Lucca: superheroes in Tuscany

Legendary Spider-Man artist John Romita Jr. (in white t-shirt) surrounded by fans in Lucca.

More than 75,000 fans take part in the comic and game festival held in the Italian Renaissance city, which has surrendered to the talent of Valencian Paco Roca

"We have to take a selfie!" The two groups of friends don't know each other, but when they pass each other on the street and discover that they are dressed up as characters from the same game, they don't take long to squeeze together to take a photo together. They are all 'cosplayer', lovers to such an extent of videogames, series and cartoons that they dress as the protagonists of their favorite creations and try to imitate their skills and way of acting. Between October 28 and November 1, the 'cosplayer' are legion in Lucca, a charming Renaissance city in the Italian region of Tuscany that hosts the 56th edition of its festival on comics, games, video games, series and manga. After the restrictions caused by the pandemic, these days it has recovered its massive character to the point that the organizers hope to exceed the record of 750,000 visitors reached in 2019. More than 300,000 tickets have already been sold, but the final number of participants will be much greater because most of the events are free.

The Lucca Comics & Games is at the same level as the great similar festivals that are held in the United States, but with an added peculiarity that is typically Italian: it is held in a multitude of venues scattered throughout the historic center of this town full of medieval and Renaissance palaces. The combination of the pop culture of the world of comics with the beauties of the cities of Tuscany offers pictures as curious as running into a guy dressed as the superhero Thor brandishing a gigantic foam rubber hammer at the foot of the statue of the composer Giacomo Puccini, born precisely in Lucca. Or meet a legion of children, young people and adults dressed as Spiderman to participate in a meeting on the occasion of the character's 60th anniversary with John Romita Jr., one of the most famous cartoonists in the Marvel universe.

Fans of 'Assassin's Creed' in Lucca.

“Lucca is the place where contemporary creativity and new forms of entertainment and storytelling come together. Who comes here is not a mere spectator, it is a participant who creates ties with the authors and is a protagonist in a monumental city that becomes the scene of their interests", says Emanuele Vietina, CEO of Lucca Comics & Games, particularly proud of the contamination that occurs between different genres and formats. “Everything is mixed here. Young people who are passionate about Japanese manga arrive, discover Paco Roca and are amazed. The contemporary cultural consumer has no problem with barriers and just as enjoys a comic, a video game, a television series, a board game or a book”, says Vietina.

A demonstration of the feedback of these phenomena is in the different events related to the 'The Witcher' saga, which includes a concert with an orchestra, an exhibition about the video game and a medieval-style camp full of followers dressed as the characters that appear in the novels of the Polish Andrzej Sapkowski, also brought to the screens in a Netflix series.

Spider-Man in the Renaissance city.

The space dedicated to these great productions does not make the Lucca festival forget the author comics that marked its beginnings. It is something that is appreciated by cartoonists like the Argentine Rep (Miguel Repiso), who presents his album 'Diego, born to bother', dedicated to Maradona. "I've been following what's happening here since 1975. It's great that the 'cosplayer' meet the masters of comics in Lucca, which preserves that European look that comics need," says a grateful Rep.

Paco Roca: «Our memory changes the past so that it coincides with the present»

Paco Roca is the star of this edition of Lucca Comics & Games, which has awarded the Valencian cartoonist the prize for the best author of 2022 for his work 'Regreso al Edén' (Astiberri), a beautiful and intimate album in which he goes through history of Franco's Spain based on a family photograph. "It has made me very excited, because the first foreign award they gave me was also here, with 'Wrinkles'", he says before participating in a conference at this festival on comics, games and series that is held in this city in the region Tuscan Italian. "Lucca is always a wonderful place to come back to."

The most recognized Spanish cartoonist outside our borders has a large part of his work translated in Italy, where his followers form long queues to have their copies signed. Memory and the passage of time are recurring themes on several of his albums, such as 'La casa', 'Los furrows of chance' or the aforementioned 'Arrugas' and 'Regreso al Edén'. "Like all good creations, Roca's comics are easy to understand, but difficult to master. You reread them over and over again and you always discover something new, making you think”, explains Emanuele Vietina, CEO of Lucca Comics & Games.

Roca is living proof of the narrative maturity that comics have reached in our country. «Before, the format gave little room for developing more complex stories and everything was based on action, but the graphic novel has allowed us to bet on other more leisurely themes, with more nuances and more introspective characters. Added to all this is the fact that you can now find comics in all bookstores and not just in specialized ones. This makes the themes fit in with a general audience and thus the format is fed back”, explains the Valencian cartoonist, who does not close the door to return to dealing with the issue of the passage of time.

“It is something so broad that you always find new nuances. I am very interested in the reflection that each one of us makes about our memory, how we recreate our past and change it so that it coincides with our present. It is something that governments also do to create false and mythological pasts », he concludes.