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Leonardo Rizzi Interview

Leonardo Rizzi recently spent about a month translating Promethea Issue #12 into Italian. Here is an interview conducted with him in late September 2003

What is the name of the Italian comic book company that you are translating Promethea for?

Magic Press.

Do they have a webpage?

In an untimely surge of luddism, Magic Press is fashionably late in providing the public with a web-page, but our designers generally hope to manage it sometime before the beginning of the 22nd century.

On a more optimistical note, probably there will be some kind of rough web page ready by november, with the usual bunch of options: on-line catalogue and ordering, insider looks and a forum for all the Magic-Maniacs. The page is unimaginatively, but somehow aptly, hosted at: www.magicpress.it

Do you know of any other translations of Alan Moore's works in languages other than Italian?

I recently glimpsed through the French editions of V for Vendetta and Swamp Thing and they seemed to me pretty well done. The differences in the French editions is their being generally more expensive and sometimes even more luxurious: i.e., V for Vendetta is an unaffordable oversized hardcover.
It seems that the translator did a good job in translating the notorious rhymes with which Alan Moore seems to fill his whole work. Judging from my rushed glimpse, Etrigan's speech in Swamp Thing was Faultless and French, but I don't know if this has been a reason of shock for English speakers.

How can people who are interested in an Italian language version of Promethea order a copy?

People can order their copies by writing, in any language known to man, to:
Magic Press
via Cancelliera, 60
00040 Ariccia (Roma) ITALY
Alternatively, they can send an e-mail to mpcomics@magicpress.it or a fax to 39.06.93494233 or, if they are tempted to try their Italian, they can call +39.06.9341045

How long have you been working as a translator?

I have been working as a translator for some 10 years.

How did you first start as a translator? What are some of the titles you have translated?

As with all lasting things, I started by chance. I have always had a strong interest for everything British, literature, comics and writing: translating comics was the perfect combination of the four when I started a sort of part-time job during my university years.
I started translating just for myself, for the "hell of it", wanting to practice writing something in Italian starting from a "strong source". Having nothing better to do, I did a few chapters of Watchmen to provide friends with something readable in our "backwater" language. The language I translated Watchmen in, I'm afraid, was even more backwater than the mix of the "Italian anti-foreign language attitude" and the complexity of Alan Moore could ever achieve. If I'm lucky enough, nobody will ever discover it and it will remain a nice souvenir of those ancient times, in which taking college exams was just an ungrateful hobby.
After that, I went pro when I started working for a company called Play Press who was, and still is, translating DC's super-hero line. My first job was actually as a translation editor. That is, I got to mangle what had been mangled before by someone else. And thus, a lot of good mangling was done. Page after page, for some 30 months, we managed to butcher the best DC had to offer in those years. Leaving aside those bygone days, I started working for Magic Press (formerly General Press) in 1997. For a twisted mix of ill-fortune and my editor's sadism, I've got to translate all the "lenghty writers": Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, some Neil Gaiman, Kyle Baker, Wagner & Seagle, Kiernan, Willingham, Brubaker, Talbot.

Do you just translate comic books or novels as well?

Mostly comic books, but now and then I do a few plays and short stories.

How popular is Alan Moore in Italy?

The general population is not aware of anything that happens in comic books, with the only notable exception of Disney and Bonelli comics (the major Italian comic book publisher).

Recently, though, the popular newspaper "La Repubblica" started to enclose a 200-300 pages weekly book supplement, featuring a lot of "Comic Book Classics". The supplement's rough run is said to be in the region of 200.000 units (but I could be very wrong, of course). A few Alan Moore stories (the Batman and Superman stories) have been published in this format and they should have reached a huge, even if only casual, public. The problem with this "Classic" edition, of course, is that we will hardly know how much will affect the public's perception of comics in general, and Alan Moore's stories, in the specific instance.
When thinking about the somewhat more limited circle of people interested in storytelling (writers and screenswriters and playwrights and so on), Alan Moore's name is very popular and his works are loved and respected.
In approaching the even more limited circle of comic book fiends, Alan Moore is generally called "the Maestro". Aficionados usually think that his writing is flawless and above reproach and avoid any criticism.

What percentage of the population would know English well enough to read his works in the orginal as opposed to in translation?
Reading original comics had been a fashion for some time in Italy, but sales have generally dropped, mostly because our population is not exactly what you would call "English friendly."

How much of his work has been translated and how much have you yourself translated?

I have personally translated some 3000 pages written by Alan Moore: V for Vendetta, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Promethea and the whole of the ABC line, Swamp Thing, D.R. & Quinch, Twisted times, Incredible Futures, Skizz, Spirit's new adventures, Deathblow: Byblows.
Other works by Moore translated in Italian are: Watchmen, From Hell, Batman: The Killing Joke, the Superman Stories, a few Supreme stories, his WildC.A.T.S. and all of his Wildstorm/Image works.

Has his novel Voice of the Fire ever been translated?

Not yet.

If so how did they manage to translate the first chapter?

From what I heard about the Italian book industry, should they ever translate the book, they'd probably skip the first chapter. (just kidding...)

What do you especially like about Promethea as compared to Alan Moore's other works?

It is pretty obvious how deeply Moore cares about the stuff he is writing. If we leave aside his performance pieces, Promethea is his most personal writing in a decade. Promethea is exactly how close we readers can get to Moore's soul.
Writer Umberto Eco often says that the literature's purpose is to educate us to destiny and death. In writing Promethea, Moore is trying to accomplish something more direct.
Obviously, it seems Moore is trying to shape a crash course of "Spirituality 101" for all readers. At the same time, though, it seems to me Moore is trying to arrange for himself an organic spiritual system. I can imagine it's his personal way to find, through a trial and error process, a purpose to the man's existence, his own place in humanity.
Probably, the Promethea project was conceived to let people in on magic, but the actual comic books never showed Moore's personal adoration of snake gods or his own more direct beliefs. Moore never tries to get new proselytes. He tries to provide people with something much more ample: questions that should be able to turn on one's "spirituality-switch" and a sense of cosmic perfection and quiet to start one's own quest for meaning.
I don't believe in everything I read in Promethea. It's better than that.
Promethea makes me wander and think of things I would, otherwise, never have thought of.