Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Lost in translation

In 2002, we became friends with Eduardo Risso. We already knew his work, and we had already met during that year's San Diego Comicon, but it was only when he went to Brazil for a convention - and surely after we took him out to drink in a cool bar that played live samba and had beautiful girls - that our relation changed. We have eventually exchanged e-mail since then and every San Diego convention we meet again. Last year, something happened.

I went with my brother to a Vertigo Panel, to know what were the plans for the vertigo line of books and to watch the slide show previews. Eduardo Risso and Marcelo Frusin were there and, differently from the previous year, there was no translator available for them, so Eduardo came down to the audience and asked if I could serve as a translator for him and Marcelo in case anybody had any questions for them. Apparently, the audience indeed had a lot of questions for them and I ended up sitting at the Vertigo Panel table translating the questions to spanish and answering in english. I was even introduced by Karen Berger when the panel started, and as she went from person to person sitting at the table, telling their names: "...and there, with Eduardo, is his mysterious friend".

That was fun, and that's how I met Marcelo Frusin.

This time around, Eduardo Risso had a panel only for him, a "spotlight on Eduardo Risso" type of thing, and there we were, my brother and I, attending. We'll go, whenever we can, to listen to what Eduardo have to say about the work of the comic book artist. We believe he is in the top of his game and that not many artists working today have the notion he has about storytelling, character expression and mood setting. That said, there we were again.

At the beginning of the panel, he was being translated by Eddie Berganza (Superman's editor over at DC), who was doing a great job, but he was actually covering for the guy the convention's staff would provide and, when the "translator" arrived, Eddie left. That's when the storm began.

The "translator" looked mexican. He could be an american of spanish origins, but he looked like a typical spanish speaking guy from Souther California. And that probably was the only reason they picked him as a translator, because he just sucked at it. He had no speaking skills, so when he talked, the audience could barely hear him. By the look on his face, we could see floating question marks every time Eduardo said anything, making it crystal clear that he wasn't understanding Eduardo's answers and, hence, was translating it- again, when he managed to speak at all - completely wrong.

Eduardo can speak a reasonable amount of english, and he noticed the despair in the translator's face. He found it all quite funny, but nobody at the audience would understand what Eduardo was saying.

"Enough!" I thought, and stood up. I looked at Eduardo and started walking towards the table. He just said "could you?" and, like that, I took over the translation bit of the panel. Everybody was happy.

Now, after my not so brief introduction, I can tell a little bit of what I learned from what he said:

- It may appear to be the most simple answer in the word, but when people asked why he payed so much attention to detail and correct characterization of the people and places in the stories, Eduardo just said "I want to do the comics as good as the ones I enjoyed reading as a kid".

Isn't that the first goal of an artist?

"I do the comics I like, to please myself first." in the standard line of the artist, but it's different from what he said. He wants his work to impress people the way he was impressed when he used to read comics. His work should inspire other to follow the same path, and try as hard, and be as good.

- Good storytelling is not only about beautiful drawings, it's also about space, the space of the page and how you use it. The artist should think a lot about what's the best way to composite the page, to set the panels, to convey the action and how to best guide the reader's eyes through the page, al that before starting to draw anything on it. You don't need to have the best skills as an artist as long as you have it clear in your art the story you're telling.

- Everybody should look interesting, even the ugly, strange people. When you're drawing your story, all characters, especially the main ones, should be nice on the eye because the reader have to watch this character every page of the story. It doesn't matter if the character would translate into a ugly person in real life, the kind you would change side walks if you'd see him walking towards you in the street, still his portrayal on the page should look interesting so you want to know what's going to happen to him.

At the end of the panel, Eduardo thanked me and went back to the hotel to see the Argentinean soccer team lose to the Brazilian soccer team at the America Cup Final.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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