A little mirror of comics in Italy / part 1

Posted by on February 18th, 2011 at 12:54 AM

Salve a tutti (which means, I remind you, “Hello everyone”),

long time no read, uh?

Last time I wrote that I would say something about Lucca Comics. This is the most important Italian convention on comics and, with Angoulême, the biggest in Europe. Angoulême, from a strictly grandeur/business/professional-based point of view, is better, hands down: more people, a more cosmopolitan environment, a bigger budget, the substantial and convinced support of French institutions, more international guests, a higher and more positive mass media feedback.

Lucca has its advantages, though (for example, much better food and beautiful cosplayers!). But I won’t talk about it because I am Italian, therefore not very objective. And my French friends could get touchy :-)

What I shall talk about here is the fact that looking at what happens at Lucca Comics gives a hint of the current situation of comics in this country.

I could say that there is not, abroad, that much attention on the Italian context of comics in this period (if anytime there was). This is pretty understandable. The world is looking at Italy for other, sadder, reasons.

One of the countless situations in which Silvio Berlusconi makes Italians feel ashamed of being institutionally “represented” by someone like him.

Comics artists and cartoon artists, in Italy, have reacted to the current, embarrassing and worrisome situation in many ways and with intelligence, though. Some of them, with their cartoons and short satyrical stories, have also been published by the mainstream press—which can be normal in countries like France, England, the U.S., but not in Italy, where the journalistic system is often not yet mature and doomed to re-discover the wheel on a regular basis.

One of these artists is, for instance, Makkox (pseud. of Marco Dambrosio).

One of the many political cartoons by Makkox. This artist often focuses on Berlusconi, which is right and opportune, seen in what times we are living. In the big balloon, the obsessively repeated word “Io” means “I”, of course.

Makkox is a mature artist who only recently has begun to draw political cartoons and comics. Among the many interesting features of his work, one is the vertical development of his cartoons, a graphical means which is very apt to the internet page reading. You can find him here.

That said, let’s go to what I would like to say on Italian comics seen from a Lucca Comics perspective. I start from here not only because I had promised it last time (which, being I a very bad blogger, was too much time ago), but because I happened to be, in 2010, one of the jury members of the “Yellow Kid” awards at Lucca Comics. This position gave me, more than usual, a precise perspective on the current comics production in Italy and, besides, of what Italian comics publishers find interesting in foreign comics, so interesting to promptly translate and publish many non-Italian comics.

As you may (or may not) know, Italy, in general, has a publishing system with a strong tradition in printing foreign works: in fiction, non-fiction, academic books… and comics. A longstanding “myth” on this tradition, probably circulated by the same publishing system (i.e., mainly the big publishing groups, that’s Rizzoli, Mondadori, Feltrinelli, and others) but perhaps by some naïf intellectuals as well, says that this attention to the foreign production is due to a strong Italian sensibility for other cultures.


The main reason is that Italian publishers prefer not to risk in investing in Italian authors (this is especially through in the field of non-graphic fiction, i.e. novels) and like better, instead, to sign agreements with foreign publishers in order to get rights on packs of those new works which have gained or will probably gain editorial success abroad. They prefer, in other words, to spend certain sums of money for translating foreign works which have already proven successful instead of paying local authors for producing new Italian works.

Something of this perverted “editorial ideology” might be at play in the world of Italian comics publishing system, but, if that’s the case, in a very soft way. If anything, Italian comics publishers have always been willing to experiment with new authors or, anyway, with Italian authors. Sometimes (often…) remunerating them less than one might expect; but this is another issue, one which is recently exploded in Italy, and of which I will talk in another post.

On this point, let me just say that many talented Italian authors have recently decided to leave Italy and settle elsewhere, for example in France, or in Spain; not only because these two countries are in many ways similar to Italy in terms of civilisation, habits, and people (for obvious, historical reasons) but also because they are close (Mamma is always near to reach by airplane…) and, in professional terms, because comics authors are paid better and the work environments, overall—not only in the field of comics—are dominated by a deeper attention to seriousness and professionality than in Italy.

Claudio Stassi, an Italian comics artist living in Barcelona. You find him at stassiclaudio.blogspot.com. We will deal with him and the “movement” of some Italian comics artists asking for better work conditions in next post.

An example among many is that of Claudio Stassi, who has recently moved to Barcelona (Spain). I mention him an not others because, although Claudio has already published both in Italy and Spain interesting works, and is an author who has managed to live of his own work as a comics artist, he has started (or, we could say, at least reinvigorated) a “movement” of Italian authors who ask publishers for better payments and contractual conditions.

Let’s go back to the main topic of which I wanted to talk about, which is comics in Italy (comics in general, not only Italian comics) seen from a Lucca Comics perspective.

As you see, the title of this post has a “/ 1” in it and this means that I mean to split it in some parts. Which will be more than two. This was part one and, like in bad action tv series, this is a cliffhanger and here I bring the lines down and wait for you to next post, where I will dip into the promised topic.


P.S. The title of last post was “Some notes from ‘Lucca Comics’ / 0”. Apologies for the change of title. At least the numeric sequence hasn’t changed!

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