Friday, February 22, 2013

It's your money that we want, and your money we shall have!

Can we have a Very Serious Discussion here?  Now, as you may be aware, these days you can buy Disney comics from Comixology; it used to be that you could only read them on an ipad or whatnot, but now you can just use any plain ol' web browser.  No links here, for reasons that will become obvious.

Now, it's well-known that I personally vastly prefer to read comics in paper form, but put that aside for the moment.  Maybe this is where the industry as a whole is going, and maybe, my preferences aside, that's not even a bad thing.  Perhaps other people have no problem reading stuff in this format.

But here's the thing, and it is not a small thing: the English scripts for these digital comics are not good.  It's pretty obvious that they were largely machine-translated and then just given the barest minimum of oversight to verify that they weren't ungrammatical.  It's not unlike what you see with the Disney Literature Classics volumes (though, I hasten to add, rather worse than those Carpi volumes I uploaded), but at least there you have the excuse that Britain has no substantial tradition in this area.  Here, not so much.  Here's one bit I got hung up on:

Well, of course Skunk Tussle is "called after a skunk tussle."  What else would it be "called after?"  I bet you feel pretty dumb now, all right, wondering about a thing like that!

What's more alarming: the possibility that that panel was never looked at by a native English-speaker, or that it was, and he or she thought, eh, good enough?  I can't say I find either option very encouraging.

Now, for a while, Comixology mostly just had these rather uninteresting contemporary Italian stories, and that's still the case.  But these days, they're hitting me closer to where I live, with vintage Carpi and Scarpa material.  And this is where I just become filled with rage.  You know how people sometimes say the opposite of love isn't hate, which requires similarly powerful emotion, but rather indifference?  Well, if that's so, this is a classic example.  It could not be more obvious that nobody involved in this undertaking cares even a tiny bit about these comics.  There's probably a bit of the ol' "ah, it's just kids' stuff, and kids are dumb, so who cares if it's any good?" going on, but really, it's clearly about the ol' cash-grab more than anything else, and I do not like it.

Just this week, they added Scarpa's "Mickey Mouse in the Delta Dimension" to their library.  Out of some insane delusion that maybe they'd gotten their shit together, I bought the first part of it.  I suppose I had in the back of my mind this idea that they would've seen Gemstone's excellent localization of the story and went, "huh.  This makes our stuff look like it's been translated by trained bonobos.  We'd better up our game here."  Ha ha!  This, of course, was a deranged thing to even half-but-not-really believe.  Almost certainly, they weren't even aware that the story had previously been localized, and certainly certainly, they wouldn't have cared even on the off-chance that they were.  All I'm saying is, don't sell off your copies of Mickey Mouse Adventures 11 just yet!

Which leads into my main point: lately, I've been reading a bunch of these early-sixties MM stories that Scarpa did, in French editions, and let me tell you, Scarpa's batting average is much higher with mice than it is with ducks.  There is some great stuff here--stuff that easily goes onto my increasingly-unwieldy list of shit that NEEDS to be published in the US, dammit.  And yet…I can easily imagine most of these stories at some point being barfed up onto Comixology, and the very idea fills me with woe.  That this classic material, for which we have been waiting for so long, should be treated so cavalierly and with such an utter lack of respect, is just repulsive to me.

And that's not all: I feel like if this stuff IS out there, in some form, there's less incentive for anyone to ever do it properly--and, more than that, I feel like as this all drags on, and there continue to be no real Disney comics in English, this shit just becomes normalized, and people unfamiliar with the history of European Disney comics in the US are just going to assume that this is what it is.  It's just this really poisonous situation.  Some might argue: okay, sure, maybe they're not GREAT, but you've gotta buy them so that it will be apparent that there's demand in the US, and then maybe there will be real comics again.  Maybe, but I think it's more likely that "it will be apparent that there's demand in the US, and people in the US have really low standards so we can just give them whatever, in whatever form."  I just cannot tell you how much this whole business irks me.

No doubt these things are being released as they are because, without having to get professionals to localize them, there's really low overhead.  Maybe doing a good job would be more trouble than it was worth for them.  I don't know.  But what I DO know is that, if these stories were being done with care and consideration, I would buy them (that's right: all of them), and I would strongly encourage others to do the same.  Sure, I may not love the format, but, you know, I can deal with it, and I'm in favor of acknowledging and encouraging good work.  But as it is, yeah, I bought a few just to check them out, but no more, and I would certainly discourage anyone listening from supporting Comixology or Disney in this.  Don't get me wrong; I'm not under the illusion that I have any great influence on anyone.  And I am forced to concede, alas, that if anything, this entry is likely gonna do more harm than good as some of you, who may not have even heard about this business before now, ignore my entreaties (and who could blame you? I probably would too in your place).  But I cannot let my irritation go unvoiced, because what that's in large part what this blog is for, innit?  

I'm actually not sure whom I should be mad at.  Who specifically is responsible for these things?  Is Comixology themselves buying and translating them, or is it some Disney subsidiary doing the work?  And if so, who?  The thing is, I really want to know who I should be blaming here.  But whoever it is, I am blaming them.  I am blaming them so hard.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What shocks me is that I've used this service to purchase other comics, and, by and large, the quality of how they were treated was actually pretty high up there.

Translations though... wow. I did not realize how bad it had gotten. No matter what school of translation you subscribe to, this is complete garbage. NOBODY'S work should be treated this way, and no one should be swindled out of their money by something produced by fucking babelfish.

