Olga Galeeva

Representation of women in Italian adult comics of 1960s and 1970s and its transformation today


Flavio AlmeidaUNIDCOM/IADE IADE, Universidade Europeia, Laureate Universities, Lisbon, Portugal
Teresa LousaFBAUL/ Universidade Nova de Lisboa Lisbon, Portugal


This thesis is designed to show the different types of female characters who were most prevalent in Italian comic books of the 1960s and 1970s as role models for readers. As the object of study, will be used female characters from famous Italian cartoonists Guido Crepax, Magnus and Milo Manara. Through the selected case studies the research is going to study an approach on the concept of woman in comics, and touch the border of female empowerment issue in contemporary world.

In order to gather data will be performed a content analysis on a sample of graphic narratives published from early 1960 till the end of the 1970s. As a second research tool, a visual analysis will be used.

The study is going to explore, were the female characters of the era "living dolls” filling male fantasies of their creators or they were women struggling for many of the values of the women’s culture that feminists today are trying to introduce into the mainstream. Moreover, will be analyzed the approach to female portrayal and empowerment through the time until now.

Another purpose of the thesis is to develop a visual project bound into a book form in terms of the process of writing a thesis as a significant part of Ph.D. This project will be developed with the use of graphic design principles and illustration and will spread educational concepts through visual narratives and storytelling through comics medium.

Keywords: Adult comics, female character, woman representation, fumetti, design, visual communication


Comics as a form of visual culture and especially adult comics are part of the cultural landscape. Furthermore, the portrayal of women in Italian comics, so-called fumetti, has often been the subject of controversy since the medium's beginning.

The present thesis is an analysis of Italian adult comics of 1960s and 1970s era and depiction of idealized modern women at the time of sexual liberation. The selected decade and characters are important for the following reasons. First, this period was marked by social and economic changes and women’s liberation movement that changed their roles in social, cultural, political and economic life and made women feel equal to men by giving them certain rights and services. Second, because before 1960s women characters in comics in Italy were quite scarce and were seen as secondary.

The methodology includes relevant literature review research regarding comic books, gender studies, objectification, and post-feminism, content analysis of the narrative, visual semiotic analysis and a questionnaire.


The central aims of the current project are to:

  • Analyse the issue of female representation with special attention to their relation to male and female readers and also studies a contradiction between women as sex-objects and role models and between their power and dependency
  • Analyse the approach to female representation and their empowerment in male-dominated comic-book industry of the time
  • Uncover subtle themes and explore what and how women were empowered at the time of sexual liberation
  • Analyse the object chosen within its visual and narrative in the field of design and culture
  • Explore how the depiction of female body changed through time and how is a woman depicted in contemporary media.

This investigation is guided by a series key questions as follows:

  1. Were the selected female characters of the 1960-1970s really empowered and if so how authors empowered them? Was this empowerment visual or narrative?
  2. Was the empowerment related to sexualization of women in comics or was it giving them power and right to make choices?

To answer the questions above, the methods of the present project include content analysis on graphic narratives by selected authors (Guido Crepax “Valentina”, Claudia Cristiani, the protagonist of the "Click" series by Milo Manara, Magnus Roberto Raviola´s “Kriminal” female character). These will include all the graphic narratives that appeared regularly during the period between 1960 and 1979.

As a second research tool will be used a  visual qualitative research methodology that uses artistic mediums such as film, photography, paintings and drawings to understand how still images are described, what they symbolize and how the meaning is produced.


Italian comic books are not only a medium of entertainment, but they also serve as a unique reflection of Italian culture of the era. The present study will bring comic books in the fields of cultural studies and will broadly connect with studies of gender and popular culture, as well as visual communication studies and design.

The research addresses the issue of female representation with special attention to their relation to male and female readers and also studies a contradiction between women as sex-objects and role models and between their power and dependency.

A study of this nature would be a first research in Portugal regarding concept of woman in comics, and female empowerment issue in contemporary world.

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