Thursday, August 8, 2013

Contes Du Bac De Trimestre--Capitaine America Et Le Faucon!!

The Iron Laws Of Coincidence: Earlier this week, my blog comrade Siskoid was discussing his earliest comic experiences, and how his first super-hero comics were a Quebec publisher's French translations of American comes.

So what the hell do I find in the Quarter Bin this week?

Quelle surprise!!

Of course, I don't read or speak a word of French, so I take full blame (along with Google translator) for the title of this post. I'm sure Siskoid will rip it to pieces.

But I do know my English-language comics, and of course I recognized the cover immediately:

What we get is a black and white translated into French version of Captain America #171 (1974). Look:

Again, I'm terribly ill-equipped to discuss how good (or poor) the translation might be. But one thing I can say is that Francine Alix, credited with lettering the French version, is no Artie Simek,

Now, I fully appreciate the difficulties of trying to fit translations into the word/thought balloon space of the original, a challenge that book translators don't face--they get as much space as they needed.

But regardless of that concern, man, is that lettering just terrible!!

Siskoid noted that the Éditions Héritage reprints had "the most awful lettering." He wasn't exaggerating. Even when the word balloon leaves plenty of room, they can't seem to follow a straight line (neither could I, but then, I'm not a letterer). There is no consistency in spacing or size or "font" or the letters. At the risk of being cruel, it looks almost child-like at points.

Add to that the use of a very thin line for the letters, and the lack of any italics or boldface, and you get a tremendously less impactful lettering style!

And then check out what happens here:

After the splash page, every single caption is done in cursive!! What the heck, right? You rarely see that in an American comic, unless the caption is a faux journal entry or something...

Anyway, if you ever want to explain to someone how much difference lettering can make, just show them these two versions of the same final panel:

But that's not all--the comic also contains a reprint of the Thor story from Journey Into Mystery #86 (1962), the first appearance of Zarrko The Tomorrow Man!

Did they just call Thor a "pissant"??

Anyway, this story has the same lettering shortcomings as the prior one...

I don't have the English original to compare with, so let's just conclude with a scene that needs no translation:

Hahahahaha...I think.

For previous adventures in translated comics, you might wish to read this post, or this post.


Siskoid said...

Hahaha awesome!

Ripping the title to shreds is easy because Google Translate gave you trimestre for quarter. If that words sounds a lot like trimester, that's because it's exactly a trimester. So the translation matrix decided you mean a quarter as in quarterly report. It had other wrong choices: Quarter could have been quart (i.e. ¼). There is no real translation for quarter (25¢) which we just call 25¢ (although the coin in Quebec has somehow earned the nickname trente-sous, literally 30¢. They're weird over there.)

So it's not that bad "Contes du Bac des 25¢" would probably have been my translation there.

Translation's pretty okay in the comics themselves, but the lettering is truly awful, and Francine Alix wasn't the only working at Héritage, so the styles could vary wildly, but all were terrible.

As for pissant, it's the difference a "u" makes ;-). Puissant means Powerful, I guess because there's no direct translation for Mighty. Might is still a kind of Puissance(Power).


Smurfswacker said...

I don't contest the assertion that the lettering's bad. However it's only fair to point out that many reprints like this were re-lettered on stats the same size as the printed art. I suspect even good letterers would have a tough time working within those dimensions.