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Hunter (Pedro Bouca) on Manga’s Start In Europe
posted January 12, 2005

Hunter (Pedro Bouca)
via the Internet

That Italian interview you put in your blog is with great italian comics scholar Alfredo Castelli. He is also a comics writer (creator of cult italian comic Martin Mystere, one of my all-time favorites) and translator (the man knows some six languages or so!). Since I can read Italian, I'll help you understand what he is talking about.

In the interview he explains that he discovered manga in a Japanese bookstore in Manhattan (he already knew anime, but didn't know that a lot of it is adapted from Japanese comics).

Being a comics obsessive (just like me*) he learned a bit of Japanese just to understand what were the book's titles and get the gist of the stories and, with a friend, wrote the first Italian book about anime and manga (titled"Orfani e robot" - Orphans and robots).

In 1979, he and his friend helped an Italian publisher to publish the first translated manga on Italy. In the process they realized that the Japanese publishers didn't know how to do a presentation of their books for foreign clients (all their stuff was in Japanese, incomprehensible for most westerners), so they did for the publisher Kodansha a lavish catalog, in a western language (maybe English, he doesn't give the details) and with hints about the best ways to publish them (mirror-imaging, etc.). The Japanese publisher used it for years afterwards!

The Italian publisher they worked for eventually went under, but by then manga had already a foothold on Italy (and the rest of Europe).

The interview goes on with the interviewer asking if Castelli thinks that he helped to destroy european comics and if the audience for european comics and manga is the same. Castelli seems to think (and I agree) that the two genres are usually read by different people and that they can live together. Although the Spanish comics were indeed destroyed by the manga invasion (I'll add just that the writing was already on the wall for the Spanish comics, since they were locked in the same basic formulas - amoral characters, underground/crime settings, gritty B&W artwork - and mangas offered the readers the variety they were starving for. That is a good advice for US comics as well: Change or die!).

*I learned French and Italian just to be able to read more comics - and comics have really improved the English I learned at school also. But I gave up trying to learn Japanese just to read manga, too much hassle for stuff I can usually get in English, French or Italian anyway. I'm Portuguese, by the way.