Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Trials of Translation – Another Perspective.



As the Translating and Dialoguing of American Disney comic books from stories of varied European origins has become such a hot topic around here, our friend Debbie Anne Perry forwarded a piece that was of such great interest to me, I thought I’d share it with all of you. 

I neither read, nor have any interest in, Manga – but the story of an individual who translates it for an American audience is fascinating. 

As one who performs a similar function, I both agree and disagree with him on different points. 

Please read the piece HERE, and I will have some follow-up remarks in the Comments Section… as I expect many of you will also have!

Debbie is thanked for providing this, as is our friend Clapton, who subsequently forwarded me the same link knowing how interesting I’d find it! 

See you in the Comments Section…

Keep on translating, Donald! 

UPDATE:  For our friend "Anonymous", I have added some panels from "The Perfect Calm" in IDW's DONALD DUCK # 4 that, before my dialogued version, placed Duckburg in EUROPE, rather than the West Coast of North America.  


See more on this, in the Comments Section!  



And we "call back" to it for Donald's panic escape from Duckburg, back to Tibet! 



38 comments:

Joe Torcivia said...

Comments by the author of the piece are in quoted italics, followed by my responses:

"People want a connection. They want to believe it is the actual artist’s words that they react to. Making people cognizant of the translator sets up a barrier between reader and artist. Translators are supposed to be invisible. We are enablers, the babel fish in the ear with no personality or presence of our own. Readers want to think all the translator does is swap words into a different language, substituting “あ” for “a.” But that’s not how translation works."

AT LAST! Someone gets us, even if it’s validation from within our own bubble! Any old computer program can create a replication of the original story in another language. We are commissioned to add a flair that makes a story work for our audience. Most like this approach, yet a dedicated few do not!

"Direct translation—translating words as-is—produces unreadable gobbledygook. Even reordering those words into proper English grammar results in uninspired nonsense."

Sometimes, this is true with European languages as well. Not everything is directly translatable, and you do the best you can to make it work.

"English is comparatively straight forward—most of the time people say what they mean. Japanese is “Shaka; when the walls fell.”"

That, believe it or not, is a reference to Star Trek the Next Generation! I'm surprised to see it here, but it is very appropriate in the analogy the writer is trying to make!

"The main role of the editor is to choose the translator, manage the project, and then tidy up the finished comic. Never underestimate the importance of that first part. It’s probably the single most important decision that will be made once a comic is licensed."

Hey, I've said that many times about David Gerstein! He has an uncanny knack for pairing the right translator with the right story!

"My process is simple. I prop the comic next to my computer and start to read—and write. And feel. That’s important, because that’s what I am trying to replicate, a feeling. I never read the comic ahead of time. I want to capture the exact moment of when I read a page, and then use English to make readers experience that same emotion."

I SOOOO STRONGLY DISAGREE, even if it works for him! You can't head down a path, not knowing what's going to happen, find you are dead wrong in what you wrote - and double back to scrap and correct the whole thing! Not unless you've got a LOT MORE TIME than I have!

I do a COMPLETE translation first, before writing a single line of dialogue! How could you possibly do it any other way?

Okay, you’ve heard from me. Now, let’s hear from all of you!

DJYellow22 said...

People don't seem to respect translators much. I know quite a few friends who see that job as just bringing something to English, that someone else made. However, from your work, and from that article you posted, it's really so much more than that.

Achille Talon said...

Yes, so you know my general position from GeoX's blog's comments, though I have softened a bit since the most flaming posts. Here is some precision.

And feel. That’s important, because that’s what I am trying to replicate, a feeling. I never read the comic ahead of time. I want to capture the exact moment of when I read a page, and then use English to make readers experience that same emotion."

—> The "reading-ahead-of-time" condition notwithstanding, here is where all my point lies. Saying I have no problems with the changes would be exaggerating, of course (I'm a bit more obsessional than that), but I'm mostly fine with them as long as they don't betray what the author intended the story to say. You can add jokes here and there, you can (and should) replace those untranslatable with new ones. But what you shouldn't do in my opinion would be twisting the story into saying something it doesn't. Like, let's take the example that struck me most, GeoX's handling of the weird knight in the suit of armor in "Professor Donaldus" which he made into a "wandering spirit", when the original story's point was that the knight was carrying a picture of his very ugly wife, which we imagine is not easy to live with. Well, it's not especially an Italian-culture-related joke; it's just a somewhat clichéd one. Well, I think GeoX shouldn't have changed it. In the same story, his entirely gumming the reference to this "Pier Donald Caponi" fellow to replace with an unrelated joke, was also wrong in my book. What he should have done would have been to look for a historical English or American character he could replace Donaldo Caponi with. Since the author's intention was that Donald would be referencing "an ancestor of his" in this panel.


Joe Torcivia said...

Thank you very much for those kind words, DJYellow!

I know that I always try to deliver something in the way of a translation that our audience will enjoy reading, and the same goes for my fellow translators at IDW.

I come at this from a lifelong love of the comic book versions of the characters, as far back as reading Carl Barks’ later work in its original printings, and being around through every publisher since. Jonathan and Thad may come from different reading backgrounds and perspectives, but they are just as dedicated, and produce wonderful work. So much so that I purposely decline to read any of it in advance of publication, just so I’ll have something great to read on “New Comics Day”.

It’s an honor to be a part of this, and I hope that shows through on the printed page!

Joe Torcivia said...

Achille:

Very glad to know your position on strict translations has “softened” while, perhaps ironically, I’ve been making a greater effort of late to hew closer to the originals than in some of the earlier issues – while still attempting to provide an entertaining product for the American English-reading audience. There’s room for both viewpoints, and enough comics out there to apply them both to greatest advantage.

I *do* understand and appreciate your lack of enthusiasm for a translator “making new stuff up”. And I know there’s at least one thing I’ve done early on at IDW that you disagree with, though others really enjoyed it by the feedback received.

My main goal has always been to make the story a “good read” for those who buy it. Carl Barks felt that way, and I can’t go wrong trying to hopefully follow suit. To that end, you’ll find something fun on every page of mine, even if it’s just a pun or a turn-of-phrase. Though, I never violate character in so doing.

