This week, DC released the all Spanish issue of Blue Beetle which led to some interesting reactions and discussion.
J. Caleb Mozzocco really liked the issue:
It’s the work of guest-creators Jai Nitz and Mike Norton, and it was the sort of rare book I read a few times in a row. The first time through, I read it in Spanish, which is essentially the way Traci, who doesn’t speak Spanish*, would have experienced the story. It proved a good test of Mike Norton’s abilities, as he was called on to draw a story that could be told solely by his work, if the reader didn’t speak Spanish either. He passed the test with flying colors, as I made it through on my few years of high school Spanish just fine, with the exception of the part where the scarab somehow defeats Superman villain The Parasite. (Norton also provides two beautiful images of Blue Beetle in flight with a friend; a two-page splash at the beginning, and a one-page splash at the end).
Nitz’ story emphasizes one of the elements of Rogers’ run on the book that made it so unlike all other super-comics, and therefore so refreshing to read—the positive role the lead’s family plays in both his life and his superhero career.
Greg Burgas didn’t think the Spanish was a complete success:
The use of Spanish was not a complete success, either, for a couple of reasons. I don’t know Spanish, so I’m going to trust people if they want to come here and tear me a new one. First, the fact that DC gave us a translation disappointed me. I was hoping they wouldn’t, and that Norton’s storytelling skills would be able to carry the book if you didn’t understand what was going on. For a great deal of the book, the art helps immensely, and I was able to follow along fairly well. But Nitz’s story demanded too much exposition, especially when he was explaining the Posse’s powers (another reason not to use them). I thought it would be neat to see if we ignorant Anglos could follow what was happening without the translation. I got the family reunion stuff almost perfectly, and that’s a tribute to Norton’s art, I think. (Of course, on the splash page, he screws up because Traci’s hair is perfect even though she’s flying upside-down, but I’ll let that slide.)
Second, and this is something that I’m just putting out there as a discussion point, is the Spanish that Jaime and his younger relatives speak. Let me explain. When I taught in the rougher part of Phoenix, the student population was about 60% Hispanic. Most of them spoke Spanish in some capacity or another. Some spoke very poor English, and they took English classes, obviously. The woman who taught them spoke very good Spanish, but they accused her of not speaking Spanish well. Why did they accuse her of this? Because, like many teenagers, they spoke an atrocious version of their native language – poor grammar, slang, lots of cursing, you know the drill. The teens who spoke English as a native language often butchered the language! So my question is: does Jaime speak perfect Spanish? Or is it “teen” Spanish? I’m not necessarily criticizing it if he does speak perfect Spanish, but I would find it interesting if he does, as characters in comics often don’t speak grammatically perfect English. Yes, I know I’m bringing up grammar again, but I’d like to know about Jaime’s Spanish and how “perfect” it is. Does anyone know?
Maxo had some issues with the translation:
It turns out Kevin’s customer was right; the Spanish isn’t very good. Like a lot of media going from English into Spanish, the problem’s with the translation. It’s technically correct, but as my wife put it, “It’s clunky. It’s almost a literal translation, like it was done by someone whose native language is English but who also knows some Spanish. You can ‘hear’ that the phrase was in English first.”
In other words, people who speak Spanish wouldn’t talk like that. The thing that jumped out at my wife was the scene (page 9, panel 2) where Jaime’s abuelita tells him to “make us proud,” but the way the line is phrased in Spanish actually comes across as (roughly), “make us prideful.” There’s a subtle but important difference there. Someone who speaks English and Spanish would probably understand what was meant, but someone who primarily speaks Spanish might be confused by that wording.
For my part, I had a problem with inaccuracies in the text. There are parts here and there that just made me say, “But that’s not what he said!” once I read the script provided in English. None of it is really anything that impacts the story, but I don’t feel it’s fair to readers who don’t speak a language to get sloppy with the translation.
So what do you think?