The category of parody can be defined as a humorous version of intertextual references or allusions; Vandaele recognizes it as resulting from an “exaggerated imitation of aesthetic norms,” as opposed to satire, which imitates “social norms” (2002, 155). In other words, parody takes accepted norms of how other media look, behave, and are presented and offers an exaggeration of them, while satire is more concerned with the social commentary. Both series employ parody in order to both create comic effects and locate their narratives within a specific cultural frame. The series’ authors acknowledge the fact that readers will have a working understanding of wider comics culture and potentially of other popu?lar media and genres. They insert references to these comics and media into their series while subverting the connotations that those references might have and removing the original seriousness or dramatic tension for humorous effect.
The majority of instances of parody are based on English-language, mostly American, cultural products and attitudes toward them, which Italians have appropriated (such as “nerd” culture); there are very few instances in which attitudes and reactions to Anglo-American culture differ in Italy from their original context, making the task of translation a relatively straightforward one. This is probably due to the nature of the Italian comics market, which relies heavily on imports from US publications and to the perceived prestige of Anglo-American products. In the case of a different reaction, though, I would suggest changing the referential context to a more well-known product with similar connotations, if the visual elements of the joke allow for it.
There are, however, a number of references which are almost exclusively Italian (examples include the almost religious/superstitious attitudes toward the World Cup and soccer, the passion for spaghetti Westerns, the proliferation of Catholic publications at newsagents, the traditional “tombola,” a game similar to bingo, which is usually played on New Year’s Eve, and other Disney comics titles), and they tend to appear in nonverbal form (or a combination of nonverbal and verbal signs). In such cases, a translator may have to follow an adaptation strategy, making the references conform to the target culture, selecting an aspect of the target audience’s cultural references which contains the same connotations as the source text’s (e.g. the Super Bowl in lieu of the World Cup for a US publication). In the case of nonverbal dominance over verbal aspect, however, paratextual material may have to be added in the form of footnotes or endnotes in order to explain the cultural significance to the target readership.