Also know that certain changes don’t always come from the admittedly twisted minds of us translators. I think the example you provide from GeoX nicely defines and articulates your position. You may not have liked what Geo did, vs. the author’s original intent…

…But, what if we, as translators, were told that we cannot do “ugly wife” jokes? That, what might have been a “funny reveal” in a 1940s or 1950s Tex Avery cartoon, was not acceptable for today’s modern comic magazine audience. Such situations *do* happen. Perhaps more often than is apparent from an outside view. We might very well have had to contrive a solution similar to what Geo did, and persons familiar with the unaltered original might be unhappy, but that’s what it is.

From your previous comment, my impression is that you haven’t had much opportunity to see the IDW product – and advance apologies if I’ve got this wrong. I think you’d very much enjoy it, despite any divergence you may encounter. From my own work, try UNCLE SCROOGE # 7 and 11, the upcoming DONALD DUCK # 12, and especially MICKEY MOUSE # 6! You’ll find lively scripting, to match excellent original stories – and not a whole lotta “making new stuff up”.

Joe Torcivia said...

Also, on the idea of “Translating the Entire Comic Before Beginning to Write the Script”, I would NEVER have been able to successfully create an English version of THIS LEAD STORY, without fully translating it first.

…And, even then, I had to ask David for help in clarifying some of the many twists!

Imagine translating this one, page-by-page, as you go… not knowing where it leads! It would be impossible to get right!

Luke B said...

A very interesting read, especially since I've enjoyed his translations of Shigeru Mizuki's works recently. No easy task, as even his light, breezy, fun comedy horror pieces are so steeped in Japanese tradition, making good translation and things like informative introductions and footnotes very necessary.

- by the way, Mizuki, who was beloved in his home country on a level Americans could probably never understand (the closest equivalent might be Charles Schultz), recently passed away at the age of 93. He lived a good long life, so nothing to be sad about there, but I'll miss being able to call him 'the world's greatest living cartoonist.' He made his fame reintroducing Japanese mythology back into the pop culture mainstream after modernization had kinda swept all the superstitious stuff under the rug. He did it in the best possible way: funny comics intended for children with cool monsters! He also wrote multiple biographical comics that detail his astoundingly eventful life, like when he lived through essentially the worst things a human being could possible stand in WWII - including, I might add, loosing his drawing arm and having to relearn his art with his non-dominant hand!

And Joe - I don't think I've mentioned this yet, but that gag of Scrooge wearing a dress in Scrooge #1? I really appreciated you changing that to the joke being him dressed as a specific person instead of: man + dress = funny. In this age where we're more aware of trans people, and more aware of the abuse and such that they often face, that old standby of a joke has become pretty uncomfortable to me.

Elaine said...

In the world of biblical translation, the terms "formal translation" (more "literal") and "dynamic translation" (see Wikipedia "dynamic and formal equivalence") address the same sort of tension between rendering a close-as-possible version of the original text and producing a text which will be received by the reader as similarly as possible. Then there's paraphrase....

Obviously, word-for-word exact equivalence is never possible, and there's a spectrum from that impossible endpoint to a paraphrase that takes lots of liberties on the other end. There are different ideal points along that spectrum, depending on the nature of the text and the audience.

In terms of Disney comics, I think one important issue regarding authorial intent is that most authors of Disney comics are well aware that their stories will be not only translated but localized for other countries. Certainly that's a given for authors writing stories for Egmont. If they're disturbed by that prospect, they're probably in the wrong line of work.

I'm always interested in the culturally-specific holiday traditions in Disney comics and how those get treated when the stories are translated. The Christmas stories that become St. Nicholas Day stories in the Netherlands. The traditional New Years Eve oliebollen (sort-of doughnut holes--deep-fried scoops of dough) of the Netherlands that don't communicate "New Years Eve" in other countries. The New Years fireworks displays in European stories, which always make me feel like this is not the American Duckburg I know (though maybe if I were a Southerner...). The fact that Magica is mistaken for Befana, the Epiphany gift-giver who wears black and rides a broom, by children in an Italian story, which does not really work at all in any other country; the French translation had the children thinking she's the wife of Père Noel (more or less, Mrs. Claus), which doesn't make the slightest bit of sense. I actually read the French version first, knowing it was originally an Italian story, and said to myself, Oh, they must have thought she was Befana! And when I eventually found the Italian original, sure enough.... I think that's a case of an element in a story which simply doesn't work anywhere else. You could translate it into English and keep "Befana," but that would only make sense in a Fantagraphics book aimed at adults, with explanatory annotations.

And what *did* other countries do with Rosa's three-way "FG" joke (fairy godmother, federal grant, Flintheart Glomgold) in "A Little Something Special"? He was not making life easy for the poor translators!

Joe Torcivia said...

Luke:

How about that! I post this piece merely as a sort of parallel experience to what we do for the Disney comics, and end up providing you with something of considerably greater interest beyond that!

Not being a Manga fan, I would not have heard of Shigeru Mizuki but, from your description, he sounds like one of the all-time greats in his field, as we might view Carl Barks and Floyd Gottfredson, Romano Scarpa, and Don Rosa. Or, in more of the mainstream, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, Bob Kane and his Army of Ghosts, Julius Schwartz, Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Gardner Fox, John Broome, Curt Swan, Will Eisner, Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams, John Byrne, Frank Miller, Grant Morrison, etc.

You’ve certainly taught me something I didn’t know! I would then also assume that the author of the piece, Zack Davisson, to be an outstanding translator of Mizuki’s work. Though, having done a lot of this myself (…and with the distinct advantage of translating from Italian, rather than the unenviable task of translating from Japanese), I still cannot imagine how he can “just go”, without knowing all the details of the story – much less the ENDING – and successfully translate a story! Using such an approach, I wonder how often he must have to backtrack and correct himself! …Not for me, Brother!

And, thank you for your comment on UNCLE SCROOGE # 1. The tired, old “man + dress = funny” (as you so perfectly put it) thing didn’t work for me nearly as well as tying it to a specific character. And, as you rightly point out, a variety of very valid reasons can account for that. The look of the outfit lent itself to the more specific reference to Minnie Mouse, which I think worked much better.

Joe Torcivia said...

Elaine:

You write: “ In terms of Disney comics, I think one important issue regarding authorial intent is that most authors of Disney comics are well aware that their stories will be not only translated but localized for other countries. Certainly that's a given for authors writing stories for Egmont. If they're disturbed by that prospect, they're probably in the wrong line of work.”

