Lucca: The City of Comics


November 8, 2017

We were warned that Lucca Comics & Games was no ordinary comics festival. But we couldn’t have imagined just how extraordinary it is! After four days, dozens of events, and hundreds of pictures, we’ll do our best to share our experience with you here.

This year marked the 51st edition of the celebrated comics festival—the biggest of its kind in Europe—and was an unqualified success, drawing over 240,000 people despite the heavy rain. On Saturday alone, over 73,000 tickets were sold, just a few thousand short of the total population of the city. And this is the beauty of the event: over the course of the festival, the entire city transforms into a comic lover’s paradise, drawing fans, creators, and industry professionals from around the world. Nearly every square in the city center is filled with exhibitor tents and stands, including those of Europe Comics partners BAO Publishing and Tunué (see below).

We were proud to be present this year with French author Émile Bravo (The Amazing Adventures of Jules, Dargaud), who has several books published in Italy, including a number of children’s books with BAO in addition to his celebrated Spirou one-shot Le journal d’un ingénu (Dupuis; Il diario di un ingenuo, Nona Arte). He was on hand for several signing sessions, but also to share his knowledge and insight about what goes into making comics for younger readers.

Those who attended Bravo’s events were in for a treat. He spoke about his craft with clarity and humor, the highlight undoubtedly being a panel discussion on Saturday morning about the importance of comics for children. Alongside Raina Telgemeier (Ghosts, Baby-sitters Club, Scholastic/Graphix), and the tandem Federico Bertolucci and Frédéric Brrémaud (Little Tails, published in English by Magnetic Press), he spoke about the crucial role comics can play in children’s lives, introducing them to the real world gradually through humor and stories they can relate to, and he explained how natural drawing is—or should be. After all, what is the first thing children do when you put a crayon into their hands? And despite the importance our society places on writing, it’s important to keep drawing even as you grow up. Not only are the two forms complementary, in Bravo’s view, but drawing can cross borders in a way writing can’t. All of the creators present, despite their different backgrounds and styles, agreed on these main points, without forgetting one last thing: drawing is also a way for adults to connect back with their childhood, and to learn how to play again.

Émile Bravo (speaking) and Federico Bertolucci and Frédéric Brrémaud (at left), talking comics for kids.
Émile Bravo (left) presenting his Spirou one-shot, with translator Fabrizio Iacona.

Another highlight for us came at the beginning of the festival, on the day of the 7th-annual Translation Slam. Aimed at giving aspiring translators a chance to break into comics, the Slam was expanded this year to include a new language category, from Italian to English. The morning of the Slam also featured a standing-room-only panel with Italian creator Zerocalcare (author of Forget My Name and Kobane Calling, BAO/Europe Comics), his publisher Michele Foschini (BAO), British comics critic and author Paul Gravett, and foreign rights agent Sophie Castille (Mediatoon/Europe Comics). Long-time comics translator and publisher Andrea Plazzi (responsible for the Italian translations of such creators as Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Marjane Satrapi) was on hand to moderate.

The main question had to do with the “translatability” of Zerocalcare’s work, which is full of regionalisms from his native Rome (a form of Italian called romano). Here, the translator is faced with a tough choice: leave in the original expressions with an explanatory note, or try to find an equivalent in the target language. But what is the English equivalent of romano? Zerocalcare emphasized here the importance of the translator, mentioning a foreign edition of one of his books that seemed at first glance to be translated accurately, but which felt somehow colder and more distant. On the other hand, he felt the recent French edition of Kobane Calling (published by Editions Cambourakis) was spot on. Not coincidentally, the translator lives in Rome, sharing much the same culture as Zerocalcare, and was able to adapt the text into French in a way that stayed faithful to the original. In his view, finding these kinds of cultural and linguistic bridges is crucial, in order to be able to offer the same reading experience. The danger, otherwise, is having to provide endless explanatory notes, which interrupt and distract from the story.

Zerocalcare (center) discussing the challenges of translating his graphic novels.
A full house for Zerocalcare, ahead of the Translation Slam.

Following the panel, it was time for the Slam itself. The participants had two hours to translate an excerpt or short story ranging from 6-10 pages. This year’s new category, from Italian to English, featured excerpts from two of the Italian greats: Magnus, with L’uomo che uccise Che Guevara (The Man Who Killed Che Guevara), and Gianni De Luca (alongside writer Gianluigi Gonano), with an episode of Commissario Spada (Commissioner Spada). The winner will be announced in the coming days, and may be chosen to translate a future title for Europe Comics from BAO.

Left to right: Mathieu Burniat, Thibault Damour, and interpretor Fabrizio Iacona.
Mathieu Burniat (second from left) bringing the cosmos to life at Lucca.

The long festival weekend of course featured countless other great events, including a mind-blowing talk by physicist Thibault Damour, alongside artist Mathieu Burniat (Dodin-Bouffant: Gourmet Extraordinaire, Dargaud/Europe Comics), to present their Mysteries of the Quantum Universe (Dargaud; published in English by Penguin UK, and Italian by Feltrinelli). But we would have needed a time-turner to catch them all! Grazie mille, Lucca Comics & Games, for a great festival, and see you next time!


Header image: Émile Bravo, signing at Editoriale Cosmo © Europe Comics