Not so long ago I fell in love with The Losers: I bought the comic books, watched the movie, cried about its everything, and ended up making some really cool friends (hi there, hi!). One of the characters (Carlos “Cougar” Álvarez) speaks in Spanish and there’s a particular sentence that he says in the comics that has always bothered me because it’s wrong. (And If you are one of the cool friends I’ve mentioned, you’ve already heard about that.)
I usually try not to be too bothered about inconsistent Spanish grammar when I’m reading American comic books. But lately Marvel has been putting Spanish dialogue in some of their issues and the Spanish, to be honest, is bad. Really, really bad.
(And let’s not forget the fact that most of the characters that speak Spanish are drug dealers and/or smugglers. What’s wrong with you, Marvel?)
After yelling about this on twitter for a while and getting particularly frustrated at today’s new Black Widow issue, one of my friends was like “I hope you’ll write a tumblr post about this!!!!”. So here I am, trying to be coherent while talking about some of my problems with the Spanish on Black Widow #3.
You’re going to have to do what I say, claro?
This above is a problem of context. I think the writer meant “you’re going to have to do what I say, clear?”, and “claro" is one translation of "clear", yes, but I definitely wouldn’t use it in this context.
Instead, I’d say: “you’re going to have to do what I say, entendido?” (meaning, “understood”) or, if I wanted to stick with “claro”: “you’re going to have to do what I say, está claro?”.
Is this enough to make me angry at a comic book? Probably not, but there’s more.
Para! Manos en su cabeza!
Because of the subject-verb agreement, we can know that when the guard is yelling “para!”, he means “para, tú!" (aka second person, singular: "you"). But then he says: "manos en su cabeza!”. “Su" is a possessive that’s used for third person ("his" "her" "their", in English) when the thing that’s possessed is singular (for example: "his house" = "su casa”, but “her houses” = “sus casas”). “Su" is also used as the possessive for the honorific "usted”. So the problem we have in the panel above is that the guard is using two different pronouns to address the guy he’s talking to. And that’s… not a thing you’d do.
My solution would be to use “usted" as the subject for both sentences, as in: "Pare! Manos en su cabeza!”. But to be honest (and to make things simpler) that sounds kind of forced, so I’d also drop the whole “hands to your head” thing and just go with “manos arriba!”.
Matador, como nos mismos.
I’m going to guess this was supposed to mean “[she’s a] killer, like ourselves”. I have many problems with this sentence, and it literally has four words and a comma, what the hell.
First: “matador” is a word reserved for bullfighters and, as far as I know, ONLY bullfighters. The character that’s speaking it’s supposed to be Argentinian, and maybe they do use this word to mean “killer” or “murderer” in Argentina? (I doubt it, but if someone from Argentina wants to say their two cents, please be my guest.)
Second: okay, let’s say that we’re going to use “matador" as in "killer". The guy in the panel is referring to Natasha, who is a woman. And because in Spanish nouns have different endings depending on gender, it should read "matadora”. (Which, I’m sorry to add, sounds awful.)
Third: “como nos mismos" is a translation of "like ourselves". Only then it should be "como nostros mismos" or even "como nostros”.
(Side note: I could ignore that “nos”, even though it sounds really weird to me. I can’t ignore the rest.)
Lobo Blanco, hemos entusiasmo que esperaba.
And this one is my absolute favorite, because it doesn’t make sense at all. Sure, the “Lobo Blanco" thing does make sense, but I stared too long to "hemos entusiasmo que esperaba" and I’m still not 100% sure what the writer was trying to say. "We’ve been waiting enthusiastically" maybe? Because let me tell you something, that sentence above would literally be something like this: "have enthusiasm that waited". Right.
I’ve chosen to do this with the last Black Widow issue not because I don’t like the character or the series. Far from that: I love Natasha, and I’m looking forward to issue #4. But I’m not going to lie and say that the things I’ve pointed above don’t bother me, because they do.
There’s also the fact that this isn’t an isolated example. There was the last issue of Avengers Assemble, which was great, but had Bad Spanish. And then there’s also The Punisher #1, which I haven’t read yet but which showed some very stilted Spanish in its preview pages (and the writer is also Edmondson, so my hopes are not high at all.)
What I mean is: it’s great that Marvel wants to show more diversity in comics! That diversity is a fact IRL, and it’s about time it gets reflected in media. But, because media representation really matters, it’s frustrating that they don’t seem to bother with getting someone to go through the Spanish bits and to make sure everything is correct before they release/publish the comics.
So I’ll keep throwing my money at Marvel, yes, but I do wish they’d do better.