Celebrity and others. His credits for Marvel UK range from Care Bears and Rupert the Bear to James Bond Junior and Zorro.
Born in 1935, Mario Capaldi’s career as an artist spanned some 44 years from 1959 to 2003, but he was a reclusive man, whose contribution to British comics has gone largely unrecognised. His official web site, now archived on Wayback, notes he dedicated his whole life to art; drawing, painting, photographing potential subject matter, researching and reading about art, talking about art – great art that really inspired him, (which always included the Victorian great, Fortunino Matania). He settled in Middlesbrough where he lived his adult life, often taking inspiration for scenery from the surrounding, beautiful North Yorkshire countryside.
At Marvel UK, editors such as Stuart Bartlett held him in high regard and his professionalism and dedication to his work much praised. His credits for the company include Captain Planet, Zorro, Thundercats, Transformers, Care Bears and James Bond Junior, while at IPC, he worked on a huge range of titles including Roy of the Rovers, Hurricane, Tiger, Eagle, Battle, Tammy, Jinty and Misty. He also worked for DC Thomson on titles such as Bunty and Judy.
He illustrated Charles Dickens (his favourite author) for the New York Saturday Evening Post and a version of Harry Potter for the BBC, and a number of children’s books, including Enid Blyton’s The Little Bear’s Adventure, Ladybird Books and more.
His work also became best-selling Christmas cards for Sharpe’s Classic Collection, and he was responsible for the charging horses painting on the front cover of a popular board game, Risk.
“Mario was one of the first illustrators that I had the pleasure of working with when I entered into children’s publishing,” Managing Editor of Panini Comics Alan O’Keefe told downthetubes. “Right from our very first conversation I knew I’d enjoy working with him enormously. He had a genuinely warm, friendly and engaging disposition. A few days later, after receiving his commissioned artwork I knew he was also a truly gifted and professional artist.
“The many years that followed, I worked with Mario on a variety of children’s comics, because he was such a modest and honest professional who could turn his hand to a great variety of illustration styles. Mario was a true gent, a unique and charming man with a fantastic talent — and an absolute joy to work with.”
“Mario was always my first choice on projects,” says comics writer and publisher Tim Quinn. “I got him to do some great work for The Saturday Evening Post Magazine when I returned to the US to work in 1997-98 (including a fab Dickens’ Christmas Carol adaptation).
“I also used him as the artist on Enid Blyton’s Famous Five in the Blyton centenary mag I edited for Fleetway. The fairy tale sequel comic/mag I published featured Mario’s magic on the on-going adventures of Jack of the Beanstalks. He also drew great history pages for that publication.
“I Loved his work,” says Tim, “and he was a really nice and funny guy with a great fashion style… a cross between Al Pacino and Bela Lugosi. You can’t beat that!”
Many years ago, while Group Editor at Marvel UK, I was nominally in charge of a project to clear the company’s Arundel House basement of old artwork and Mario Capaldi was one of the artists whose returned art pretty much filled a small transit van, given his prestigious output for the company on all manner of titles. Years later, I phoned Mario for some reason, perhaps to ask him about attending an event. When I introduced myself, he declared, amiably: “You’re the bugger who sent all that artwork back. It’s clogging up my garage!”
Well, I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who clogged up his garage, because IPC also returned at least some of the art created by this talented artist, which eventually got an airing at the Dorman Museum thanks to his daughter, Vanda, in his home town of Middlesbrough in 2015, including 20 pages from “Robo Machines”, the only comics outing for Bandai’s Transformers rival line, aka the Gobots.
He is much missed.
A version of this tribute was first published as a news item on downthetubes on 6th July 2004. It has been updated in this location with additional imagery since
• Mario – A Biography in Poetry (AmazonUK Affiliate Link)
A unique book, written by Mario’s daughter Vanda Capaldi, the custodian of his art, Mario – A Biography in Poetry is a collection of individual poems that recounts the coming of age story of the artist, as he struggles to pursue his career and be with the woman he loves against the wishes of his family. The book is set in Glasgow and Middlesbrough from 1935 to 1960. The poetry is mainly in organic verse but uses a range of tone and style to convey dramatic incidents associated with Mario Capaldi’s early life.
Vanda hoped the story of her father’s early life and his struggle to be an artist, might inspire others in achieving their dream
• Mario Capaldi’s official web site is archived on Wayback, originally www.mariocapaldiartist.co.uk (Wayback Link)
• Boys Adventure Comics: Blue Moon
Mario was a frequent contributor to this anthology comic edited by Tim Quinn
• Boys Adventure Comics – Celebrity’s Wisdom of Gnomes
• Boys Adventure Comics – Robert the Devil – but where the devil was it published?
• The Starlogged blog documents the history of Robo Machines versus Transformers here
MARIO CAPLADI’S MARVEL UK WORK
• Boys Adventure Comics: Marvel UK – Captain Planet & The Planeteers
• Boys Adventure Comics: Marvel UK’s Biker Mice from Mars
• Boys Adventure Comics – Marvel UK’s James Bond Jr Cover Gallery
• Boys Adventure Comics: Marvel UK’s Lady Lovely Locks
• Boys Adventure Comics: Marvel UK’s Madballs
• Boys Adventure Comics: Marvel UK’s Mighty Max
• Boys Adventures Comics: Marvel UK’s Rugrats
• Boys Adventure Comics: Mario Capaldi – Sylvanian Families
A listing of Mario Capaldi’s work on Original Sylvanian Families, compiled by Richard Sheaf
All art © respective publishers and licence holders