Zits Around the World

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They tell us Zits appears in 27 countries and 15 different languages, which we try not to think about. If I start wondering what would make an Estonian teenager laugh, or for that matter, his parents, I roll up into a tight little ball and wet myself. It’s best to just draw and write for the people we know. Somehow it translates.

The Zits foreign book publishing program has always been a bit of a mystery to me. But from time to time I receive books in the mail with familiar drawings and foreign words where I’m quite sure I lettered English ones. How this is all accomplished I really don’t know. Translators and calligraphers must be involved, of course, but there must also be foreign editors in charge of random changes.

For example, who names these things? This book was published in the US as Zits Supersized.

In Sweden, our strip was renamed Jere. For years, we learned later, the Swedish syndicate was having all of our strips re-colored for newspapers and making Jeremy’s hair red and his shirt green. Do purple shirts mean something subversive in Scandinavia? And surely the Swedes are familiar with blondes.

I don’t know what language some of these are. “Jeremi” feels like it must be from some small insecure island nation in a cold part of the world. I could be wrong.

Our friends at Gradiva put out some very handsome books in Portuguese, we think. Which leads to the question, do all of these jokes make sense in Portuguese? We once asked a publishing agent what they do when a strip relies on a cultural reference that wouldn’t make sense in another language. “We make something up,” he shrugged. Okay then.

In Finland, Zits had its own comic book for awhile. Even better, our publisher was called Arctic Banana. The Finns prefer to get their comics in comic book compilations every few weeks, so a bunch of strips are gathered together under one of the titles and stapled together just like we bought Little Lulu and Richie Rich off of drugstore racks back in the 1950s. Lately, Zits runs in the Beetle Bailey comic book in Finland, which the editor in charge of random changes retitled Billy. You heard me right — Beetle Bailey is called Billy in Scandinavia. And when Mort Walker goes to Goteborg to sign books they have to shut down streets to handle the crowds. All of this is true.

As far as I can tell, we also have books in Italian, German, French and whatever this language is.

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10 thoughts on “Zits Around the World

  1. It’s great to see Zits is appreciated in several countries. As a longtime fan from Portugal (I got my first Zits book in 2000, if i’m not mistaken), I can attest that while no translation is 100% perfect (and this goes for every single published work out there), I can’t remember finding anything strange about the Portuguese translations of Zits, except for one minor detail here and there out of the five or six Zits books that I have. Even references to strictly American topics were fairly easy to understand – and for further information, Gradiva also published all the Calvin&Hobbes books in Portugal, as well as several other successful comics, so I’m not surprised they did a good job with Zits.

    Just to give an example at how they can assume different words in other languages, the Zits book which in the US was published as “Thrashed”, in Portugal received the title of “Fossa Nova”, which literally means “new pit” – this has a double meaning, as it can represent how down Jeremy feels and also to sound close to “bossa nova”, a Brazilian music style. Also, the book “Road Trip”, was translated to “E no entanto, move-se”, which means “and yet, it moves” – once again, a double meaning, relating to both the fact that their 1960s VW van cannot mechanically move but this doesn’t prevent Jeremy and Hector from making plans anyway and to the phrase attributed to Galileo after he the inquisition released him.

    Congratulations to you and to Jerry Scott for the international success and for creating one marvelous piece of comic that is part of my teenage and adult life!

    • Thanks for several great comments on our foreign-language publications! This is the first we’ve heard these stories and translations. Two new Zits books in Spanish from our publisher Norma just arrived at my house — watch for (upside-down exclamation mark)ARRANCA! and Jeremy y Papa.

  2. The books called “Jere” are in Finnish. So it’s probably in Finland, not Sweden, that Zits is known as Jere. (I don’t know any Finnish, but it’s fairly easily recognizable as such. Läpiä päähän? That’s just cräzÿ.)

    “and whatever this language is” is Danish. The title means “What are you looking at?” (I’m Norwegian, but I don’t know anything about purple shirts.)

  3. Thomas is rigth – unknown language is danish.

    Beetle Bailey is in danish called Jens Fup in US that would be something like “Sam Spam”

    Beside the papers Zits runs in “Basserne” (Beetle Bailey magazine – 26 annual issues) where Zits is 4-8 pages, several other series are presented in it to,like, Betty, Hagar and at the moment Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, and then of course some “local” scandinavian cartoonists (can highly recommend Pondus)

    And then Zits from time to time, when the not enough productive lazy cartoonist ;o) have enough material for yet another album, it is published in it’s own name.

  4. On Mexico appears on the newspapers and is call like “Jeremias”, I really like it also my mom, that’s funny I think jeje, greetings

  5. My son just sent me a text of the Zits comic that ran in the paper today in Norway, where he is living. It feature Jeremy eating a worm and Sarah being grossed out by it. It ends with Jeremy and Pierce talking.

    I want to find the original comic strip to see the English words. The Norwegian says this:
    Sarah: (to Jeremy who is eating a worm) Aesj, ass, Slutt, ass. Du er sa barnslig, ass.
    Jeremy: (to Pierce) Ass i slutten av en setning er det nye utropstegnet
    Pierce: (to Jeremy) Kult, ass.

    Looks a bit, um, odd, if you don’t speak Norwegian.

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