As part of Eudicom activities towards internationalization and networking in the comics sectors, the Federation of European Publishers decided to meet with comics professionals and experts all over Europe to get an insight into their needs and interests. With this column we will present to you some of the most interesting profiles of comics experts, associations, and activists from Europe.
To get an insight on the Romanian Comics scene we meet with Octav Ungureanu illustrator, comics artist, translator, editor, and project manager of RevistaCOMICS among many other things. RevistaCOMICS is an online comics magazine aimed at promoting Romanian authors and comics.
According to Octav, and despite his tireless efforts, the Romanian Market is indeed very small. The most popular Romanian comics magazine (based on a very popular Romanian fairy-tale) was printed monthly in 10.000 issues and initially sold 6.000 copies, but even after 5 years of sustained marketing efforts it went bankrupt in 2018 due to diminishing sales. Marvel monthly issues translated into Romanian had a similar fate (Spiderman, Deadpool, Thor and Ironman), as well as The Walking Dead.
The biggest comics publisher offers mostly translations of global mainstream titles, such as Asterix or SpongeBob, whereas other publishers do not go further than publishing one or two titles per year. Even though more and more comics albums are being published in the country, still they are no more than 30-35 titles per year (and around 90% of them are translations).
The market for Romanian artists within the country is even smaller than for international titles in fact. Akin to many other smaller markets, local talents find better luck abroad, or try the self-publishing way. Due to small readership and small sales very few publishing houses invest in comics, so Romanian authors print their volumes on their own (100-200 issues) and sell them directly to fans at events or online.
Possibly, there is an historical reason behind this situation. According to Octav, uniquely among former eastern bloc countries, Romania did not see comics disappear under the communist regime. however, before 1989, comics were made only as communist propaganda and as such they carry a stigma still hard to shake off. Only later, in the 90s, comics managed to gain back a bit of traction. A rather unique situation which could explains the current landscape, in which for example Teenagers seem more interested in Manga (that they buy online or in bookstores) but read them in English as there are no Romanian translations available.
Despite this picture, not everything is bad for the country’s comics scene: Romanian comics creators both experimented with US-like productions featuring a full team behind a production instead of more common one-person teams, as well as with digital distribution. Overall, although the numbers are currently small, the comics scene has been seeing a steady, if somewhat slow, growth in the past years.
According to Octav, the main national comics publisher (GRAFIC, part of the generalist ART) is doing a great job in educating the public to appreciate comics, and Romanians fans are extremely dedicated to all that is related to comics.