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Are you a fan of Asterix or Tintin? - Comics in Franco-Belgian Culture

interests 9 min read, October 24, 2020
franco belgian comics

Comics are traditionally seen as a phenomenon of American culture, but they appeared and spread in Europe. In Franco-Belgian culture, comics occupy a separate niche and are considered the "ninth art". And if American culture focuses on an audience of teens ages 8-17, then European graphic short stories are usually aimed at an older audience. Moreover, a comic that naturally left the newspapers in the early twentieth century, at its end returned there as political cartoons and sketches. If you are into comics, find out other fans on UNBLND and organise meetings, discuss this topic with your like-minded people and friends. This is the right way to make friends. Just an admirer of Franco-Belgian Comics? This is also for you. Now let's dive into La bande dessinée.

Franco-Belgian Comics: La bande dessinée.

In the twentieth century, comic culture in France actually came to the form in which still exists. Although the first comics appeared in Europe, further development of this genre took place in the United States. Already in 1897, it appeared in America the first successful serial comic – “The Yellow Kid in McFadden's Flats” (in eight years to the first serial comic in Europe “Becassine”). According to one version, it is because it was called "yellow" by the mass press. It was used for the first time a new technique for incorporating text into a completely graphic story - word clouds. By a series of comics is convenient to watch, the newspaper has a permanent audience, which buys it to read another insert with the adventures of the Yellow Man. In 1922, the first separate children's book, Comic, was published in America book.

By 1914, although comics were still being printed in newspapers, aimed at an adult audience, the focus shifted towards children aged 8-12; the content has changed accordingly. This is due to the low status of comics in society. In France and Belgium, instead of comic books, some comics were published in magazines or albums that were A4 books. Researcher European comics Lawrence Grove considers this format a precursor graphic novels that appeared in the 80s; mentioning the format of the album, he writes that the French-speaking tradition does not regard comics as a "low genre," but gives it a place in children's literature.

Franco-Belgian Comics flourished in the 1920s and 1940s. Artists borrow from the Americans the technique of placing replicas and the format of the comics is not just individual inserts or strips in newspapers and full-fledged magazines. Also, French comics are finally getting their name - Bande dessinée. It first appeared in 1938 in the Parisian socialist magazine “Populaire”. From 1964, comics in France acquired the status of "ninth art".

In 1925, after the end of the First World War, the French artist Alain Saint-Ogan created a successful series of comics “Zig et Puce”. BD appeared in the weekly supplement to the newspaper L’Excelsior “Le Dimanche Illustre”. Skinny Zig and fat-cheeked Pus - two teenagers who spend all their time travelling. He is especially interesting that this is the first French comic drawn using the cloud technique for words. It became a turning point in the history of BD: reading comics became easier, there was involvement large and could leave a kind of a mystery to the reader. He only saw replicas of dialogues, and everything that was happening was forced to look not in the description, and to pull out from a picture or to think up.

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Zig et Puce. La Reve de Zig.

In 1934 there was a new breakthrough in the history of comics: the first weekly has published a magazine devoted entirely to graphic stories – “Le Journal de Mickey”. It was founded by Hungarian Paul Winkler. The magazine was mainly devoted to Mickey's adventures. Mouse and other Disney characters, but all their stories fit into the French context reality. Winkler did not limit himself to Disney stories: he adapted for French readers most popular American comics of the 30s - Jungle Jim, Brick Bradford, Pete the Trump and others. In addition to American characters and plots, Paul borrowed from the United States and the technique of filing graphic stories.

“Le Journal de Mickey” is considered the European founder of the usual today comics - small magazines, where one issue is devoted to one story. It consisted of 8 pages, five of which were devoted to BD. It was about twice the size more than standard newspapers, and it did not use French comics with captions under pictures, and American - with clouds for words. In the first four years, the magazine has achieved a circulation of 400 thousand copies (the largest competitor at the time of release magazine published newspapers with a circulation of 50,000). Later this period will be called the golden age of BD. Le Journal de Mickey is still published and is the most popular publication for children 8-13 years.

Are you still with us, Franco-Belgian Comics lover?

The Adventures of Tintin

In 1929, the first youth supplement, “Le Petit Vingtieme”, was published on Sunday. Comic book series “The Adventures of Tintin” - the most popular comic book in Belgium. The author and George Remy became the artist of BD. He drew under the pseudonym Herge in Nursery Le Petit Vingteme's weekly supplement to the Catholic newspaper “Le Vingtieme Siecle”. The press in France was and remains extremely politicized, a series of comics most often expressed the position of the editorial board on a particular issue of modernity. “Le Vingtieme Siecle” leaned to the right and held sharply anti-socialist views. Therefore, the first adventure awaited Tintin at a young age state of the Soviet Union.

