Dylan Dog and the American Way
Never having traveled internationally before, I was excited to visit Italy and experience what they had to offer, the museums, architecture, food and of course, comics. As soon as we arrived in Rome, comic books were everywhere, each and every newsstand had more than just new issues of The Avengers. On any corner, you could find the last year's worth of back issues for more popular titles, specially priced three-packs and even trade paperbacks and hardcover collections. The way a newsstand here would dedicate a portion of it's main display to gossip magazines and tabloids, in Italy it was comics, lead by their king, Dylan Dog.
There seemed to be thousands of issues of Dylan Dog, one used book store we went into had DD books lining the walls and floors. If you haven't heard of Dylan Dog don't feel too bad about it, it seems like in America not many have. Despite Dark Horse having published seven volumes, each with new covers drawn by Mike Mignola to attract interest, the most popular comic in Italy just didn't catch on.
That being said, American comics were pretty scarce, Marvel comics had a few issues on each stand, Hulk and Daredevil combined into one over sized comic, Secret Invasion still going strong over there, as well as the Old Man Logan series, all of which are a few months behind our current continuity. DC was nowhere to be found, not even a single Batman issue. My cocky American self expected our little funny books to be slightly more popular over there, super hero stories being almost nonexistent on shelves.
Dylan Dog is a "Nightmare Investigator" which translates to "Fucked Up Super Natural Stuff Detective". The Mike Mignola covers may turn many people away from the series, easily relating it to the "Hellboy-verse" or other horror comics, but DD plays out much more like old Conan comics, or more appropriately, The X-Files television show. Each issue is a complete story within itself, you could pick up any one of the books and become engaged with the character and his world.
There are also small plot points that build a bigger picture in each volume, things about his family and past and larger villains he has yet to face, but they aren't as overpowering as in, let's say, X-Men where you feel the new event book starting and are already bored of it.
Dylan Dog isn't exactly a "scary" comic, but it is a horror genre book, which unfortunately in America means huge tits, bondage gear, and lots of blood with no actual plot. Dylan Dog approaches the horror genre from a new-old perspective: Each monster's story plays out in front of you, Dylan Dog just feels fucked up after killing another misunderstood beast.
The first Dylan Dog movie Cemetary Man is worth watching and really smart and entertaining, but isn't really a Dylan Dog movie--it's based on a novel by creator Sclavi--and is in Italian, so it certainly wasn't going to help DD catch on. Thanks to the second Dog movie, Dead of Night, Dark Horse has rereleased the seven volumes in one large hardcover edition, called Dylan Dog: Case Files.
With comics being as popular as they are now with "graphic novels" being acceptable for adults, ironic nerd levels at an all-time high, and Manga being the most popular comic format in America, there must be a reason that current European comics aren't catching on. It most likely is just a strange prejudice against foreign comics, many older readers refusing Manga and Anime without having read any but using their sixth nerd sense of "knowing they wouldn't like it".
The popularity of a book like Dylan Dog relies on how it's advertised, and unfortunately the Mignola covers don't attract enough people. If the book were to have been published by Fantagraphics, with a graphic design conscious cover, it would have sold better, and Dylan Dog would be popular, and therefore we could get more stories translated.