The enduring image of this year’s Lucca Comics and Games convention is a shot of director Tim Burton waving to a seemingly never-ending crowd from a balcony in the historic center of this medieval Tuscan town.
That one shot shows how Lucca has evolved from a small, hyper-localized convention for comics and gaming fans to one of the most important pop culture events on the international calendar.
Lucca Comics and Games, Europe’s largest comics festival (and the world’s number two, bigger than Comic-Con in San Diego and just behind Comiket in Japan), has become a hub for the film, TV and games industries, which came into effect in Lucca 2022, the first real in-person event since 2019 (last year’s Lucca was in-person but with strict capacity restrictions due to COVID). They all pitched to the same 320,000 fans crammed into this historic venue, hungrily waiting for the latest geek-friendly content.
In addition to Burton, who hosted the European premiere of Wednesdayhis new Netflix series, VIP guests included the cast of Disney’s Willow, Andoro actress Denise Gough, cast members of the Amazon Prime series Rings of Powerlegendary cartoonist John Romita Jr., as well as Goro Taniguchi, director of the Japanese anime hit A piece of red.
Like Comic-Con, Lucca has moved beyond the original source material as a comic book convention to embrace all aspects of fan pop culture, from video games to cosplay, from television to movies to table games.
“We have to be the pioneers. For comics, table games, for the Italian cultural industry as a whole,” says Emanuele Vietina, general manager of Lucca Comics and Games. “We speak to the smallest publisher as well as the established, more well-known companies … We are the stage managers of this huge show.”
In addition to presenting Burton Wednesdaythis year’s show included the Italian premiere of A piece of redpanels with the Willow and Rings of Power casts and a question-and-answer session with Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, where they screened clips from their highly anticipated Paramount Pictures film starring Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez.
“We are happy to be at the center of Italian culture [for the five days of the Lucca festival]”, says Vietina, “and we are proud that we got there without much support from [government] settings. There are young members of our team with well-defined passions, who have earned their place. For us, the community is the most important.”
Lucca also acquired a special political significance this year. As a cosmopolitan event celebrating cultural exchange across borders – hundreds of thousands of fans from all corners of the world gathered in this small walled city, turning the city of 90,000 into a cosplay wonderland overnight – Lucca was a particularly safe space in a country still rocked by the election of the far-right government led by Giorgia Meloni last month. As if to emphasize the point, this year’s theme was Hope.
Not that Lucca is overtly political. The organizers of the event, Lucca Crea, are partially state-owned, which means that Lucca Comics and Games general manager Emanuele Vietina and his team must remain strictly neutral and non-ideological.
“We’ve had public-political management for 25 years now,” Vietina says, “and we’ve gone through all the colors of Italian politics. Our approach doesn’t change. [we have] a very precise editorial line and we have always followed that.”
But just the fact of the event speaks volumes.
“Every year, Lucca Comics and Games proves that this community of consumers and fans is the model for a better society,” said Vietina. “We’re here to stay because we can be together.”