The community of storytelling

Emanuele Vietina is director of the biggest comics festival in the world outside of Japan, Lucca Comics & Games i Lucca, Italia. Serienett got the opportunity to speak with him.

What was your first experience with Lucca C&G as a guest?

I started attending Lucca Comics & Games when I was a kid, when Lucca was only Lucca Comics. It was the beginning of the 80’s, maybe 1983, around forty years ago. At my elementary school, tickets were handed out for free, and I attend the festival, literally hand in hand with with my mum. The first image I saw was a high compressive balloon and turnstile doors. When I went through the doors it was like entering the starship Enterprise. From that moment I never left that place. I fell in love with the show and in 1993 I began to volunteer in the Lucca Games area of the festival as a pathfinder for the tv troupes that came to visit. After that I started organizing RPG tournaments and at the end of the 90’s I was responsible for creating new games-related programs for high schools. By 2000’s I was in charge of Lucca Games and then started doing business development bringing video games, fantasy, tv and movies to Lucca Comics & Games.

The festival became part of my life, the organization became my family. The previous boss, Renato Genovese, wanted me there, so I worked for 15 years with him as Lucca Games coordinator and then vice-director of the whole show in charge of marketing and bus development. In 2016 we celebrated the show’s 50th anniversary. It was the last year of Renato Genovese’s directorship. He was my professional mentor and when he retired, I became executive director. In 2017.

Festival guests on the way to the main entrance of Porta San Pietro. Photography by Trond Sätre.

What comics did you grow up with, and do you consider yourself a connoisseur of comics?

Stories are my greatest passion, and basically I define myself as an storytelling expert. I like all the disciplines connected with storytelling in general, and comics are probably one of the most important to me and to my generation. I grew up with Italian popular comics, such as Alan Ford’s stories or Sergio Bonelli Editore’s characters like Dylan Dog, Nathan Never and many others. I was also in love with anime and when I was a teenager, I fell in love with manga when they came to Italy in the early 1990’s, if I remember correctly. Fist of the North Star, Ken and Ushio e Tora were some of my favourites. Of course, American comics are also part of my life. Vertigo (DC) was probably the most impactful to my generation  Superheroes too, of course, but maybe a bit less than Italian comics or my favorite anime. Nevertheless I loved Grant Morrison’s X-Men above all.

Movie display on Piazza San Michele. Photography by Trond Sätre.

Lucca is a multimedia festival, but with much less focus on films and tv than many so-called «comic cons». Has it been important for you to keep the focus on comics and games?

We like to refer to Lucca as a cross-media show or cross media community event, rather than a comic convention. Our community is held together by the common passion for stories, everything that can create a story is important to us. The focus is on comics and games and novels because for us, traditional media is still the best IP factory on the scene. Comics, games, books are the best places for the storyteller to test new ideas. From there, the transmedia storytelling can be developed, discovering new paths. For example, from The Witcher books or the Game of Thrones books we have games, movies, tv shows and a lot of new art! We are more focused on community than on media. Being focused on community means being focused on storytelling. Being focused on storytelling means that authors come first and that comics, games and books can still tell something important. Then of course, movies and videogames, being big creative industries are more than a cherry on the top of the cake!

Some of Emanuele’s most important co-workers, from the left: Francesca Bellotto, Barbara di Cesare, og Jazmin Kuan Veng. Photography by Trond Sätre.

What do you think is the reason why LCG is the biggest comics festival in the western world?’

Italy is not a top 5 country for the creative industries on the worldwide scale, so I think the reason we are big is because we are community-driven. We are focused on our audience, and basically, we don’t care about ratings, we don’t really work to be the first, but to be the best. We work to create our own peculiar way, bringing value to the pop culture movement by creating something new. We are in some way working to create a different stage for the creative industries, using our monumental heritage. Only in Lucca you can put the hammer of Thor in front of a medieval church, or let an X-Wing land on an authentic medieval bastion. Our ideas requires effort and has their complications, but they make a difference. We are community-driven and story-driven, and we involve more media than anyone else. Only in Lucca you can find tabletop games, books, comics, novels, videogames, all at the highest level of representation. Lucca is big thanks to many different parts, but it is much more than its single parts. It’s a stage for the audience. Now people don’t want to see a show anymore they want to be the show, and this is our Festival.

One of many cosplayer photo sessions on Lucca Comics & Games. Photography on loan from the festival.

Before you became a part of management, what do you personally consider to be the single biggest event in LCG history?

I was a volunteer in the 90’s, and in 1997, I remember when Neil Gaiman attended our event. He was informed that that year, he had won the Lucca Award (Pantera) but that he had also previously won the Yellow Kid Award – one of the world’s most influential awards – in 1995. So he went on stage doing an amazing speech about our show. He said it was incredible, and that he had been happy to win the an important prize like The Yellow Kid previously, but he was happier to have won in Lucca! I still remember the Giglio theatre cheering for Neil Gaiman. It was the most heartwarming and significant event I attended before becoming part of the family. It made me want to create something as significant for the community as the event I attended.

Jim Lee putting his handprints on the Walk of Fame during this year’s festival. Photography on loan from the festival.

After you became part of the management, what do you personally consider to be the single biggest event of the festival?  

That’s like asking me to decide which is my favorite song! There have been many significant events that changed the ways we approached the festival. I still remember in 2012, the reenactment of the battle of Bunker Hill to announce Assassin’s Creed 3, the one dedicated to the American revolution. It was big and significant because we started to work unconventionally. I still remember the 2016 Golden Globe pavilion in which we celebrated our 50th anniversary. In 2022 there was the appearance of Tim Burton and the cast of Ring of Power with the amazing Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Ismael Cruz Córdova and Sophia Nomvete. I also cannot also forget our 40th anniversary celebration of Dungeons and Dragons. There are many important events that in one way or another resulted in new approaches towards unconventional events, celebrations and films.

Top: Emanuele Vietina on Lucca Comics & Games. Photography on loan from the festival.

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