With few exceptions, one in particular of whom I’m aware, I believe that (as you say) “… most authors of Disney comics are well aware that their stories will be not only translated but localized for other countries.” They’d HAVE to accept that as part of the game! And, for what it’s worth, Casty liked what he saw of my version of his wonderful Mickey story that I called “Plan Dine from Outer Space” - and that meant a LOT to me!

I wouldn’t be surprised if certain other countries just discarded Rosa's three-way "FG" joke, adding something else of their own. Some things simply don’t translate – or at least do not translate WELL, as our Manga translator points out, and as I’ve also found to be true.

Anonymous said...

I wrote a very long message yesterday but it disappeared because I messed up with the captcha stuff that wanted to know if I were a robot :( I'll try to say the same things in a condensed form.

I don't think it's true that "Any old computer program can create a replication of the original story in another language", as using Google Translate for languages I don't understand often produces gibberish.

"We are commissioned to add a flair that makes a story work for our audience. Most like this approach, yet a dedicated few do not!": I guess you consider me as one of the dedicated few that do not like the approach of adding flair, but this is not true: it's just that there are several ways to adding a flair. I often try, for personal amusement, to do Italian translations of stories that haven't been published here, and later when the story is published I see the official translation. My translation is a direct translation, the official translation is also a direct translation, and yet the latter is much smoother and elegant than my own and simply better. Why? Because there are several ways to do a direct translation, and a good translator (as opposed to an amateur) is able to choose the best one, thus adding a flair to the story.

Unranslatable puns, on the other hand, are a totally different matter. Many cases require a rewrite, and if it is done correctly the translator should be praised. For example, in Don Rosa's "Mythological Menagerie" Donald says he belonged to the "Little Booneheads" and the nephews think they heard "Little Boneheads". Donald tries to correct them, but he ends up saying "Hedboons! No, I mean Bedhoons!"; the nephews say "Unca Donald was a bedouin? Gosh, did you have your own camel?" The Italian version translated "Little Booneheads" with "Giovani Scheggiatori" (Young Splintermen), and the nephews think they heard "Giovani Saccheggiatori" (Little Plunderes). Donald corrects them and says the Young Splintermen were collectors of splinters of knowledge, and "cultori" (fanciers); the nephews think they heard "coltivatori" (croppers) and say "Unca Donald was a cropper? And what did he grow? Turnips". This is not a direct translation, but I think it was a very good localization, which compensated for the untranslatable puns and kept the continuous misunderstandings between Donald and the boys which were the main point of the scene. The localizated version didn't keep the letter of the original, but it kept the spirit. See? I'm not a fanatic for direct translations in every case.

Other situations involve using a translator's note to the readers, and that's fine too: sometimes it was necessary, and sometimes it was not necessary but it wasn't a bad choice either.

I also approve when the translator corrects factual errors like Duckburg being in Europe, but I don't know if IDW has ever localizated a story whose original version has Duckburg in Europe.

What I don't like is rewriting some dialogues to change the character motivations when it is not necessary to do so (no untranslatable puns/cultural barrier/factual mistakes etc.), and I think IDW did this a few times.

Ealaine, I am a bit puzzled by what you said about Magica being mistaken for Befana in Italian stories. I can't think of any example, and if I knew one I would find it extremely odd as Befana is an ugly old lady and I don't see how can Magica be mistaken for her.

Elaine and Joe both asked about Rosa's "FG" joke in foreign editions: in the Italian version, it has become the "CF" joke: Consiglio Federale, Cara Fatina, Cuordipietra Famedoro; a good localization, which kept the joke while being an almost direct translation. This is what I consider an example of a translator adding a flair to the story.

Joe Torcivia said...

Anon:

Sorry you lost a longer comment, in order to prove that you are not a “Robot”. Just a suggestion, why not consider opening a Google Account, rather than continue to post as “Anonymous”. It can be in your own name (as I do) or a screen name as many of our commenters do. Someone with as many interesting things to say as you should at least have some kind of specific personal identifier to go along with those comments. I find I never have to “do the Robot thing” when posting comments on other Blogs.

Naturally, some gibberish will result from a literal machine translation, but enough will emerge to formulate a faithful translation. You can pretty much get around the gibberish by taking cues and context from the art. What I mean is that most anyone can “replicate dialogue” with a translation program. That doesn’t mean it will be good. That’s where the “flair” comes in. IDW has it, and the earliest Disney comics published by Boom! Studios decidedly did not. Glad they found it toward the end, even if it was too late!

You are absolutely not one of the “dedicated few” of whom I speak and, for the record I don’t regard our friend Achille Talon as one either, as is evident by our exchange above. Our own classic difference has been on “Censorship vs. Editorial Prerogative”, and I think we’ve reached sufficient compromise on that matter. However, there are those who do feel very strongly about this, and they, too, are entitled to their opinion. I’m only acknowledging that they exist.

When Don Rosa was creating his earliest work directly for Gladstone Series One, I don’t think he much considered how well or poorly that work would translate. A very early story of his ended on a joke that would only work if the publisher of the comics was named “Gladstone”! If you know the story I mean, how did that one translate in Italy? Obviously, as he became more and more internationally regarded, the situation changed.

What surprised me, in a similar regard, was that the first page of the Super Goof story I dialogued for MICKEY MOUSE # 8 had not one but several untranslatable puns on its first page – and this story WAS originally created for foreign publication by the Disney Studio Program. (“S” Codes). I understand that the individual panels containing these untranslatable puns were excised in printings outside the USA.

I actually did translate a story where Duckburg was in Europe, for DONALD DUCK # 4 – panels from that same story are found in this post. Naturally, I had to change that in the dialogue twice. The second reference actually playing nicely into a “panic gag”!

Can’t comment on “Befana” (I’ll leave that to Elaine!), but nice job by the Italians on the “FG” joke, as well as “Little Booneheads”! Your comics sound as if they’re in good hands, translation-wise.

Elaine said...

Anon, the story in which children briefly decide that Magica (who has just fallen into their midst after a collision with a hot-air balloon) must be Befana is "Amelia fatina per un giorno" by Bruno Sarda (art by Stefano Intini). It's not surprising you don't remember it--it was printed only in the girly comics, Minni & company, Minni amica del cuore, etc. And of course it's true that Magica is glamorous while Befana is old and ugly, but it remains the case that in appearance Magica has more in common with the witchy Befana than with the wife of Father Christmas.

After Magica yells at them that she is not Befana, they give that up, but later decide she must be a good fairy. The fact that these kids persist in putting positive interpretations on her is part of what leads her to help them out, as the title indicates. That, along with the fact that "se c'è una cosa che non sopporto, sono i prepotenti."

Anonymous said...

I will consider the Google Account thing, but the mere fact you referred to me as "Someone with as many interesting things to say as you" encourages me to continue posting on this blog.

Sometimes we can get around the gibberish from machine translation, but other times it's very difficult to understand some sentences, even though in a comic there is at least the help of the art. Anyway, I am curious about what you said of Boom! traslations. Can you provide some examples?

I am glad I am not one of the "dedicated few", though I can't imagine who they are and how exactly are their views different from mine. By the way, did IDW ever use a translator note inside a story (instead of inside an accompanying article)?

I read your article about Donald Duck #4, but it didn't said anything about having to correct Duckburg in Europe. Elaine, however, made this comment below your article: "Interesting to see how you got around a couple of problems in the text: the fact that the Ducks can walk from Duckburg to Tibet (since in Italian stories Duckburg is generally in Italy), the claim that Scrooge will run out of money in a couple of months". I think there is a misunderstanding: in Italy Duckburg has been portrayed as an American city, both in translated American stories and in original Italian stories. I can think of only one exception: Federico Pedrocchi's "The Mystery of Mars" (1937), the very first Italian story, has Donald receiving a reward of 2000 lire (which was changed to 2000 dollars in recent Italian reprints anyways). Maybe there are other exceptions in early stories I haven't read yet, but Italy is not one of those countries that portray Duckburg as being in Europe.

Still, Joe, I was surprised to read this from you in the comment section of Donald Duck #4: "But now (starting, in fact, with “The Perfect Calm”), I translate directly from a PDF of the Italian finished art with Italian dialogue, using translation software. From that, I write the American English scripts that appear in the comics [...] And, although I am of 100 % Italian heritage, alas, I do not speak the language… More’s the pity. " I thought you could understand Italian, but maybe there was some misunderstanding when we discussed this subject. So you translate from a language you don't understand using a machine translation as a draft? I can't imagine how it can work.


I'd say Italian translations are generally good, though there are some blunders here and there. And since I mentioned the Little Booneheads: I thought Don Rosa was the first author to re-mention this scout group from a Barks ten-pager, but then I found this story from 1985 titled "Boonehead Blarney"

https://coa.inducks.org/story.php?c=D++7914

Does anybody know more about this story? And are there other non Barks/Rosa uses or mentions of the Little Booneheads

Elaine: thanks for the info. Obviously, I never read those comics. I guess it was a one-time gag, and that it played on the fact that both Befana and Magica use a flying broom. Indeed, in Italy Magica is portrayed like a witch, unlike Barks' magica who is a sorceress and uses a plane to travel (except in one of his JW scripts where she has a flying broom, but a technological one). I don't like Magica being treated as a witch, but I can't help that; still, it's fun that I am debating this, the subject of the very first post of mine in this blog. About the wife of Father Christmas/Santa Claus, I know very little.

I'll close with two off-topic:
*In Barks' "Jet Rescue" from WDC&S #67 (April 1946), one of the nephews says "Hooray! Duck brothers makes history!" So, this is the earliest use I know of the boys' surname, as it predates "Turkey Trouble" by eight months.
*I heard that Della Duck is mentioned in this story

https://coa.inducks.org/story.php?c=D+96382

by David Gerstein and Vicar. Is it true?

Joe Torcivia said...

Anon:

There’s no doubt of your interest in, and enthusiasm for, the things we do here.

I don’t really want to disparage the work of others, but the early Boom! translations were mechanical and demonstrated an overall lack of knowledge when it came to characterization. Eventually, David, Jonathan, and yours truly were invited in to change this. And, now, here we are at IDW.

I’m not sure what you mean by a “Translator’s Note” (An explanatory caption?), but I’m sure I haven’t added one. In “The Perfect Calm”, Donald could journey to Tbiet without crossing a body of water… Therefore, Duckburg was, if not specifically in Italy, somewhere in Europe. I may post the panels in question in the body of this post later, for you to see.

The fact is that I have a very basic knowledge of Italian, as both my grandfathers were born in Italy, and the language was often spoken in my youth. I have nothing to rival your mastery of English, an accomplishment for which I have complemented you. That level of fluency may elude me, but it increases steadily with each translation and scripting job I do. Each one gets easier, and more familiar…

Perhaps David can chime in on his story.

Anonymous said...

It's good that you don't want to disparage the work of others, though I think that a sample of a random dialogue from any story could be useful to this discussion, as it would illustrate the similarities and differences between Boom! and IDW.

When I said "Translator’s Note" I meant an explanatory message from the translator to the reader. For obvious reasons, these notes should only be used as a translator's last resource and avoided if not necessary, but a few times they were used in some Italian translations: for example, to explain the Drakeborough/Duckburg thing in "His Majesty McDuck" and the meaning of "Teddy Bear" in "The Sharpie of the Culebra Cut". These notes are not in a caption, they are either at the end of a page or between two strips of a page.

Maybe Donald crosses the ocean off-panel before going to Tibet? I just can't see an Italian story placing Duckburg in Europe (well, except from the story I mentioned before, which came out in 1937...) but maybe if you post those panels the setting will become clearer.

So, you do have a basic knowledge of Italian, I wasn't misremembering things. Which is a good thing, as relying on machine translations could lead to many mistakes. Hopefully, your fluency will increase with each job you do.

Counting on David for the last point.

Joe Torcivia said...

Anon:

RE: The early Boom! translations, I’d just as soon not revisit them, but know that they were lifeless, machinelike, and totally devoid of the characterizations we love. No Snap! No Crackle! No Pop! Just limp! When you mention what would emerge from a translation program, without the aforementioned “flair”, that’s what it was. After years of Gemstone, as guided by John Clark and David Gerstein – where Jonathan, Thad, and I got our start, and great dialogue-smiths like Gary Leach were well established – they were just… Blah!

No, I’ve never used a “Translator’s Note” as per your description. When Melvin X. Nickelby was reintroduced in the backup story of UNCLE SCROOGE # 10, I did ask for (and received) an added caption box reminding readers that Melvin was introduced way back in UNCLE SCROOGE # 367 (Gemstone, 2007), because it was nearly NINE YEARS since we’d seen him last. You can see that illustration, with an added caption box, deep into THIS POST.

But, by and large, and despite the profound effect we can have on any given story, we translators and scripters have to be “invisible” – and can only leave our mark by augmenting or enhancing the works of others. And that’s a role I’m very comfortable with.

I will add some panels to the body of this post from “The Perfect Calm” that show Donald setting-off on a “walk” to Tibet – because it’s imperative to the philosophy that he DOES venture on foot. I give him an inventive way to do this, and cross the Pacific Ocean to boot.

Another thing that remains in the art is an ARROW LINE charting Donald’s path – which shows him walking WEST TO EAST to approach Tibet, indicating that “this Duckburg” is in Europe. If he began his journey from “Carl Barks’ Duckburg” on the American West Coast , as I have him do, he would be traveling EAST TO WEST!

You may have seen this story in Italy. It is Code I AT 211-A, and is originally from Almanacco Topolino # 211 (1974). I’m certain the implication in the original is that Duckburg is in Europe and not North America. Let me know if you agree.

ramapith said...

Anon:

I know I didn't mention Della in D 96382 ("Thanks for the Buggy Ride"), which was just a very standard Donald and Jones story. In fact, I don't think I've ever referenced her in any story I've ever written.

There are LOTS of non-Barks, non-Rosa Boonehead stories, dating back to—I believe—the 1970s at Egmont. At various times, Pat Block and I each wrote one. The earliest ones (long before Pat and me) often incorporated a local Danish tradition, in which the Booneheads no longer exist and HDL doubt that they ever did, much to Donald's wrath: this running gag comes from the earliest Danish translation of Barks' original Boonehead story, where a translator couldn't parse the Bonehead joke and inserted that concept in its place.

Joe Torcivia said...

For what it's worth, I LOVE the idea of HD&L not believing the Booneheads existed! Ah, but we all know that "translating necessity" can sometimes truly be the mother of invention!

Joe Torcivia said...

Oh, quickly correcting my comment above: Melvin X. Nickelby was reintroduced in the backup story of UNCLE SCROOGE # 11, not 10!

Anonymous said...

Joe:
I may have a general idea of what you mean, but without examples it would be impossible to know how these Boom! "lifeless translations" were like, as the definition of lifeless translation can vary from one person to another one. For example, the 1-page gag in IDW's Uncle Scrooge #8, has a Beagle Boy saying "Che bella storia, nonno!", which is a short and simple line translating to "What a great story, grandpa!". I would have translated it that way, but in the official translation by our friend David the line became "Jumpin’ Jailbirds! That was some gataway tale, grandpa Blackheart!" I'm not saying it's bad, it's just that I would find my translation the most natural one and the official translation to be over the top; on the other hand, you maybe see my translation as lifeless and the official translation as having a flair, as in America everything is bigger (or so they say). Is it true? And do you think a Boom! translator would have written "What a great story, grandpa!"?

The added caption box makes sense, though I guess it was needed only because the stories are published without an introductory article. And you are right, a translator should be invisible. Despite this, in rare occasions a translator's note was used in Italian translation; I mentioned two cases in my last message, and here you can see them for yourself:

https://goo.gl/eXX0Rq
https://goo.gl/sC8P4w

But as I said, translator's notes are very rare, and for the better.


I saw those panels from "The Perfect Calm": it's hard to for me to get the full picture of the situation with just few panels, as I haven't read the story in either language, but indeed it seems that they go to Tibet without crossing the Ocean. I don't know what to say, maybe the author was careless when writing this one? Because I can guarantee you that the norm of Italian stories is that Duckburg is in the USA, a fact that is often mentioned in many ways: just look at the giant dollar sign on the Money Bin, which is the same as in the Barks stories. At any rate, I approve the fact that the American version dialogued by you made it clear that Duckburg is in the USA.

David:
So you didn't mention Della in D 96382. I wonder why the French "Picsou Wikia" article on the story says otherwise.

http://fr.picsou.wikia.com/wiki/Merci_pour_la_balade

The story is in the category "Histoire de Della Duck" and the incipit says "Cette histoire mentionne aussi la sœur de Donald, Della Duck" (meaning "This story also mentions the Donald's sister, Della Duck"). Maybe I can try to contact the person who wrote this and ask him where in the story did he saw this supposed mention.

Lots of non-Barks, non-Rosa Booneheads stories? I wish I had a list of them. Actually, I wish I had a full list of references to Barks and Rosa in stories by other authors. It would be a nice project to try on, though it would be a long one and I can't do it alone.

Ok, I said everything, but since this comment section was partly about untranslatable puns and since I just mentioned Della, I think it would be fun to close this message with this old Italian joke. Pierino (the Italian equivalent of Little Johnny) and his sister Della are asked by their mother to go buy some ham, however Della is hit by a car and dies. Pierino goes home and tells his mother: "Mom, Della has died". Mom replies: "I didn't tell you to buy mortadella, I told you to buy ham". The joke is that "è morta Della" (Della has died) sound like "è mortadella" (it's mortadella): nothing groundbreaking, just an old childish joke with a silly pun. Still, the joke can become a little disturbing for a duck fan when you notice that Donald Duck's Italian name is Paperino, which sounds very similar to Pierino...

Achille Talon said...

About the "West-to-East"/"East-to-West" problem in "The Perfect Calm": not necessarily, what with the Earth being round and all. Of course, it would be longer, but Donald could theoretically have first walked from the West coast to the East coast of the US, and then crossed the Atlantic ocean.

"So you translate from a language you don't understand using a machine translation as a draft? I can't imagine how it can work." Funny thing is, I do it too, with a scanlation I've been busy with. (If you want to know, it's of the story "Zio Paperone e le Fedele Marsupiale", which long before Don Rosa took Barks's reference to Scrooge's adventures in Australia and made a story out of it; thing is, it'll probably not get official translated anywhere anymore, because of really nasty racial stereotypes). However, what I machine-translate is from Italian to French, as the two languages are similar enough that I don't get much gibberish; then I use my own personal knowledge of English to turn the French script into English. So yeah, it can work ! I can support this claim !

