Translating Images. Comic Books and Graphic Novels as Multimodal Texts in Translation
Languages of publication
A piece of work that requires the interplay of at least two different codes, e.g. written text and elements of design, is a multimodal text (Serafini 2011, 342). These include short or feature films, video games and comic books. The focus of this paper is comics, the non-interactive texts that, nevertheless, need a reader to be vivified (McCloud 1994, 36-37); a flexible platform for new ways of expression which often provides formidable challenges upon translation.Comic books, often referred to as graphic novels, have become a respected literary form often compared to novels rather than pulp fiction which they used to be classified as. Their growing cultural relevance and increasing recognition shift the gravity of choices made by translators working with these texts. Comics often take on much-debated themes, such as gender, feminism or postcolonial issues; that adds to the importance of comics in a current pop-cultural discourse.Nonetheless, the most unique aspect of these texts is their form, which incorporates static visual images organised “in deliberate sequence” (ibid., 7-9) and text. Even though there are instances of comics with no text, it usually is present; without the imagery, however, it makes little or no sense and vice versa. Moreover, the connection between text and image as well as between the images themselves may be intricate and multilayered, making it even more challenging for translators to tackle.Drawing on examples from classics such as Maus, V for Vendetta, Peanuts and the Asterix series, this paper expands on the aforementioned translation issues and underlines the cultural significance of comic books and graphic novels.
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