When it comes to comic books, many of us have a specific picture in our mind; the American superhero comic. This style of comic has grown in popularity over the last couple of decades, especially with the growth of Marvel and DC in the last few years thanks to film. But there are more than just superhero comics, and especially a lot more than just American style comics. For many mainland Europeans comic books have a much different face than those across the Atlantic.
The relatively small, soft back comic book stills sometimes feels alien to me, being used to an A-4, hard back format preferred by many Franco-Belgian publishers. The continental comic book, often shortened to BD (bande desinee) is a large and easily overwhelming world, filled with light hearted gags and epic, multi volume Viking sagas.
Here are a couple of comics I personally enjoyed growing up.
This comic focuses on a young boy named Kid, an avid gamer, and his immediate family and friends. From nerdy jokes to over the top gore, this comic book is a must for any video game enthusiast. It has a very limited cast, reaching a maximum of 8 or 9 recurring characters. It also often shows Kid’s in-game avatar, simply named the little barbarian, which goes through his own share of adventure and mishaps. This BD shows what a more modern approach to BD’s looks like.
Spirou is one of the oldest European comics, dating from 1938. Its titular character was initially a lift operator in a hotel. But today Spirou has more than 50 albums, ranging from simple adventures as a reporter to more modern and futuristic ones including time travel and nanotechnology. This huge scope has made Spirou into one of the classic comics, often seen as what the ideal ‘BD’ should be. Accompanied by his best friend, Fantasio, and his squirrel, Spip, Spirou has been able to entertain kids and adults for over 70 years! This BD is a recommended starting point for any BD newcomer, thanks to its clear storylines and clean cut characters.
Originating in France, this series is one of the more common and well known European BDs. The story follows the exploits of a village of stubborn Gauls as they fight against the Romans. The reader focuses mainly on the protagonist; Asterix, the story’s namesake. With his friend Obelix, the two lead the good fight. Asterix is quite a small man, so to give him the strength to tackle the Roman occupation, the village Druid, Getafix, brews a potion. This magic potion gives the recipient superhuman strength. This comic has been around since 1959, and is still being produced today. Targeted towards children, it is still a favourite among adults who grew up reading the series. The slapstick humour is one enjoyed by all!
The final comic on my list is one of the more eccentric ones. Focusing on the marsupilami, an odd creature living in the jungle of a tropical country named Palombia. The marsupilami is a comic targeted to young children and pre-teens. Generally light-hearted and upbeat, the marsupilami also often raises questions about real life issues. Poaching, deforestation and pollution all come up in the form of various evil characters. Highly recommended for anyone with a love of cute cuddly animals. Extra bonus: there are also baby marsupilamis!
This is a brief insight to four different kinds of BDs, but there are many more to be discovered!
By Luca Lombardo