From October 30 to November 2 in Lucca, Italy, comics fans, cartoonists and cosplayers gave life to one of the biggest festivals in the world. This year’s special guests included Robert Crumb, Brian K. Vaughan and Rutu Modan.
With an attendance topping 240,000 this year, Lucca Comics & Games is one of the most crowded comics conventions in the world, overtaking San Diego Comic Con, which has about half the attendees of the Italian event, held every year in the characteristic Tuscan town.
Visiting Lucca during the days of the show is a one-of-a-kind experience: inside the ancient walls of the city cosplayers, games fans and – obviously – comics readers come together to visit the various pavilions assembled between historic monuments and majestic churches.
There was a time, not so many years ago, when the show took place in the narrow alleys of Lucca’s indoor sports arena. However, that era seems far away, and the event is growing bigger every year – so big in fact that on Saturday and Sunday it was almost impossible to walk the city streets.
The reason of this impressive expansion is because the organizers have decided to broaden the subjects of the show to follow the tastes of the public, looking at cosplay, games, movies, TV series and so on, just like San Diego did.
However, comics fans can’t complain, since this year’s edition had big guests like Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples, Rutu Modan, Baru, Gabriele Dell’Otto, Mike Deodato Jr., Masakazu Katsura, Brian Lee O’Malley, Cameron Stewart and many others.
Crumb and Shelton came to Italy from France to celebrate the debut of two new collections published by Comicon Edizioni – one in six volumes, compiling the best of Crumb’s opus, the other entirely devoted to The Freak Brothers.
The two masters of the underground met the public on Saturday 1 November, in a panel with the press and then in a meeting open to anyone, in the peculiar context of the Auditorium San Romano – an old church now used as a conference room, which gave Crumb the occasion to wryly bless his fans.
Crumb talked about his love for music, mentioned Joe Sacco, Daniel Clowes and Noah Van Sciver as the modern cartoonists he admires, and expressed his idea of comics as a medium where words and pictures are both important but where the story is the main thing. He also spoke about Harvey Kurtzman’s relationship with Hugh Hefner and talked about the birth of the underground comics culture.
Shelton spoke about the Sixties scene in San Francisco and recounted how he created The Freak Brothers after seeing a double feature of movies by the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges. He also named Doctor Strangelove as his favourite movie, while Crumb declared his appreciation for Federico Fellini. Regarding their interest in Italian comics artists, Crumb said he doesn’t really know any, while Shelton mentioned the likes of Lorenzo Mattotti, Tanino Liberatore and Massimo Mattioli.
As for the exhibitions, the halls of Palazzo Ducale spotlighted the works of Rutu Modan, Hirohiko Araki, Silver, Guido Scarabottolo and Gabriele Dell’Otto, the last one with a lot of original artwork from the Marvel graphic novel Spider-Man: Family Business, and with paintings portraying other Marvel superheroes, as well as Swamp Thing, Japanese anime characters and scenes from Dante’s Inferno.
At Lucca, publishers also grab the opportunity to present their most important books of the year, debuting Italian editions of essential foreign books as well as interesting local creations.
Every year, the most innovative comics come from the Self Area – a pavilion with free entrance dedicated to Italian self-publishing. This year the organization promoted the Self Area during the convention, putting out a book using Risograph technology in co-operation with Inuit, an independent bookshop and print association based in Bologna. This little book, called Selfy and mostly based on artwork, involved a lot of alternative Italian cartoonists.
Another powerful debut was the second issue of Under Dark Weird Fantasy Grounds, a biannual magazine in English published by Hollow Press, featuring the comics of international artists such as Mat Brinkman, Miguel Angel Martin, Tetsunori Tawaraya and the Italian cartoonists Ratigher and Paolo Massagli.
From Bologna came the new issue of Delebile, an annual Italian anthology with an English translation sheet included and contributors including Bianca Bagnarelli, Nicolò Pellizzon, Sophie Franz and Melissa Mendes, and Canicola, which wasn’t in the Self Area but in the publishers’ pavilion, even though it’s a long-running indie project born to showcase innovative and different European comics; those published in the new bilingual anthology (English and Italian) focus on the German scene.
Now that Lucca 2014 has wrapped, it’s time to look forward to Bilbobul, another big comics festival taking place in Bologna this month. It will showcase high-quality events and exhibitions, including a big art show about the same German artists published in Canicola and personal exhibitions of Manuele Fior, Anna Deflorian, Roman Muradov, Anouk Ricard, Charles Forsman and many other intriguing voices.
For more photos of the event, visit the Lucca Flickr.