In Review: Torpedo 1936 to Torpedo 1972

First appearing in Spain’s Creepy Magazine in the early 1980s, the strip “Torpedo 1936” was created by Enrique Sánchez Abulí and the great Alex Toth. Torpedo is a dark, hard bitten, gangster strip, with a macabre sense of humour. Since then, it has appeared in a variety of other publications, most notably in its translated form in Marvel UK’s short lived 1990s anthology Strip, and collected in English by American publisher IDW, in a series of handsomely designed (and out of print) hardbacks in the 2010s.

Torpedo (IDW)

Born into poverty, Luca Torelli is a heartless mob hitman in 1930s prohibition New York, aided and abetted by his hapless assistant Rascal. In a series of standalone strips, as short and sharp as they are savage, Torpedo and his sidekick encounter dons, dames, double crosses and make lots of dead bodies. He is a completely despicable character and Rascal maybe the comic relief, but he is not far behind his boss in the odious stakes.

Torpedo 1936 - Sample Art by Alex Toth
Art by Alex Toth

The hard-edged black humour of the first couple of stories as illustrated by Toth soon gave way to a dark-edged slapstick sensibility, once Jordi Bernet takes over, and the creators introduce the comical Rascal as a supporting character. Both Toth and Bernet deliver wonderful work as the series’ artists, but are very different in style. Bernet’s art is perhaps more expressive and detailed, whereas Toth’s is minimalist and economical, but equally effective, beautiful work by artistic greats.

However, the subject matter and handling of female characters, scenes of sexual assault and use of racial stereotypes is a troubling at best, even for a forty year old comic. As the strip develops and the tone becomes bawdier, the misogyny and racism increase in proportion. Arguably, the portrayal of women is meant to be reflective more of the nature of Torelli, rather than any inherent misogyny, but the same can’t be said of the portrayal of African Americans.

Torpedo 1936 - Sample Art
Torpedo 1936 - Sample Art

The new series from publisher Ablaze, launched earlier this year, jumps forward 36 years. Time and retirement have not mellowed Torelli; if anything, it’s made him craggier, greyer, and more unpleasant. The release of the “Godfather” films has seen a revival in fascination with gangsters and the mob life, and a young journalist and photographer team see Torpedo as a means of capitalising on this new interest – but underestimate just how much of a lowlife Torelli can be.

Abuli’s new artistic partner on the strip is Eduardo Risso, and is a perfect fit. Risso is one of the most accomplished artists working in modern comics and while not slavishly following his masterful predecessors he follows them in spirit, creating distinctive characters, remarkable perspective and chiaroscuro to great effect to create a set of atmospheric page.

  • Torpedo 1972 #1 Cover B
  • Torpedo 1972 #1 Sample Page
  • Torpedo 1972 #1 Sample Page
  • Torpedo 1972 #1 Sample Page

The tone of the new strip is similar to the original, with only the setting updated, but the tone is less humorous, played straighter and moving away from the “Carry on Torpedo” spirit of some of the later 1936 strips. It’s darker, but (slightly) less graphic.

Neither 1936 or 1972 are an easy read, and Torelli is anything but a sympathetic character, but 1936 is definitely from a different age. Be warned.

Luke Williams

Torpedo 1972 #1 (Cover A by Eduardo Risso)
Torpedo 1972 #1 (Cover A by Eduardo Risso)

Copies of Torpedo 1972 #1 (Cover E Eduardo Risso Virgin Variant) are still available from Forbidden Planet (Affiliate Link) – higher price covers also available

From the co-creator and artist of Eisner winning series 100 Bullets comes a reimagining of the crime noir Torpedo!

In the 1930s, Lucas Torelli, known as ‘Torpedo’, was a legend of the suburbs of New York. A tough, trigger-happy Sicilian who only knew how to make friends-anyone else is no longer here to say otherwise.

Torpedo 1972 #2 (Cover A by Eduardo Risso)
Torpedo 1972 #2 (Cover A by Eduardo Risso)

Nearly forty years later, the Big Apple has changed quite a bit. Torpedo, not so much. As a persistent journalist prepares to write an article about the Caputo family, the demons of Torpedo’s past resurface, along with his dirty old habits…

Torpedo 1972 #2 is on sale now in all good comic shops (Cover A Forbidden Planet Affiliate Link)

Righteous revenge goes wrong when your bad guy is Luca Torelli, the infamous Torpedo! Burned by Torelli’s wanton criminality, a journalist exposes his identity to the world.

Torpedo 1972 #3 (Cover A by Eduardo Risso)
Torpedo 1972 #3 (Cover A by Eduardo Risso)

Will the Caputo brothers deliver justice on Wendy’s behalf?

Torpedo 1972 #3 is on sale now in all good comic shops (Cover A Forbidden Planet Affiliate Link)

When an injury leaves Rascal(a-hem)indisposed, Torpedo takes him for a cure and runs into an old acquaintance, the madam Lou. She has a request of him: kill the cop who’s swindling her.

Torpedo 1972 #4 (Cover A by Eduardo Risso)
Torpedo 1972 #4 (Cover A by Eduardo Risso)

Torpedo 1972 #4 is on sale from 12th June 2024 in all good comic shops (Cover A Forbidden Planet Affiliate Link)

Torpedo has his target in his sights, but there are more twists and turns in the work than he expected. When a trap is sprung, there is no clean getaway, but the job (killing a cop on behalf of a madame) still has to be done.

• The Torpedo 1972 collection is on sale from 27th August 2024 in all good comic shops | AmazonUK Affiliate Link

Categories: Comics, Features, Reviews, US Comics

Tags: , , , , , ,

Discover more from

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading