Friday, December 2, 2011

"Road of Red Houses" - or - Comic Books Italian Style

“Road of Red Houses”
— or —
Comic Books Italian Style


Wally Lee Parker

(all rights to this material reserved)

            This summer I was asking Craig Barnett, owner of Spokane’s “The Comic Book Shop”, if he’d heard of a publishing house called GG Studio.  I was wondering because I’d picked up a couple of comics one titled “Route des Maisons Rouges” (which more or less translates out of the French as “Road of Red Houses”) and the other, “Mediterranea” (which officially translates out of the Italian as, surprisingly enough, “Mediterranean”) and hadn’t seen any of those titles in Craig’s  shop.  Both of these comics were originally published in Italian by the above noted company, and then rereleased in English.  Craig said he’d brought in a few early copies of the above rereleases and was surprised at how poorly, considering the excellent quality of the artwork, they had sold.
            But as with most things in the “collectables” world, the fact that sales are now picking up suggests it’s all about the buzz.
            GG Studio appears to have begun as a consortium of Italian artists looking for a profitable project to consume their talents I say “appears” because Google’s computer generated translation of the studio’s history still leaves a lot to be desired as far as clarity is concerned.  One of the ideas the Italian group came up with was a series of comic books.  The above noted “Route Des Maisons Rouges” was likely the first of the studio’s books to become a best seller in Italy (I say “likely” because I’m trying to second-guess the translation program’s first guesses).  As for the plot the Italians found so intriguing, just put the translated title together with the world’s traditional supposition regarding all things French and you should be able to figure everything out for yourself.  If not, let’s just say it’s not for children.
            Early back-issues of the English language version have become very difficult to find at a reasonable price.  From that I assume GG Studio is gaining traction in the American market.  In other words, since price is a reflection of demand, demand can be considered the bootstrap of buzz.  And now it’s a question of how the publisher can best capitalize on the buzz.
            Let me first wax a bit about Italy.  As anyone who’s ever read my first-draft material knows, I have enough trouble with my own language without trying to learn another.  But if I was magically gifted with the ability to read, write, and fluently speak another language, I would want it to be Italian.  And the reason, in simple terms, is Federico Fellini.
            It was 1961, or maybe ’62.  Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” was playing at the drive-in.  Since I couldn’t talk any of my friends into going to see a subtitled movie, I went alone.  And, like a lot of other people, I came away with that über-romantic, cinematic vision of Italy that has haunted my head to this very day.
            I loved the pointy-toed Italian dress shoes that were popular at the time thought my feet won’t squeeze into such a narrowed triangle anymore (and barely did then).  I still love the look and sound of a Vespa.  I’ve watched 2003’s “Under the Tuscan Sun” about forty-eleven times.  But to paraphrase that famous line from “Sleepless in Seattle,” all this doesn’t necessarily mean I want to be an Italian, it just means I want to be an Italian in the movies. 
            As noted, the Italian publisher now has a new website.  GG Studio’s original Italian website was high on the artsy, but woefully lacking in the craftsy.  Using Google to translate the original site into English still left the visitor trying to navigate an unmanageable mess.  Understanding the importance of the internet to the American market, most of the domestic comic book publishers have installed at least passable websites to promote their products.  I suspect someone finally let GG Studio in on the secret.  The company wisely constructed its site along the same general pattern followed by the majority of other comic related websites – so the navigation feels familiar.  They did add a somewhat novelistic touch in that all the scripting is printed in both English and Italian.
            One question left is whether that uniquely Italian something currently seen in their artwork will survive the insistent marketplace pressure for GG Studio’s artistry to evolve into something more akin to the homogenous median of American taste.
            If you want to decide the level of artistry for yourself, GG Studio has two new limited series that are worth a look.  The first, released just this last November, is “Extinction Seed.”  The second currently pending though apparently to be released soon is a prequel to “Extinction Seed” titled “Killer Loop.”  What appears evident from both these books is that GG Studio has learned how to navigate the American market.  The books are being introduced with multiple alternate covers to attract the speculative buyers.  The covers are attractive and sexy while still saying something relevant about the contents artistic relevance being something Zenescope and Dynamite, among others, often seem to have problems with.
            So I’m adding GG Studios to my current club of favorite publishers.  I also like Aspen MLT for “Executive Assistant” distaff assassins who also take dictation and “Lady Mechanika.”  Dynamite Entertainment has a likely winner with both the interior and exterior art of “Flash Gordon Zeitgeist,” but I’m getting a bit tired of their “Warlord of Mars” series.  And though I’ve also been following Zenescope’s “Grimm Fairy Tales: Myths & Legends,” I’m beginning to catch on to the occasionally heard complaint that they’re a bit too oriented toward commercializing sexuality for the speculative market if you get my drift.
            Anyway, here’s the address of GG Studio’s new website - and the page showing the covers of their upcoming “Killer Loop”  Decide for yourself.

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