DCML Digest, Vol 52, Issue 13

John Lustig john at lastkisscomics.com
Mon Jun 18 02:01:54 CEST 2007

Wow. It's been years since I've written anything on this mailing list, 
but I want to say that I agree completely with what Don Markstein just 
posted regarding re-writes of translations. First of all, sometimes 
jokes just don't translate. So you have to add something. You have to 
make changes. I've never re-written any European Disney scripts, but I 
did do a re-write for a five-book Viz series, Ultra Maniac. In that 
case, I think one of the reasons I was hired was that the editor knew I 
could write new gags.

I also agree with Don about my own Disney/Egmont scripts. I want the 
people who translate and re-script my stories to make me look good. Of 
course, I want them to remain true to the spirit of my story. But 
there's no way they can do that if they try to go with a literal 
translation and don't add references and terms that make sense in that 

John Lustig
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Subject:
> Translation and censorship
> From:
> "Donald D. Markstein" <ddmarkstein at cox.net>
> Date:
> Sat, 16 Jun 2007 06:26:29 -0700
> To:
> dcml at nafsk.se
> To:
> dcml at nafsk.se
>> I'm not sure I'd like it, though... just as I did not like the 
>> Flintstone reference... this is 1957, the Flintstone still had to 
>> air! But besides that... if there is no reference in the original, 
>> then there must be no reference in the translation, no matter what. 
>> Not even the Phantom Blot reference later on in the story, there is 
>> no such thing in the original.
>> I'm also sorry to see that censorship in the first two pages (about 
>> hunting). I know that many Italian reprints of this story were just 
>> as censored (actually, even more), but that's not a good reason. 
>> Censorship is always wrong, no matter what.
> How ironic to read the second "no matter what" in the paragraph 
> immediately following the first! What is an absolute, unequivocal 
> statement of what MUST NOT be in something, if not an attempt at 
> censorship?
> Being a typical monolingual American, I don't do translation work. But 
> I've written new dialog for both Gladstone and Gemstone when the 
> original writer has made a good story, but his non-native skill with 
> English has rendered  the actual words on the page less than ideal. 
> It's a lot like translating from English to American. In the credits, 
> it's called "American script".
> My sole mandate in this work is to make it entertaining. Usually, 
> that's done by remaining faithful to the story as a whole, but playing 
> fast and loose with details. If I think of a good gag that can be 
> slipped in without damage to the original, I have no qualms about 
> doing so. I've even inserted entire subplots that weren't there 
> before, tho the opportunity for anything as radical as that doesn't 
> come up very often.
> If there's a reference in the original that may strike a modern reader 
> as dated, you can bet it'll be modernized in the American script. And 
> if I can insert a reference into the script, that modern American 
> readers will get, I'll do so in a heartbeat. In a Scarpa story 
> published by Gladstone during the '90s, I needed an anology to fit 
> into the reader's cultural context, so I made a passing reference to 
> President Clinton's cat. It was perfectly apolitical, so no problems 
> there -- just a thing everybody had heard of, which was therefore 
> available for use -- which, to an American audience, the European 
> equivalent was not, even if a "faithful" translation would have used one.
> I took some flak from this very list for something else in that same 
> story. "How would you like a translator to do that to one of your 
> Egmont stories?" I was asked, tho it came more in the form of a 
> challenge. I responded by asking the translators to make me look good 
> in their languages, whatever that took. We're all familiar with the 
> idea of things being "lost in translation". That's inevitable. But the 
> translator can also put something in to replace it. There's no reason 
> a translated version can't be as good as the original, provided the 
> translator, who presumably is as good a writer in his own language as 
> editors seem to think I am in mine, is given a free hand.
> As for "censoring" things like references to hunting or (one of my 
> favorite things to drop) tobacco smoking, bear in mind that while 
> these stories, churned out like yard goods for the voracious appetite 
> of a weekly comic book, may indeed be deathless art -- that's not how 
> publishers see them. They're just trying to sell funnybooks. If a 
> racial stereotype, perhaps perfectly acceptable in some bygone era, 
> would cost him circulation by offending some modern readers -- he'd be 
> a darned fool not to soften or eliminate it. It's not a matter of 
> right and wrong. It's what the audience is likely to buy.
> In an ideal world, there would be separate editions for quaint, musty 
> antiquarians who want it precisely as it was, and modern readers who 
> just want to be entertained -- the antiquarian edition, of course, 
> available only privately, so as to avoid unnecessary 
> circulation-damaging controversy -- but we don't happen to live in an 
> ideal world. In the here-and-now, only one edition of the average, 
> routine story is going to see print, and it's going to be the one with 
> mass audience appeal. End of story.
> Quack, Don
> P.S. Translating Herriman?!! Since much of his appeal lies in his 
> inventive use of the English language, that must be a daunting task! 
> Hats off to anyone who can evoke a similar response in another 
> language! But I'll bet a good job of it would be nothing like the 
> original.
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