Our sister site, Bish's Beat, has posted a really cool gallery of Johnny Nero covers. Johnny Nero was the jet-setting secret agent hero of a comic published in the UK by Fleetway Super Library from 1967-1968. Johnny Nero alternated bi-monthly as the main character with the Lion hero, Barracuda, for a total of 13 stories. Today on Spy Vibe, let's take a look at these Fleetway super spies. Who was Johnny Nero? From the Comic Vine: "Johnny Nero was a skilled operative for British Intelligence in MI5, but after inheriting a fortune he left the field of espionage, becoming even more wealthy through his own efforts. Quickly bored with his life as a millionaire, Nero started taking assignments from his old boss in the spy trade, Colonel Jason, and dealt with a succession of assassins, saboteurs, criminals, spies and master minds. Johnny lived in Kensington Garden, London, in an appropriately groovy pad, where you would properly find a millionaire/spy in the '60s, and was sometimes aided on his missions by his business secretary Jenny Bird."
The cover images were painted by Paolo Montecchi, who depicted Johnny as actor Marcello Mastroianni. Spy Vibers know that I'm a huge Mastroianni fan. When the Blu-ray edition of The 10th Victim (1965) was in production, I was overjoyed to be able to put together the stills and poster gallery for the special features. For once, collecting paid off- at least in comp copies of the movie. Using Marcello's features added such an exciting dynamic to these comic covers; one can almost imagine that they were posters for a lost EuroSpy series starring Marcello Mastroianni. The image with the clear sunglasses, featured on the cover of issue #1: Meet Johnny Nero, is reminiscent of a number of scenes in The 10th Victim, as you can see from the still below.
The cover design for issue #3: The Devil's Secret should look familiar to fans of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels. Montecchi has based his femme fatale completely on the early Pan edition of For Your Eyes Only, painted by J. Oval. A change of color to the hair and outfit, and who would notice, right? Fleming scans below are from our sister site, Illustrated 007.
Looking more deeply into Fleetway, there is a great article about the adventure comics from Fleetway Super Library on Bear Alley, where you can see fantastic scans from some of the other espionage titles they printed. Here is a small sample of a few that stood out to me. We can get a closer look at two inked pages from Johnny Nero, followed by illustrated covers for stories starring Barracuda. Remember that Barracuda alternated with Johnny Nero as the main hero in the comic. Sometimes known as Codename: Barracuda, he was an agent who worked with the United Nations to combat the evil forces of WAM (War Against Mankind). Add that to your list of secret spy organizations! You can learn more about the Fleetway Super Library here. The Comic Vine quote about Johnny Nero above was based on the Bear Alley article.