"When Don Rosa was creating his earliest work directly for Gladstone Series One, I don’t think he much considered how well or poorly that work would translate. A very early story of his ended on a joke that would only work if the publisher of the comics was named “Gladstone”! If you know the story I mean, how did that one translate in Italy?" I don't know in Italy, but in French the text was unchanged. Nobody understood the inside joke of Gladstone being head of, well, "Gladstone", but Scrooge's line at the end about how it's unlikely Gladstone will ever make money selling comics was hilarious in itself in a country where Disney Comics are among the best-selling comics ever. I don't know if that's what they did too, but this would have been the obvious route for Italy to take, too.

About the authors knowing their work will be localized… Well, as already said, Don Rosa didn't know it, and remains firmly against it ! In the introductions to our Don Rosa Library, Don goes to great lengths to explain how some translators in previous translations had added jokes in panels he intended to be serious, or simplified things they thought the reader wouldn't understand, and how he felt outraged by this, and how he went through all the translations published in this Don Rosa Library to check that no more of that was left.

Joe Torcivia said...

Anon:

Any line in isolation can be “straight” or “funny”, and it wouldn’t make all that much difference – unless it completely violated the intent or presumed direction of the story.

In the example you site, either “What a great story, grandpa!” or “Jumpin’ Jailbirds!” would be equally fine… and, believe it or not, I would have given either approach equal consideration, if I were writing that line (once again) in isolation!

But, consider all the best Disney comic book stories you’ve read, from Carl Barks on, and apply your examples… Every balloon is not “What a great story, grandpa!”, nor are they all “Jumpin’ Jailbirds!”. A balance must be maintained, or else everything comes across as sounding like the Warner Bros. animated series ANIMANIACS! And I *love* ANIMANIACS, but no Disney comic should read that way ALL of the time. Though there, is certainly room for some of that, if established characterizations remain intact – and with me, and the others at IDW, they always do!

Now, remaining within your example, let’s all concede that the best way to Translate and Dialogue a Disney comic book story would be a “healthy mix” of “What a great story, grandpa!” AND “Jumpin’ Jailbirds!”… even if some may prefer more of the former, and some may prefer more of the latter. They BOTH have their place.

Perhaps the best way to describe an early Boom! translation (without violating my own standards of “No Negativity”) would be to say much more “What a great story, grandpa!” than “Jumpin’ Jailbirds!”! Too generic, and not very much fun to read, because you need ‘em BOTH! And that may be my last word on early Boom! translations, lest I violate my own standards! I am very quick to concede that they made the best effort to improve upon that situation by eventually employing David, Jonathan, and me, and also doing a much better job overall as they went. The results were quite noticeable.

HERE and HERE are the links Anon provides, illustrating Translators’ Notes on Don Rosa’s work. If such a thing is ever done here, it is done by the EDITOR, rather than a translator – though a translator might SUGGEST such a note be added, it is not “his or hers” to add. Just curious, what causes you to feel that this is the work of the Translator, and not an Editor’s Note?

With “The Perfect Calm”, I feel I simply did the best with what was handed me, on the location of Duckburg. I think it worked well. And, for what it’s worth, I rather like the “mortadella” joke.

Joe Torcivia said...

Achille:

I suppose Donald COULD have walked East, from the American West Coast, crossed the Atlantic (though he STILL would have had to continuously walk the length of the ship to keep true to the philosophy), and then walked East from Europe to Tibet… but he would have started-out in Issue # 4, and not reached Tibet until next month’s Issue # 12 – and think of all the great stories we would have missed out on while he was doing so!

Yes, the machine translation method works, and glad to see it works for you as well, but it helps considerably when the translator also comes equipped with a rudimentary understanding of the language – and a thorough understanding of the conventions and characterizations involved. I’d say that applies to both of us. …And, what with my Italian background, lifelong devotion to the characters, and repeated translating assignments, it gets easier and more gratifying every day!

That’s actually horrible that the early Rosa story ended on a joke nobody got! I had a feeling that would have been the case, way back in the day when I first read it, knowing by that time that such stories were translated into many languages where Donald’s cousin is not named “Gladstone” – let alone the audience actually knowing the name of an American comics publisher who had only been around for a year or so.

If “…some translators in previous translations had added jokes in panels he intended to be serious, or simplified things they thought the reader wouldn't understand” , I can truly understand Don Rosa feeling strongly about this. Even in my “creating the fannish mythos of Captain Retro-Duck” as a reason for Donald to obsess over walkie-talkies, I merely replaced something intended to be “funny”, with something else also intended to be “funny”, as the story was not (at the time) presented as a “period piece”! I’d never flip “serious” to “funny”, and vice-versa! And, I’d surely never “simplify” anything, because I have too much respect for the characters and the readers to do that.

And, unless mandated by editorial policies or dictates, I can’t imagine any good translator (…or any translator WORTHY of the HONOR of performing this task – and yes, it IS an HONOR!) doing so! Pity, if there are people doing that completely on their own.

Joe Torcivia said...

Oh, and be sure to come back tomorrow (Monday, March 21) for a new post celebrating both UNCLE SCROOGE # 12 – and the full first year of TWELVE issues of UNCLE SCROOGE from IDW!

Clapton said...

Achillie:
That translation sounds interusting. Where will I be able to access it when it's finished?

Achille Talon said...

Joe Torvicia: about the boat trick… I don't have anything against this idea; actually, I love it. I was just arguing that the "wrong-direction arrow" problem was not unsolvable, either. About Don Rosa… his most striking hatred comes to the "serious bits made into jokes" ones, but it's clear the translations he wanted were very precise, grammatically-similar ones as much as possible, or at least wanted to know precisely what was changed and why, if so. He worked closely with his French translator, I am told, and asked him to translate him some panels back into English from his script to check on him. Thank you for your response, anyway.

Clapton: I'm debating whether I'll actually post it in free access like GeoX does, or if I'll send it to the people interested. In any case, you will get your virtual hands of it if you want to; I'll be glad to have a reader!

Joe Torcivia said...

I knew that, Achille, and appreciate your support! There’s a way out of (or around) anything, if you think hard enough! Often, there are multiple ways, and you just hope you’ve picked the best one. And, if you don’t, there are different layers of editing to let you know.

Clapton said...

Achille:
If you wanna just send it to people interusted you may want to have your e-mail adress avaliable on your bloger profile like I do. That way they have a means of letting you know they're interusted.
... And since this is pretty off topic Achille feel free to further discuss this in e-mail even you are more so inclined. Mine is (as previously stated) avaliable on my bloger profile.

Anonymous said...

@Achille:
"Funny thing is, I do it too, with a scanlation I've been busy with": well, for a fanmade translation it could be expected; on the other hand, it may seem strange to discover that they base the official translation on a computer machine. Well, at least Joe understands some Italian.

I am curious about "Zio Paperone e il Fedele Marsupiale": does it reference in any way Scrooge's Kalgoorlie exploit from Barks' "The Loony Lunar Gold Rush", or is it just a random adventure in Australia? Speaking of Australian references: a recent Italian story (I TL 3141-1) cites the events of Don's Lo$ part 7

https://goo.gl/KFWt0N

though the same story has HDL saying they never wnt to Australia, meaning the writer was unfamiliar with Barks' "Riches, Riches, Everywhere!".

"About the authors knowing their work will be localized… Well, as already said, Don Rosa didn't know it, and remains firmly against it ! In the introductions to our Don Rosa Library, Don goes to great lengths to explain how some translators in previous translations had added jokes in panels he intended to be serious, or simplified things they thought the reader wouldn't understand, and how he felt outraged by this, and how he went through all the translations published in this Don Rosa Library to check that no more of that was left."

Since you mentioned this, maybe it would be interesting if I bring up two quotes by Don Rosa on this subject.

First, there is this comment Don wrote in 1994 on the DCML:
"something you need to remember about this Disney censoring business. Aside from the fact they have no interest in the comics, there's another reason why they MUST find stuff to censor. There are people whose job it is is to look at the comics and find stuff to be ordered removed. If they DON'T FIND something that needs to be removed, they are eliminating their own jobs! They don't want the comics to seem like they don't NEED editting... they MUST find something that they can save America from seeing so that they have a reason to be employed."

Then, here is ths one from an interview Don gave for Komix #150, as translated in 2000 by a member of DCML:
"In America, big companies are excessively sensitive to matters of so called "political correctness". The entertainment sector and, in particular, the field of comics, are extremely vulnerable to various censors who believe that their job is to protect people from anything that could be considered even vaguely problematic, even by the most neurotic member of the smallest fringe group... Thus the places where there was talk about lice, sneezing, underwear and prunes in the Beagle Boys' pockets were considered "unhealthy" and were cut because of the excessive zeal of some employee. And this did not happen with careful deletion of those particular dialogs or panels; they entire page in which these terrible and unheard of things appeared was cut from the story, to protect humanity!"

Anonymous said...

@Joe
"Any line in isolation can be “straight” or “funny”, and it wouldn’t make all that much difference – unless it completely violated the intent or presumed direction of the story."
I agree that the intent or presumed direction of the story should not be violated, but I am not sure if IDW is always basing their translations on this principle. What do ou think of these panels?

http://www.papersera.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?num=1091225681/140#140

Anyway, the “Jumpin’ Jailbirds!” thing is not a big deal, though to me it seems unnecessary complicated, as even the most sophisticated comics (not saying hat 1-pger was one) can have simple lines when they fit. You said "A balance must be maintained, or else everything comes across as sounding like the Warner Bros. animated series ANIMANIACS!", but I am afraid I miss the point as the last time I heard about Animaniacs I was in kindergarten, though I vaguely remember the Italian theme song.

It's good that you have an habit to repost the links, but the second one you reposted doesn't work, while the one I posted works:

https://goo.gl/sC8P4w

Of course the tnslator added the notes. I mean, Duckburg in Italy is known as Paperopoli, and yet the translated dialogue (minus the note) of my first link informs us that Cornelius Coot Americanized Drakeborough to Duckburg. This kind of translation (suddently calling the city with its English name instead of the Italian name) can ony be done because there is a note telling the Italian reader what "Duckburg" is.

Glad you liked the old joke about Della and mortadella, I guess a comedic interlude
wasn't a bad idea after a long discussion. And speaking of Della: I just contacted the user of Picsou Wiki that wrote about this supposed mention of Della Duck in David's story. By the way, does anyone here have scans of the full 5-page sequence with Della from the Dutch story about Donald's 80 years?

"the story was not (at the time) presented as a “period piece”!": how about the newer IDW issues? Do they recognize that old stories take place in the past, or do they try to retcon them as if they take place in 2016? I also wonder how much this was done in the past: a few months ago I discovered that in the 1991 reprint (Uncle Scrooge #253, Disney Comics being the editor) of Barks' "The Fabulous Philosopher's Stone", they changed the reference to the year 1110 from "845 years ago" to "881 years ago", as if Barks' story was written in 1991!

Joe Torcivia said...

Anon:

To Don Rosa’s comments that you quote, overall he’s correct – save that old bugaboo of ours over “censorship” vs. “editorial prerogative”.

I never expect a dialogue script to pass unedited (…and for more reasons than you can imagine), but I accept that as part of the game – and never fail to give the original and the (sometimes several) revised versions the absolute best effort I can. And, yes… sometimes it “hurts” me too! If you care about what you do, how can it not? But, when something is called upon to be changed, or outright removed, I do my very best to replace it with something else that is acceptable to the editorial powers and will also work for the readers. As long as you work with a property that is owned by others, it’s that, or not do it at all! …And, I hope to be doing this for a long time to come!

HERE is that link on Austraila.

To your second comment: I only speak for MYSELF around here. I do not speak for, or represent, IDW. And I’d never presume to speak for a fellow translator and scripter!

That said, I offer your link HERE for the curiosity of all. I would offer more in the way of a translation, but I’m due at the day job in 90 minutes, and expect to face a grueling few days at that. It would simply take more time than I can afford to put into it. Anyone can delve deeper with Google Translate (though you may just get a basic gist), or the translation software of your choice. Clearly, I never saw an original version of this story, as I did not work on it, but I have no doubt all involved did what they thought was best – just as I do.

HERE is your other link. I hope it works this time.

And, again – not speaking for IDW, I’d say the following: Now that IDW labels every story with a specific original publication and year of origin (unlike in its first few months), the stories would be treated as “period pieces” and not retconned. But, that’s only my personal observation. In most cases, it would not matter – unless technology or some other plot or visual element has advanced SO FAR as to make the story look odd.

It’s kinda like when I watch the old PERRY MASON shows… So much of what happens could easily have been resolved or avoided if there were modern conveniences like cell phones – especially those with cameras, GPS, etc. But, being an old (yet VERY enjoyable) black and white TV show, PERRY MASON can never be interpreted as anything but a “period piece”. …Reprints of old comics, presented with new coloring and printing techniques, blur the lines somewhat more.

Achille Talon said...

"I mean, Duckburg in Italy is known as Paperopoli"… Isn't it Paperpoli ? I thought it was Paperpoli.

@Clapton: The thing is, I'm not sure about making my email address public, since my real name is in it, and as a rule I don't give my real name on the Internet. (Achille Talon is not my real name; actually, it's the name of a popular French comic character, and a pun on our equivalent of "Achilles's Heel").

About whether or not "Fedele Marsupiale" was really an allusion to Barks… I'm not one hundred percent sure, but most of the flashback is about Scrooge's relationship with a kangaroo, and him later coming to travel by jumping around in the kangaroo's pocket. It's pretty much all that you could get from Barks's original dialogue; actually, it's much closer to this dialogue than Rosa's story, which features, like, two panels of riding in a kangaroo's pocket, and then quickly switches to an original plot where Scrooge rides a camel instead.

Joe Torcivia said...

Achille:

Here’s how we’ll handle this…

You send me a comment that contains your e-mail address. I will not publish that comment, but will forward that e-mail address to Clapton. Then you and he can take it from there, and I will even delete this comment. Fair enough? If that works for you, just go ahead and do it.

Anonymous said...

@Joe
I won't waste time googling the meaning of "bugaboo" because it seems obvious in context, but I can't avoid thinking how funny that word sounds to me..

"I never expect a dialogue script to pass unedited (…and for more reasons than you can imagine), but I accept that as part of the game": that's sad, because the great progresses in humanity have been done when people stopped accepting things as part of the game. But I understand you are not in the best position to fight these things. I wonder how many great authors will have to retire early (like Don Rosa did) before this unfair system changes.

"and never fail to give the original and the (sometimes several) revised versions the absolute best effort I can": it's great on your part to say that, and it's easy to see that you are sincere.

"HERE is your other link. I hope it works this time.": it works. :)

"Now that IDW labels every story with a specific original publication and year of origin (unlike in its first few months), the stories would be treated as “period pieces” and not retconned": good.

"It’s kinda like when I watch the old PERRY MASON shows… So much of what happens could easily have been resolved or avoided if there were modern conveniences like cell phones – especially those with cameras, GPS, etc.": I don't know about Perry Mason, but I often feel the same about duck stories. Which is why, if I were a writer of these comics, I would set my stories in the 1950's, Don Rosa-style.

@Achille
It's Paperopoli, not Paperpoli. I heard the oldest translations used the names Paperinopoli and Paperlandia before settling to Paperopoli, but I never found the names Paperinopoli/Paperlandia in any story I read.

About "Fedele Marsupiale": if like you said there is a young Scrooge in Australia in a kangaroo's pocket, than there is a chance it is a Barks reference (one more reason to whish there were a full list of Barks/Rosa references in works by other authors). I'll read the story when I can and see if it feels like a reference. Is Kalgoorlie ever mentioned?
On the other hand, by the time "Zio Paperone e il fedele marsupiale" was published in 1972 "The Loony Lunar Gold Rush" had been printed in Italy a single time (in 1964, eight years earlier). Plus, there is the problem of translations. In the original Barks dialogue, Scrooge says: "I ran to the Yukon gold fields afoot! I jounced to the African Rand in a bullock cart! I zoomed to the Kalgoorlie diggings of Australia in th pouch of a leaping kangaroo!" However, the Italian version I have has Scrooge saying the equivalent of: "Grr! I can't find anybody who would give me a ride to the Moon! They occupied all that could be occupied: kangaroos' pouches, weather balloons". Not sure if the first Italian edition had a different translation, though.

"actually, it's much closer to this dialogue than Rosa's story, which features, like, two panels of riding in a kangaroo's pocket, and then quickly switches to an original plot where Scrooge rides a camel instead": there is a single panel in Rosa's story about Scrooge in the kangaroo's pocket, but I don't think this is a contradiction to what Barks said. Barks only described how Scrooge first went to Kalgorliee, and Rosa followed that, but most of Rosa's story take place when Scrooge has already been in Australia for three years.

Joe Torcivia said...

Anon:

You write: “But I understand you are not in the best position to fight these things.”

I could not have put it better myself!

"and never fail to give the original and the (sometimes several) revised versions the absolute best effort I can": it's great on your part to say that, and it's easy to see that you are sincere.

As sincere as many decades of loving these books and characters has made me! And, I’d hope that’s the kind of person you’d WANT to work on these books! That’s what ALL of us are at IDW, and I think that’s why the results are so great!

TheKKM said...

Not being in my house these days I don't feel like reading this entire discussion and comment mnore at length and with my sociopolitical views on translation and localisation (he says, acting as a scholar!); I do want, however, exhort you, Mr. Torcivia, to in the same article you linked, read up on the comments the commentary by Mr. Ryan Holmberg. I'm quite fond of a book he translated (The Mysterious Underground Men) and his research on Osamu Tezuka, and I quite like his responses to the article, which I think I can (perhaps wrongly though) paraphrase and simplify more into "our job is to transpose ideas beyond language barriers, not call attention to ourselves."

Joe Torcivia said...

KKM:

If you are referring to the quote “But in the half dozen manga I have translated, in addition to the many translated citations in the essays I write, I have never once felt that any more than a small fraction of the creative or intellectual credit should transfer to me.”, or to any similar such comment, I *do* feel the same way.

After all, if there was NO original story and art, my translation could not exist! And, no matter how much I might like a particular thing I did within a story, I did not create the story, and don’t believe I’ve ever lead anyone to believe otherwise. That also applies to any of my colleagues at IDW.

…It’s a point that does bear repeating, though, so good work calling attention to it.