A few years ago I was in Paris (sigh), gleefully digging through the bandes-dessinées shops in the area around the Sorbonne, when I chanced on a comic album called Sky-Doll. I knew nothing about it, I was just struck by the wonderful drawing and colors. I was unfamiliar with either the artist, Alessandro Barbucci, or the writer/colorist, Barbara Canepa, both from Genoa, Italy.
I managed to conjure up enough halting, clumsy French to convey to the proprietor that I was interested in any other comic albums he might have with art by Barbucci, but finally learned that this was the only volume so far and the artist was new.
The drawings were lively, fresh, slightly cartoony but highly rendered and with delightfully realized and very imaginative backgrounds and settings. I was immediately taken with the visual joie de vivre and went home happy with my discovery, but disappointed that I couldn’t carry home a stack of Barbucci albums with my Moebius, Beltran and Gillon.
I was able to pick the second volume of Sky-Doll a couple of years later (this time while rooting through fumetti shops in Rome), and learned that Barbucci had, in fact, been around for a while. He had previously worked on a comic series for Disney Italy, also written and colored by Canepa, called Witch, a charming and beautifully drawn childrens’ series (as opposed to the distinctly adult nature of Sky-Doll). The series is the basis for the current W.I.T.C.H. animated TV series, but I don’t think B&C have anything to do with it directly.
After the first two volumes of Sky-doll, Barbucci and Canepa returned to Disney to work on the first three (I think) stories for Monster Allergy, a delightful comic series about a kid whose allergies allow him to see invisible monsters in his house. The comic series continues to run under other artists and has been made into an animated TV show in Italy.
Sky-doll #3 is currently being serialized in Lanfeust (Google translation here), the French action-adventure comics anthology magazine, and should be released soon. Sky-doll 0: Doll’s Factory is a “making of” book on the series.
There is an official site for Sky-Doll, but it’s been unfinished and apparently abandoned for some time. It still has full pages that you can preview, though. In fact only the Book intro and Gallery page are active.
Americans can order some of the Sky-doll comic albums from Stuart NG Books or Mars Import. These are the French editions (there are no English translations that I’m aware of) and they come at a premium, but you can get them.
Note: Some of the sites linked here contain nudity and sexually suggestive images. Avoid them if you’re likely to be offended.