Leone Frollo was through and through a Venetian, growing up in Venice and never leaving it, living with his wife and studio in the Rialto, a well-known frequenter of the canalside cafés. He trained first in architecture, but found it unsatisfying and unrewarding, so turned to cartoon art, where in 1958 he was fortunate to be encouraged by fellow-cartoonist Giorgio Bellavitis to submit work to the London publisher Fleetway. From Westerns like Sui Grandi Laghi (On the Great Lakes) he progressed to war stories, science fiction and fantasy.

An early page of Biancaneve

Frollo’s affair with erotic comics started in 1972 with Biancaneve, written by Renzo Barbieri and Rubino Ventura (pseudonyms of Giuseppe Pederiali), and illustrated by Frollo. The series, published by Edifumetto, was based on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but quickly lost most of its connections with the original story. The series chronicled the sexual adventures of the title character in a world of magic and monsters. For the first four issues of the series, Biancaneve remained a virgin under constant threat, but after losing her virginity in volume five she became increasingly addicted to sex. The comic lasted for 94 issues.

After 1987 he changed his style to a more realistic portrayal of his erotically-inclined characters, and drew series for the French market – Malicieusement Femmes (Malicious Women), Diva, Casino, and most notably Mona Street, the erotic adventures of a young American woman just graduated from college in Boston, set in the 1920s and 30s. The narrative consists of first-person ‘letters’ detailing Mona’s sexual experiences, including sapphic adventures, rich lovers, lively young boys and groping old men. After three volumes, which were translated into French, English and German, Frollo abandoned comics and concentrated on standalone images of semi-naked women in watercolour, pencil and pastels, though still concentrating on the roaring twenties and thirties, a period in which he would almost certainly have liked to live. Lesbianism, sadomasochism and bondage now entered his imagination in a more noticeable way, whether for his own or his clientele’s pleasure can only be guessed at.

Example illustration