For our first Euro Thursday, I’ve debated for a few weeks as to exactly what I’d like to do. I was thinking I’d keep it simple and just do a review or two… but why make things simple? Thinking through the long term I came to a realization that other than receiving review copies from publishers like Titan Comics or Humanoids (and a few others) I really have no idea about European comics, so I should probably learn to better inform me going forward.
So what defines a “European com” beyond where it’s been created?
First, as I’ve noticed in a few physical copies I get that the format of the comics is a bit different. The product itself is 8.4 inches x11.6 inches which differs from the standard “American” size of 6.63 inches x 10.25 inches. Ok, they’re bigger. They’re also bigger in length as they tend to be 40-60 pages and 100+ pages is common again compared to the “American” 22 page comic. So they’re longer too.
The roots of European comics go far back to the 18th century caricatures and illustrated pictured books. In Scout McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art he states that early 19th century Swiss artist Rodolphe Töpffer is regarded as the “father of modern comics” by many and Töpffer’s Histoire de M. Vieux Bois is sometimes called the first “comic book.”
But, there’s not really one “European comic.” In reality, the term as a whole is made up of various scenes and locations scattered across the continent. Primarily dominated by Franco-Belgian comics, Belgian comics, Spanish comics, and Italian comics, there’s also British comics (which I as an American probably have the most familiarity with), Czech comics, Dutch, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Serbian, and Spanish! That’s a lot of different types of comics… did I bite off more than I can chew with this!?
The most famous Franco-Belgian comics are probably Asterix by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo and The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé, and The Smurfs by Peyo. Known as bandes dessinées or BDs in French and “strips” in Dutch, these are primarily for Belgian and French audiences. There’s also Flemish Belgian comics which have their own style.
Belgian comics took off in the 1920s and in 2000 40 million comics were printed in Belgium each year with 75% of those exported. That’s a lot of comics!
The influence of British comics and creators in America could fill a column on its own. 2000 AD, Action Man, Andy Capp, Doctor Who, Judge Dredd, are just a few off the top of my head I could name. The history goes back to the 19th century, so there’s a lot to cover in future columns.
The rest, I can honestly say I know little about and am looking forward to exploring more, the point of all of this!
Now, here’s a question to you all, where should I start? What would you like to see? What should I review? Sound off in the comments!