Well, now I’ve seen it so I have to believe it. 180,000 people descending on Lucca for 4 days to celebrate comic books, graphic novels, video games, superheroes, and fantasy. The festival has been going on for years, but since it moved into the city center in 2006 its popularity has exploded. Last year there were 150,000 visitors, a number I assumed was itself fantastical, and yet this year there were 30,000 more. Who would have thought that Lucca would host the third largest such festival of “comics, cinema animation, illustration, and games” in the world? Some very far-sighted organizers.
When I arrived a few days before the festival every piazza was a hive of activity as sturdy tents were being erected. A few days later these were all filled with vendors from around the world selling comic books, costumes, and paraphernalia, and graphic artists plying their trade. It seemed as if everyone in town was dressed up as some superhero or game figure, which introduced me to the performance art called cosplay (costume play). Every day there was a procession through the center of what seemed to be the entire cast of Game of Thrones. There was even a re-enactment of the Battle of Bunker Hill, no kidding. It had to do with a new video game. If you don’t believe me, here’s a youtube video (20 minutes long):
Why Lucca? It traces back to the ‘50s when some of the best artists of the genre came from Lucca. The festival began in 1966 as a Lucchese homage to these artists. In the beginning it was a typical Italian convegno of discourses and dining but by the ‘90s with the burgeoning of the art form it just kept growing and in recent years has exploded. The boost to the local economy is obvious and the local authorities have been wise to embrace it. If you want to get a better idea of all that was involved, the website. For a short video (not mine) of the third day: