Foreign Comics

By | Monday, June 13, 2011 1 comment
When I was a kid, the comics I read were, not surprisingly, primarily those I could get my hands on. Mostly superhero books from DC and Marvel. As I grew into my teens, and my interest in comics became more than a passing interest, I started going to local comic shops and flea markets and such. My parents were quite supportive, and ended up spending far more time than they may have liked helping me sift through long boxes.

After a little while, Dad started seeing that there were more subjects and genres out there than guys in tights beating up other guys in tights. I don't recall precisely when/where, but at some point, I realized that my father had a comic collection that was double the size of mine. (Which isn't saying much. I'm pretty sure this was still several years before I was even able to start working at McDonald's.) At any rate, I started reading his comics as well since I'd already read all of mine several times over.

Looking back, what strikes me is how I was exposed to decidedly different cultural influences without knowing it. Dad had a good collection of Asterix books and a few with Iznogoud (both by René Goscinny) and there was some non-Blueberry Moebius books. It would be years later before I realized those weren't American in origin. I think I figured out Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper were British considerably sooner, but that realization wasn't immediate by any means.

I suspect the first real instance of understanding I had that some of the comics I was reading came from outside the U.S. was the First Comics version of Lone Wolf and Cub. I believe there was an editor's note or something on the inside of at least one of the books, talking about how the images were all flipped from the original Japanese so they would read "properly" to Westerners. It was so radical a departure from my ego-centric teenage self that I had to take notice. "Heeeeey, these weren't written in America..."

Dramatic pause.

"Heeeeey, I wonder if some of these other comics weren't written in America..."

(I was considered a bright kid, but I was still a teenager and thus thick as a brick.)
At any rate, I started to distinguish out how European comics "felt" different than American ones. And how those "felt" different than Japanese manga. Though I don't recall many other manga that came through the house, Dad's Heavy Metal proved to be quite useful in seeing Euro comics in action. I still have some of Enki Bilal's images and ideas for Nikopol etched into my memory despite never having read more than a chapter or two, and barely understanding that.

But it all slowly sank in.

"Wait. Translated by...?"

I like to think that a lot of my attitude towards the world today -- the idea that people are people regardless of political borders or language or cultural heritage -- stems at least in part from absorbing those other comics BEFORE understanding anything about who wrote them. I liked Asterix because it was fun book. It happened to take place in France, sure, but Julius Caesar wasn't trying to conquer America, so of course it took place over there. That it was written by a Frenchmen was immaterial. What was important was that it was about how insanely hapless these Roman invaders always were against a midget and a dolt; that was hilariously funny in an unabashedly juvenile way.

I wonder if more kids were exposed to not only comics, but comics from all over the world, only to later understand that they were reading French/Brazilian/Japanese/Indian/whatever comics... If more people were to do that, I wonder how much more appreciative we would be of cultural differences. Maybe we'd be less inclined to come up with ugly terms like "towel-heads" and see that maybe there are points of view different than our own.
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Aristote said...

I really enjoy by european comics and its diversity, so I can't resist to talk about some series I love, I just hope this comment will not be perceived as chauvinistic, because it's not the aim ;).

I can say I learn to read with comics, and I think it's the best tool to do it, due to the fact that there are pics that describe the actions. So there are two series that will always be in my heart and I have great respect for them. The adventures of Astérix that you just spoken and Les Tuniques Bleues, both are in the classical style of french-belgian comics.

Les Tuniques Bleues is a comic that takes place during the US Civil War. The tone is very funny and denounces the absurdity of war through the two main characters that are really opposed but friend, one is a proudly military when the other just want to desert. It's also a very documented comic (well in my european opinion), with of course the most famous characters of this war and others (maybe) less well known such as Joseph Hooker or Miss Walker.

When I became an adolescent I discovered others comics oriented for adults. I can't talk about all that I would like to talk because there is so much.

Enrico Marini is a great “comics maker”. I really love the historical adventures he made. One is called Scorpion and takes place in Italy of XVIIIth century. The main character names Scorpion try to elucidate mysteries of Vatican they use to oppress population. See a trailer there :
The second one is called The Eagles of Rome, and if you love the HBO's tv show ROME, you will love this comic, because the ingredients that made ​​the success of the TV show are present. See it :

They are also comics talking about serious things such war, homosexuality etc. The Suspension made by Gibrat takes place during the WWII and throught a love stroy talk about resistance and collaboration in a small town in France.

Because comic is an art, I really love the comics that are not a consommation product but a joyce for eyes. Let me quote you some great designer : Juanjo Guarnido great watercolorist (, Emmanuel Lepage, or Frezzato ( As you can see I really love the traditionnal coloration, even if numeric coloration can be great, there is no substitute to traditionnal.

And one last, one of my favorite name De Cape et de Crocs (I have no idea how to translate it) by Alain Ayroles and Jean-Luc Masbou. It takes place during XVI century and wrote as an Italian-French satyric farce. The main characters are animal and they live one of the biggest adventure of the humanity : fly to the moon. In this comic there are all the qualities than a comic could have. It's very funny (I laugh for real when I read it), they use absurdity and visual gag such as old silent films, beautiful witth its own style, there are a lot of scientific, cultural, historical and contemporary references. See it at

Well, with the size of this comment, I think you can imagine how enthousiasm I am to talk about this :) but there are so many who deserve to be cited.