The style of narration was very different from later versions of the comic: it was childish, naive and simple, although they included a lot of racism and political stereotypes. The series quickly became one of the most popular in Europe: at 2007 marked the centenary of the artist's birth, by which time Tintin was translated into 70 languages.

Tintin (Les aventures de), tome 7: L'île noire. Tintin au pays des Soviets.

Tintin is a young Belgian reporter who travels the world with his family snow-white dog. From 1929 to 1930, Tintin travelled throughout the Soviet Union. He then went to the Congo, then a colony of France, and then to America. The Soviet Union was portrayed by Herge extremely stereotypically, and the people of the Republic of the Congo and they looked like stupid aborigines at all. Later, the author himself recognised these albums weak and even forbade republishing them. In the 1930s, Tintin spread to subscription in France, Switzerland and Portugal.

In 1940, the Nazis occupied Belgium and closed it for political reasons “Le Vingtieme Siecle”. The artist finds a job as an illustrator pro-fascist magazine "Le Soir". There he continues to draw comics with Tintin, but already completely excluding any political subtext. It helped him after lifting the occupation to clear his name of accusations of collaborationism. Immediately after war illustrator receives an offer from the publishing house "Le Lombard" to publish a separate magazine with the adventures of a reporter - "Le Journal de Tintin". Later in this other comic book series will be published in the magazine, and the publication will be the same niche for comic book lovers, as well as “Le Journal de Mickey”.

In total, Herge released 24 albums of Tintin's adventures - from 1930 to 1986. Since then The comic has been repeatedly translated into a huge number of languages, adapted for television, radio, theatre, cinema (5 feature films), video games. The last one a full-length comic book cartoon was released in 2011 and directed by him Steven Spielberg. Herge's soft style has had a huge impact on the development of Franco-Belgian Comics and art in general. So, the famous artist of the XX century Andy Warhol called the artist his main inspiration, along with Walt Disney.

The Adventures of Asterix

In 1952, an important event took place in America - the collection of MAD was published, which does not consist of genre comics, but of satirical, parody materials, targeted at an older audience. In 1959 in Belgium, inspired with the experience of MAD, Rene Goscinny and Jean-Michel Charlier launch Pilote magazine. In it, all well-known artists and cartoonists worked then. Also, one of The magazine's editors also worked at MAD. By the end of the 60's “Pilote” was constantly publishing relevant and politically coloured content, purposefully addressing a more adult audience. In this case, each issue contained a comic book covering any historical event. It has gained incredible popularity: 300 thousand copies the first edition sold out in one day.

In the first issue of the magazine, there is a new character - Asterix. It is created by Rene Goscinny with artist Albert Uderzo. The comic tells about the invincible the village of the Gauls, which resists the attempts of the Romans to occupy it. She does it with the help of a magic potion that is brewed by a local druid. The comic is named the main character. But modern film adaptations and reissues have put Asterix's best friend, Obelix, in the title. The suffix "x" at the end of the names is a reference to real names of Gallic chiefs, the suffix means "king, ruler." In addition, all the names in BD say: Asterix comes from the Greek "aster" - a star, and a dog, The Obelisk (from the word obelisk) is called Ideefix (idea fix).

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Asterix aux Olympic Games. Asterix. Le Papyrus de Cesar.

The comic is one of the most popular in the world, it has been translated more than 100 languages. The success of the series led to its film adaptation: 13 films were shot – 9 cartoons and 4 feature films. In separate albums, Asterix began to be published in 1961 and became so successful that it was subsequently published on an annual basis. This is an important turning point in the history of serial BDs: before that, it was impossible to find out when the next big album with a story about your favourite characters will be released.

Uderzo painted Asterix a huge and strong Gallic warrior. But Goscinny Hotel, that the gall was small and preferred intelligence to brute force. Uderzo agreed but drew him a strong, fat and stupid companion - Obelix. That's how it appeared a famous duo. Goscinny died in 1977 and Umberzo continued to draw the series. In 2008 he sold the publishing rights to Hachette. New comic book series continue to appear to this day. In 2017, 37 albums will be released “Asterix and the race through Italy.”

The main feature of European comics in the age category to which they are calculated. In the United States, comic book culture has embraced adolescents and continues to produce content for them, in France illustrators did not stop only at this age. For children and teenagers create comics like “Asterix” and “The Adventures of Tintin”, for older people - graphic novels about migrants and the Holocaust and political cartoons in weekly newspapers. That is, the coverage of the audience is not comparable to coverage in American pop culture.

Find other fans and lovers of Franco-Belgian Comics on UNBLND. There you can organise meetings, discuss this topic with your like-minded people and friends.

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