If there’s one art that the Francophone world takes way more seriously than anyone else- much more than even the Japanese or the Americans- it is the comic book. For the french speaking world, comics or bande dessinée- is the 9th art and is a source of great pride for all French-speaking cultures.
So, for those who love Tintin and Asterix and would like to explore the world of French comics a little more – here’s a quick look at some cult comic series/books that you can look to start your journey from.
Created by Alejandro Jodorowsky and illustrated by Moebius, L’Incal is a strong cult favorite thanks to its incredible storyline involving aliens, pyramids, bizarre creatures, etc. But what makes it immortal is the genius art of Jean Giraud aka Moebius, one of the greatest comic book artists of his times. The book also famously inspired the look and feel of movies like The Fifth Element. Mixing poetry, science fiction, delirious fantasy, and surrealism- you won’t find anything else like L’Incal, ever.
Created by Swiss comic book artist Philippe Chapuis aka Zep, Titeuf is a young naughty 8-year-old with a striking puff of blonde hair. His stories are loud raucous rambunctious tales where Titeuf and his gang try to make some sense of the world of adults- with resounding failure. Full of sight gags, innuendos, and crazy situations Titeuf has been translated into over 25 languages and has had people in France suing the government for their right to name their child Titeuf!
The Rabbi’s Cat
Created by Joann Sfar and set in Algeria, at the beginning of the 20th century, The Rabbi’s Cat is the story of a talking cat who decides to become a good Jew. But the problem he is way too talkative is a bit of a bad influence on his master’s daughter and has a vexatious habit of questioning the very foundations of Judaism with an innocent air. A deliciously funny series that is smart and intelligent for everyone who loves the art of comics.
Jean van Hamme is perhaps the most cult of cult comic book creators in French. This Belgian artist has created some of the most well-loved characters in the history of the B.D.– Largo Winch, XIII, Wayne Shelton, etc. Our favorite though is Thorgal, a fantasy series that digs deep into Viking lore and Atlantis legends. The peace-loving Thorgal who keeps shunning adventure only to be thrust unwillingly into it by some heinous villain or the other is an interesting change from the normal adventure-ready heroes of such fantasy stories. Richly illustrated and well-plotted, Thorgal stories are great fun reads.
The DZ-manga phenomenon started in Algeria some years back and now has a firm grip on Francophone culture. These comic books created in Algeria, with Algerian stories, are drawn in the style of Japanese manga- thereby bringing together the best of three worlds- African sensibilities, manga style, and BD culture. One of the most iconic creations of this unique world is Samy Kun- a cowardly, lazy, insouciant adolescent who turns out to be humanity’s sole hope in the fight against the men of the shadows. Fast-paced, beautifully illustrated, and even reading right to left like a proper manga, Samy Kun is a great introduction to the world of DZ-manga.