Lucca 2018: Comics Capital of Europe


November 8, 2018

Sunday marked the end of Lucca Comics & Games 2018, and it was another strong year for the long-running comics festival, with an incredible 250,000 tickets sold over five days. And seemingly just as many great comics to read. Europe Comics was on hand once more this year with partners BAO Publishing and Tunué, as well as co-sponsoring the annual Translation Slam on Sunday.

Publishers and authors on parade

BAO and Tunué outdid themselves once more with their booths, rivaling each other with their eye-catching design and endless tables of books. The crowds never let up around BAO all weekend, with fans flocking to get autographs and sketches from such Italian stars as Zerocalcare (Kobane Calling, Tentacles at My Throat), Stefano Turconi & Teresa Radice (Globetrotting Viola, Tosca), and Thomas Campi (Macaroni!, Magritte), as well as American author Skottie Young, on hand to sign copies of I Hate Fairyland, published in Italy by BAO. We also spied the beautiful Italian editions of a few of our own Europe Comics titles.

Zerocalcare signing "Kobane Calling" (BAO Publishing, Lion Forge in English).
BAO Publishing stand, based on American author Skottie Young's "I Hate Fairyland" (Image Comics).

Tunué wowed this year with its larger-than-life stand, double the size of last year’s, and featuring a foosball table for those lucky enough to get inside. They also had authors cycling through all weekend, including Europe Comics contributors Gud (Gaia Blues) and Giorgio Salati & Christian Cornia (Brina). You might remember Cornia from his visit with us to the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans this past summer. He and his co-creator were certainly a hit among the Lucca crowd, as Brina sold out completely over the weekend. Congrats to the authors and Tunué! (Our digital edition remains available…)

Tunué/Castoro booth, one of the largest at Lucca Comics & Games this year.

On top of that, a number of other books caught our eye as we roamed, including the French manga sensation Radiant (Ankama, published in Italian by Mangasenpai, and in English by Viz Media), by Tony Valente, and A Chinese Life, by Li Kunwu (Kana; Add Editore in Italy, and in English by SelfMadeHero). Both creators were on hand to sign, and Li Kunwu, a special guest of the festival, also treated fans to a live drawing session, with the resulting artwork being auctioned off for charity.

French author Tony Valente signing copies of "Radiant" at the Mangasenpai booth (Ankama; Viz Media in English).
Signed copies of Li Kunwu's "A Chinese Life" at Add Editore booth (Kana; SelfMadeHero in English).

Exporting European comics

The morning of the Translation Slam featured a panel discussion geared toward industry professionals, as well as comics enthusiasts eager to learn more about the process of extending the reach of European comics beyond the continent’s borders. The panel featured international rights manager Sophie Castille from France (Mediatoon Foreign Rights), editorial director Massimiliano Clemente (Tunué), and American translator Jamie Richards (whose work includes Zerocalcare’s Kobane Calling, as well as Manuele Fior’s 5,000 KM Per Second), and moderated by Andrea Plazzi, known in the comics world for his translations of Alan Moore and Will Eisner.

"Kobane Calling" by Zerocalcare, translated into English by Jamie Richards (BAO Publishing; Lion Forge in English).
"5,000 KM Per Second," by Manuele Fior, translated by Jamie Richards (Atrabile; Fantagraphics in English).

Clemente spoke at length about the need for today’s publishers to be structured and organized on an almost industrial level to be able to successfully find a home for their comics abroad, given the high level of competition and the industry’s early deadlines, which push publishers to ready their books a year in advance or more to have a chance at widespread distribution.

Castille underlined that her rights agency makes a point of pushing all of the books and authors it represents, from the biggest series to the newest names, to try to find a match for them. And this broad-based approach has borne fruit over the years, with the number of clients growing several-fold since the agency’s early days. Which goes to show the interest out there for European comics, even if, as Castille noted, a threshold may have been reached, where the rights to the most important series and characters have now largely been sold. Plenty of books remain, with more coming out every month, but with greater numbers of graphic novels and standalone books that need to be presented differently to catch on abroad.

The American translator Richards, for her part, noted that a gap persists between enthusiasm for US comics in Europe, and that for European comics in the US. There can also be thematic difficulties, especially when the books in question offer a particularly European perspective that might be a challenge to understand for some American readers, such as with Kobane Calling, which relates Zerocalcare’s experience with Syria. Although Richards noted this hasn’t stopped her from taking on such projects, and it hasn’t stopped many American publishers from taking a chance on such books either.

Campi and Zabus's "Magritte: This Is Not a Biography" © SelfMadeHero 2017 (Le Lombard for French edition).
"The Joe Shuster Story," by Campi and Voloj © Super Genius (BAO Publishing for Italian edition).

Finally, author Thomas Campi was unable to participate in the panel, but in a separate interview he gave his own take on the export of European comics. His books are currently published in 10 countries, from the US to Australia, South Korea, and Brazil, and he has found a high level of interest for his work in the places he’s traveled, such as the ALA Conference in New Orleans. He notes that from the start, he typically conceives his books in a way that is accessible to readers internationally, “without language or cultural barriers,” and he’s found the foreign editions of his books to generally be faithful to the original. Beyond that, they represent for him the realization of his dream “to share the stories he works on with as many people as possible, with diverse cultural backgrounds.” And on a practical level, given that making comics is his “greatest passion,” but also his profession, he notes that gaining readers and fans abroad can be an additional source of revenue and “can lead to greater sharing of [his] books.”

Another unforgettable weekend in the comics capital of Europe, we can’t wait till next year! And stay tuned for the results of the 2018 Translation Slam in a few short weeks.

Header image: L’età dell’oro (The Golden Age) © Pedrosa & Moreil / BAO Publishing, Dupuis

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