History of the French and Francophone comics
Swiss R.Topffer is the father of comic books. In 1827, he published his first book, M. Vieux Bois and gave an excellent definition to it (foreword by Mr. Jabot 1833): the comic « comprises of a series of drawings, each (…) accompanied by one or two lines of text ». They were placed below the pictures. The balloons were not invented as yet.
The children’s comics came into existence in 1910 and were, initially, for the youngsters. Two different trends exist, the first is directed towards the working-class public with titles like « L’Epatant » (1908) where we find Les Pieds Nickelés by L. Forton, the three stooges, jolly swindlers, and the resourceful kings. The second trend pointed at a middle-class public, published in parts like « La Semaine de Suzette » (1905) with the naïve and the right-minded Bécassine of Caumery and J.P.Pinchon
Then comes the golden age of children’s papers, with the famous balloons where the texts appeared henceforth. The periodical for children « Mickey’s Diary » by P.Winkler came on stands in 1934 and was an immediate success, followed by « Hurrah » (1934), « Junior » (1936) and even « Hop là » (1937).
French publications like « L’Intrépide » (1910) or « La Semaine de Suzette » were slowly losing their charm in the 10 years that followed; on the other hand, the two Belgian weeklies « Spirou » (1938) and « Tintin » (1946) immediately appealed to the youngsters right from the beginning.
This was followed by the paper « Pilote » in 1959 (directed particularly by R. Goscinny, A.Uderzo and J.M.Charlier) which symbolised the revival of French comics in the 60s and which makes up for the lack of revues for adolescents also. It soon became a fetish among the young readers.
It was only from 60s that French comic was meant for adults.
Concerning an aged public, the monthly « Hara-Kiri » published by Square, paved a way in September 1960 and shattered the French press. A satiric paper which quickly took the title of « stupid and nasty », it imposed the idea that a comic could carry political messages. The ignored cartoonists Cabu, Wolinski, Gébé and Reiser are allowed, among the others, the gowth of burlesque and black humour. Then, published by the same team, Square, came « Charlie Monthly » (1969) which was allied with the avant-garde of that period and the republishing of the American Golden Age like C. Schultz’s Peanuts. This paper merged with « Pilote ». At the same time, « Charlie Weekly » (1970) was born, challenging its ban on publication and thus started to acquire an unprecedented popularity.
For their part, N.Mandryka, Gotlib and C.Brétecher established « L’Echo des Savanes » in 1972 with Fromage publications. The magazine shattered all norms and proposed, immodest and scatological, short narrations. In comparison with the reports and articles, came other creators of comics like R.Pétillon, Moebius, J.Teulé…, and was directed much later towards a more sophisticated eroticism (M.Manara, A.Varennes…).
Gotlib created the magazine « Fluide Glacial » after having left « L’Echo des Savanes ». Along with a childhood friend, J.Diament, he founded the A.U.D.I.E. publications (Amusement, hUmour, Derision, hIlarity and all sorts of things) and launched the first issue in 1975. Devoted mainly to a humouristic genre, « Fluide Glacial » continued to attract its public.
The same year, the quartet (The Humanoïdes Associate), J.Giraud, J.P.Dionnet, P.Druillet and B.Farkas brought a new conception: science-fiction. They created the paper « Métal Hurlant » (1975), first specialising in this theme (Moebius…), later diversifying (F’Murr, Alexis…).
The increasing number of books in the 80s brought about a loss of interest among the adults but they did not totally disappear. There was always « Fluide Glacial » and « L’Echo des savanes » and in 1992 « Charlie Hebdo » was republished after 12 years and opened the path for many others.
ENJOY THE JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY…
Uderzo/goscinny. Humour. Appeared first in « Pilote » in 1959. This devilish dwarf warrior, accompanied by his friend Obélix, the menhir delivery man, takes us into the world of adventures of the Gaul period in 50 BC, conquered by the Romans… all? No, by Toutatis!
Hergé (Belgian). Adventures. « Le Petit Vingtième » in 1929. The young reporter, followed by his inseparable Milou (Snowy), travels through the world and brings justice through the many adventures. The Dupondt brothers blunders’, the madness of the exentric Professor Tournesol (Calculas)and Captain Haddock’s feast of words add a touch of humour to his tribulations.
Franquin (Belgian). Humour. « Spirou » in 1957. Lazy to work, but overflowing with energy to invent pranks, each one funnier and more stupid than the other, m’ enfin! This dreamy poet and animal lover is one of the most original and sympathetic characters of the 9th art.
Morris/Goscinny. Western. « Spirou » in 1946. Our lonely cowboy travel through the Far West to make people respect the law, very often chasing the Dalton brothers and accompanied by the most stupid dog of the comic world, Ran-Tan-Plan. It is an excellent satire of the western, full of humour, where we come across some really historic characters (Calamity Jane, Billy the Kid ou encore Jesse James).
Tardi. Fantasy and thriller adventures. « Sud-Ouest » in 1976. The half-extraordinary and half-thrilling adventures of our heroine takes place in Paris during the Belle Epoque. An independent and dignified young lady whose world is filled with foolish scholars, a variety of monsters and of secondary characters with dreadful faces. Adèle’s life is not exactly a restful one!
Enki Bilal. Fantasy. « Humanoïdes Associés » in 1980-86-92. « La Foire aux Immortels », « La Femme piège » and « Froid-Equateur », three books where Bilal mixes love, sports, and the Egyptian mythology. His narration of a futuristic story is excellently accompanied by his sketch.
FESTIVALS Angoulême, "International Comics Festival"
The festival starts in the last week-end of January. It includes different cultural activities, exhibitions, debates, competitions, prize distribution and also a children’s corner. The first festival was held in 1974 and ever since, Angoulême has slowly become the capital of comics. In 1976, the museum witnessed the early signs of a future comics musuem. The " National Centre for Comics and Image", entirely dedicated to the comic cult was born in 1989. In 1996, the exhibition transformed into a festival and affirmed its position as a cultural event without moving away from its festive dimension.
For more information, consult the web site in French: bdangouleme.com Blois, "BD Boum"
Since 1984, the festival "BD Boum" has been welcoming the comic fans in the second-last week of November. There are more than 30 000 people each year, who attend this festival where they meet about 100 authors, and 20 publishers. Debates, round-tables on various current happenings, like citizenship, human rights, etc. are also part of the programme. This is also a social event: the comics are used as a support against illiteracy, specially in the prisons. Lastly, it is also a festival for the youngsters with the participation of more than 5000 children in the different workshops or in their school every year.