We are all familiar with the image Lucca normally presents to the world a well-mannered, conservative, medieval city of music and art.
Wall to wall Puccini, lots of old world charm, peaceful, even sleepy, or as forbes magazine (see facing page) would put it, “idyllic”. So can this be the same city that goes a bit mental every October with its annual festival of Comics and Games?
Just when you think  the weekend wardrobe of young lucchesi consists entirely of velvet doublets and tights, suddenly the streets are full of ninjas, Goths, cybermen and gorillas.
It’s a very puzzling. So Grapevine talked to Gary Frank, a successful british artist working in the world of comics, who knows Lucca well.
“Comics and Games has now been going for over 40 years, but when i first started coming to Lucca in the early 1990’s, it was still a small affair based at the Palasport outside the city walls”, Gary recalls. “Now is huge the attendante last year was over 150,00 wich makes it closet o being  the largest event of its kind in Europe, only  just behind the annual festival at Angouleme in Bordeaux.”
Gary i san illustrator, or what’s known in the business as a “penciller”, lite rally drawing in pencil the illustrations for comic magazines, most notably “Superman”, which will later be inked and digitally coloured. He works from a script, in close touch with his writer to tell a story in pictures.
Comics are of course now part o fan industry which spans television, film and video games . They can be a great way of raising brand  awareness, introducing characters and therefore making readers more likely to watch the movie and buy T-shirt. And video games would warrant a separate article by themselves.
This is in fact very big business indeed.
The two giants of the industry, both U-based, are DC, owned by Warner Brothers, and only a couple of months ago, Disney Studios bought Marvel Entertainment for a cool  4 billion dollars.
So quite a smart business for Lucca to be in? Certainly, says Gary, “although Comics and Games in Lucca has always been lesso f an industry networking event and more for the fans. It’s the cultural aspect which Italy generally is keen to promote.
And of course for an artist, comics can provide enormous artistic freedom. It costs just the same whether I am drawing a building blowing up or Clarke Kent having a cupo f coffee.
I don’t have an art director telling me there’s no budget for a particolar scene, as can hppen in films. Comics do genuinely provide a showcase for  creatività and outlet for story-telling talent”.
For many year, now, particularly in Italy comics have been seen as not just for children, but as “graphic novels”. Gary Frank is in no doubt, and quotes Stan Lee the founding father of  Marvel Comics, “Suppose Shakespeare and Michelangelo, were alive today, and Michelangelo said “Hey Bill, let’s do a comic”, the point being the comic book is just as viable a form of literature as anything else”.
So what should we look out for this year? Many of the events will be held in the Palazzo Ducale and for the firts time, the Real Collegio, bringing the Festival right into the heart of the city. Expect to see a strong Japanese influence. L’Area Japan is new this year featuring everything Japanese from manga (comic and print cartoon) to traditional ceramics and cuisine. Let’s hope the sushi doesn’t fall foul of lucca’s ethnic food laws.
There are competions galore for artists, writers and bands ( the winners will get a Mediaset soundtrack contract).
Over the weekend 29 october to 1 november the Cosplay parades organised by the Associazione Culturale Flash Gordon will feature competitors dressed in the costumes of their favourite comic-strip characters. There is not a seamstress in Lucca who is not currently working flat out. On saturdays throughout october a computer games challenge will pit teams representing the Torre Asinello against the Torre Guinigi.
Not to mention the Modding contest apparently it’s all about modifying games software to create new content. So now you know. A bit crazy? A tad alternative for elegant, respectable Lucca? But maybe not so out of place ina “città d’arte”. And the city is after all home to the Italian National Museum of Comics ( the Museo Nazionale del Fumetto e dell’Immagine in Piazza San Romano).
Enjoy the fun. Just watch out fot those gorillas.

Full festival programme on
More details on the musem at


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