Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Marv and Me: Encounters and Translation in the Feria del Libro Infantil y Juvenil

During one of my posts in May, I described the Feria del Libro as being a sort of hell that was hot and crowded with sloth-like browsers. If I remember my Dante, there are distinct levels of hell, and The Feria del Libro Infantil y Juvenil was on another, deeper level.* The waves of children reaching up to my ribs moved faster than the elderly at the Feria del Libro, but were more unpredictable, stopping dead in the middle of the passage way without warning. So, after navigating the crowds on the first day, I was looking forward to sitting in a dark room and listening to the Marv Wolfman chat. But, no such luck. Just as I arrived and was about to go wait in the line, Andrés Accorsi, the director for the comics section of the Feria del Libro Infantil y Juvenil (see previous posts), approached me and said, “I’m glad you’re here. You can help with the translation.” Seeing my wide-eyed, horror-stricken face, he reminded me that I had offered to help him with the fair numerous times. Realizing that not only I had offered to help, but that he had previously warned me that it was a dangerous offer, I really had no one to blame but my overzealous self.

Too shocked to be scared, I went up to the stage and met Marv Wolfman, an amiable guy with a big smile and an amazing 1980’s sweater. (I later found out that he owns many of these sweaters in different colors.) Wolfman has created comics in the United States since the 1960’s and some of his contributions have laid the foundation for the modern comic book industry. He’s written comics (The Teen Titans and Tomb of Dracula) as well as scripts for animation and video games. Andrés explained that I would be translating his and the audience’s questions from Spanish to English for Marv. Essentially, it was a timesaving measure.

The only picture where I don't look terrified, taken from the El Blogazo del Comic blog

The doors were opened and the die-hard fans rushed to get seats in the front. I went up on the stage to sit next to Wolfman. Translating the questions that Andrés posed was pretty easy. I’ve seen his translation style before in Crack Bang Boom and he made eye contact with me when he was asking a question. I wouldn’t translate every word of the question, but synthesize it and come up with the essence of the question. Problems arose when the audience asked questions. First of all, I couldn’t hear anything because an infernal children’s performance across the hall played music at a heavy metal concert’s volume. Second of all, the crowd was filled with fanatics of American comics with very specific questions. Sometimes I could translate the question, but I gave Andrés the “I-have-no-idea-what-they-just-said” look more than once when I didn’t understand a specific reference. Even the next day, after reading about Wolfman’s career for a few hours, I was unable to make sense of some of the meticulous questions. I guess the man’s been in business for about half a century, so naturally I wouldn’t know everything he’s done after only a few hours of research. I probably should have been more embarrassed by my lack of comics knowledge, but anyone that has met me knows that I don’t read many superhero comics.

On the first day of the lecture series, Wolfman talked about his work in videogames and animation, and movies based on his comics. The second day, he talked about comics. Some of the most interesting topics he discussed were the role of comics shops and the format of the comic book. Comics shops, he suggested, should de-specialize to include games and toys and should also provide a place for people to gather for events. This would draw people in and make them stay, instead of just entering to pick up their comics. I recently interviewed Rodrigo Díaz from the publishing company/store Mobius and he talked about a similar idea—the comic store as a space for diverse groups of people. Moebius (located at Bulnes 658) has jewelry, stuffed animals, posters and diaries as well as comics. Because of this diversity, the store is attractive to different groups of people, not only those interested in comics.

Wolfman also criticized the current “pamphlet” format of the comic, suggesting a future online format to be viewed on the computer or ipad. Collector’s editions would be the only printed comics. In a continued conversation later that night (Marv and his wife took Andrés and me out to eat to thank us) he mentioned his intentional use of the word “pamphlet” to insult, marking his negative feelings about the flimsy nature of the 26 page books.

It was fascinating to be able to meet with someone who has lived through comics history in the United States from the Comics Code to the comics bubble and burst in the 1990’s. His experiences spans decades and the many ups and downs the industry has faced. After having learned so much about Argentine comics history through oral interviews and classes, it was interesting to hear the similar experiences of an American creator.

*Note: I love and support book fairs! I just get really stressed in large, hot spaces with many people. Book fairs should exist, I should just never go to them.

Marv, answering a question.
Me, unable to keep my face still for .05 seconds.
Video taken by El Blogazo del Comic.


  1. Wow that sweatter!

    Estuve usando mucho el del bosque con bambi! Después te cuento.
    ¿A quién le importan las historietas? ¡Hagamos blogs sobre sweatters!