February 22, 2013 at 8:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I honestly don't understand why they wouldn't just use the old translation. Why go through the work? Would there be some legal reason I'm not aware of?

Any chance of a compare/contrast on the Delta Dimension story? I'm kind of curious how much was changed.

February 22, 2013 at 8:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carpi's Gone With The Wind, but nine dollars to read it on your computer! I'm looking forward to your review! There is no French publication of this one, so there's no escape for you!

February 22, 2013 at 8:39 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

@Reviewordie I *assume* (though, again, I could be wrong) that comixology doesn't do the translations themselves, so I would imagine script quality would be up to the publisher.

@Anonymous I A) As I said, I kind of doubt they were even AWARE of the previous version; and B) Yeah, I don't know the ins and outs, but I assume there likely would be channels one would have to go through to reuse Dave Gerstein's Gemstone script. As for the comparison between the two versions, that's actually something I was thinking about; the only problem was that it would be kinda hard to get good scans from a digest like MMA without breaking the spine. Perhaps I will investigate further in the future.

@Anonymous II Yeah, don't remind me. We shall see, but I do have other things lined up for the near-er future.

February 22, 2013 at 9:09 PM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


I had little interest in purchasing this Comixology material before I read your piece. Now, I have... Well, littler interest. The apparent lack of pride here is pretty galling.


February 22, 2013 at 9:57 PM  
Anonymous Duckfan said...

I just had a terrible thought. It's obvious that they're scanning foreign issues without knowing who the authors are.
Now imagine they'd babelfish an American story to English, more specifically, a BARKS. That's just... no. Please. No.

February 23, 2013 at 10:32 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Amusingly farcical as that would be, I think it unlikely that they'd be quite THAT clueless (in fairness, it must be allowed that they DO on some level know who the authors are, as they are listed on the site along with the stories). Also, that really WOULD be terrible publicity for them. I think even they would be able to see that. And even as I write this, I am keenly aware that I'm not all that certain who "they" even are.

February 24, 2013 at 12:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess "they" aren't Comixology, which is only the store. Probably the publisher, only mentioned as "Disney", provides them with these translated comics. Does this "Disney" holds the publications rights for Barks, while Fantagraphics has it too? Of course Fantagraphics could have their comics sold by Comixology in a digital format, but they know what they're doing.
I know Egmont provides basic English translations available for foreign publishers, so they don't have to know Danish. Probably Disney Italia does the same and maybe these translations are used unchanged.

February 24, 2013 at 7:36 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Considering how little Boom! and Gemstone paid per page of scripted English dialogue (I oughtta know!), there’s almost no point in not engaging a skilled or experienced dialogue writer.

You’d have to be a fan and hobbyist first to work for that page rate – AND (though opinions can vary on the quality of a given localization, sometimes even within this comments section), a fan or hobbyist would WANT to see these things done right, simply because he or she *IS* a fan of the stuff. Win/win, I see it!

I’m glad I haven’t wasted my time and money on this, and don’t imagine I ever will.

February 24, 2013 at 1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wasn't fond of the idea of Comixology when I heard about it because I'm like you Geo, I much prefer to have books then digital copies. I spend far too much time in front of a screen as it is!

I was tempted to have a look, though, because there's a lot of stories on there I really want, like Mickey Mouse 'War of the Worlds' but, reading through this post I think I'll pass.

It really sucks, though. As you say if people buy this stuff they'll say 'yeah, we don't have to put any effort in' and if people don't they'll say 'well people are clearly not interested' =/

February 25, 2013 at 12:52 AM  
Blogger tymime said...

This was something I was musing on the other day, specifically about bad (unrestored/censored) DVDs of cartoons. Do you buy them and convince the company you're okay with an inferior product? Or do you boycott them and convince them that nobody's interested?

February 25, 2013 at 5:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate those bad DVD's. As an Australian I also find when they DO do a proper DVD collection they don't necessarily release them in over here, and if they do it's for an extortionate price. Of course that's not just DVD's over here, they really take advantage of us and then complain that Aussies are the worst offenders when it comes to internet piracy. My mate has both an Australian and American account on his Playstation and not only is his American account cheaper he gets a better selection of games.

This is probably why I tend to think the thing to do about the comics is to flood the internet with fan translations that people can read for free until Comixology or whoever produces something worth paying for so they can see there IS a demand for the product but consumers wont stand for unthoughtful crap. I'm positive some uber dedicated fan on Google translate with no experience in writing could do a better job then what I see in that panel there.

This is not me condoning piracy understand, I'm more then willing to pay for art (I'm an artist myself) but it has to be actually worth something. And something that says Disney, I expect a certain amount of quality (even in the face of the DVD sequels, though admittedly they actually aren't as bad as some of the other studios. Yeech). It really makes the company look bad.

Hmmm... sorry for the lengthy comment.

February 25, 2013 at 9:34 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...


It seems our French Canadian brothers and sisters are getting a better deal from their publisher than we’re getting from Comixology, in the translation and localization department. Maybe it’s just the nature of the Internet vs. an actual BOOK! The latter always being my preference for comics reading.

I’d originally thought to introduce this post on my Blog as a sidebar to your debate over quality translations / localizations, but decided against it so as not to look as if I were calling needless attention to myself. However, Elaine drew the parallel to your post in my Comments Section, and I feel she has a point. So, I might as well put it out there for anyone who might be curious.

February 25, 2013 at 10:56 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Hey, congratulations! C'est bon ça!

February 26, 2013 at 12:36 AM  

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