Mirko and Slavko
Mirko (right) and Slavko (left)
|Author||Desimir Žižović "Buin"|
|Original title||Mirko i Slavko|
|Published||1958 - 1979|
|No. of books||72|
Mirko and Slavko (Serbo-Croatian: Mirko i Slavko) was a Yugoslav comic book series about two Partisan couriers, started in 1958 and ended in 1979. The creator and the main author of the series was artist Desimir Žižović "Buin". During the 1960s and early 1970s, Mirko and Slavko was the most popular comic in Yugoslavia, becoming the only Yugoslav comic to be adapted into a live action film during the existence of the country.
Background and history
The creator of Mirko and Slavko, Desimir Žićović "Buin", was born in the village of Gornji Branetići. He spent most of World War II as a member of the Chetniks movement. There were different testimonies about him joining the Chetniks: by some, he joined the Chetniks voluntarily, by others, he was recruited without his will. It is certain that he spent some time under the command of Ljubo Novaković, before he was spotted by Dragiša Vasić, who sent him to work for the illegal newspaper Ravnogorski borac (Ravna Gora Fighter) as an illustrator. At the very end of the war, Žižović joined the Yugoslav Partisans. After the end of the war, he returned to his native village, where he painted and sculpted. For a period of time he worked as a designer in Titoplastika, a factory that produced packages for various products. He was spotted by Dečje novine editor-in-chiefs Srećko Jovanović as a self-taught, but talented artist, and got an opportunity to create illustrations for various publications for children.
In the late 1950s, the publisher Dečje novine published an edition of historical comics entitled Nikad robom (Never a Slave). The edition featured heroic stories from the history of South Slavic people: stories from Croatian–Slovene peasant revolt, First and Second Serbian Uprising, World War I etc. In the late 1950s, Dečje novine decided to introduce a comic about Yugoslav Partisans. In 1958, Žižović created the first episode of Mirko and Slavko for the edition. The story initially featured only Mirko (who was, reputedly, modeled after Žižović's son), while Slavko was added to the story later. Žižović chose the names Mirko and Slavko because they were common in all parts of Yugoslavia.
Mirko and Slavko episodes (as well as the other comics from Nikad robom) were published as 32-page comics, with 16 pages printed in color, in the format of 14,5x20,5 cm. Prior to Mirko and Slavko, the comics from Nikad robom edition were sold in 35,000 to 50,000 copies. However, stories of Mirko and Slavko were excellently received, and gradually upstaged all the other comics from Nikad robom edition. The editors of Dečje novine decided to risk and print Mirko and Slavko in 120,000 copies, but soon found out that the demand for Mirko and Slavko was even larger. At its peak of popularity, an episode of the comic was sold in more than 200,000 copies. Gradually, other artists started working with Žižović on the comic: they would usually draw minor characters and background, and Žižović would later add main characters. Artists which worked with Žižović on Mirko and Slavko include Živorad Atanacković, Ratomir Petrović, Branko Plavšić, Milan Vranešević, Mile Rančić, Leo Korelc, Brana Nikolić, Nikola Mitrović "Kokan", Slaviša Ćirović, Stevica Živanov and others. The stories were initially written by Žižović himself, and later by various writers; the most successful ones were written by journalist Žarko Vukosavljević. Serbian cartoonist Aleksandar Zograf and comic book artist and historian Zdravko Zupan pointed out that Mirko and Slavko was not created with the purpose of political indoctrination of the youth, and that it was primarily an action comic.
At the mid-1970s, the comic lost in popularity, and younger artists and critics pronounced Mirko and Slavko outdated. In 1979, Dečje novine cancelled the magazine. By some reports, the critics were heavily supported by a Dečje novine competitor which published foreign comics.
Plot and characters
Prior to the invasion of Yugoslavia, young Mirko was a baker's apprentice somewhere in Šumadija. After the Axis occupation of Yugoslavia, Mirko decides to join the Partisans, exchanging two breads for a gun with a soldier of the defeated and disbanded Royal Yugoslav Army. In the initial three episodes, Mirko's comrades are two other young Partisans, Zoran and Boško, Boško died in a battle with German soldiers. In episode four, the character of Slavko was introduced.
While Mirko is always brave and determined, Slavko tends to hesitate and sometimes can even get scared. That is why Mirko is typically armed with MP 40, which was usually reserved for partisan commanders, while Slavko is typically armed with a regular riffle.
Mirko and Slavko was the first and only Yugoslav comic to be adapted into a live action film during the existence of the country. The 1973 film Mirko and Slavko, directed by Branimir "Tori" Janković, starred Vladimir Radenković as Mirko, Dragan Radonjić as Slavko and Velimir "Bata" Živojinović as Commander. The film was disliked by Žižović, who described it as "unrealistic and pretentious" and stated that it "ruined the comic".
In the several years following the end of the World War II, the new communist authorities in Yugoslavia had an unfavorable view of comics, considering them decadent products of capitalism. By the time Mirko and Slavko appeared, Yugoslavia opened towards Western culture more than the countries of the Eastern Bloc, and comics were regularly published by major newspaper publishers. However, Mirko and Slavko is considered the comic which definitely changed the League of Communists attitude towards comics.
With the experience it had as the first distributor of the Walt Disney Company products in socialist Europe, Dečje novine signed contracts with various Yugoslav companies, and the characters of Mirko and Slavko appeared on t-shirts, satchels, notebooks and other products. Aleksandar Zograf stated that "the approach towards this entirely socialist phenomena was absolutely capitalistic".
- Marković, Đorđe (2012). SFRJ za početnike. Delta Video.
- Baćković, Nemanja. "Mirko, pazi metak!". Politikin Zabavnik (in Serbian). Belgrade: Politika A.D. (3220): 4.
- Baćković, Nemanja. "Mirko, pazi metak!". Politikin Zabavnik (in Serbian). Belgrade: Politika A.D. (3220): 5.
- "Strip u Srbiji 1955-1972: Mirko, Slavko i Kekec", vreme.rs
- "Desimir Žižović Buin, autor najčiatanijeg YU stripa 'Mirko i Slavko' (1986)", yugopapir.com
- "'Dečje novine' – simbol jednog vremena: Bilo jednom u Gornjem Milanovcu", mediaportal.rs
- Baćković, Nemanja. "Mirko, pazi metak!". Politikin Zabavnik (in Serbian). Belgrade: Politika A.D. (3220): 6.
- "'Mirko i Slavko', 500 brojeva nikad Robom: rekord i jubilej jedinog YU stripa sa tradicijom NOB-a", yugopapir.com
- Mirko and Slavko at IMDb