Comic books are a worldwide phenomenon and as such appear in darn near every language you can think of, and probably some that you can't. As we live in Canada it's our pleasure to occasionally run across Quebecois comics, which naturally are published in French, and even though sadly our French is terrible to nonexistent, we're gonna buy the things anyway because, hey, that's what we do, we buy comic books... and occasionally we take a good, long, possibly sarcastic look at them here at Mister Kitty. Join us, won't you, as we take a look at comics from other lands. Not that Quebec is really another land, but it feels like it sometimes especially when one's French is terrible to nonexistent.
Quebec's comics history is largely one of dealing with imports from America on one side and France on the other, so homegrown native Quebecois comics (or "bandes dessinees quebec" - BDQ for short) were a long time developing, battling floods of reprinted foreign material all the time. As we'll see!
Our first example dates from 1961 and is titled "Heralds", which fits in with our Roman Empire cover! What's happening in Heralds?
Looks like some good old fashioned "Classics Illustrated" reprints, is what looks like what's happening. And that's too bad because Classics Illustrated are hands down the most boring comic books ever published anywhere by anybody. Which is why parents and teachers loved them, and "Heralds", a parent-teacher approved response to the scary crime and horror comics of the day, was deliberately designed to be as unexciting as possible. Here Mark Twain's "The Prince And The Pauper" becomes "Le Prince Et Le Mendiant." Hey, my French is improving already!
Popular Western TV show turned comic "Fury" - about a boy and his beautiful horse Fury, who is the greatest horse in the world, can we have a horse Daddy? - Dell's Fury Four-Color gets the French language reprint treatment here, complete with dangerous mountain lions!
But there's also good solid advice for wide-awake young Quebec youngsters also, as "Mail For Youth" explains that smoking is bad and will give you lung disease cooties and make your piggy bank sad.
And hey, that cover promised us Roman Times and here we are in Roman Times with the Conquests of Caesar, as seen in, yes, Classics Illustrated reprints. Yeesh.
But it isn't all American comic reprints here in Quebec. As the years progressed, other types of "bandes-dessinees" made their appearances!
Here a glammed-up, contacts-wearing Tina Belcher sits unimpressed as Donald Trump fires Fabian.
"Tina" seems to be French versions of British girls' comics. Of course many of the UK comics of the period were drawn by a variety of European artists, so this may be an Italian or French comic passed from nation to nation, from editoral rewrite to editorial rewrite.
The galaxy of Francophone comics is seen here with some happy children and various woodland creatures bounding forth to grasp the allowances of children. I'm worried about Mister Fox here, who apparently is not only dressed in the skins of his victims but is out to do some more killing of what I can only surmise are fellow woodland creatures. Somebody call the woodland police!
Paranoid Comics presents THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT YOU - coming March 5
The amazing world of Quebec Comics continues with SURBOUM, a "surprise party" grab-bag of translated comics from all over the American comics landscape!
Yes the French love Jerry Lewis and French comics are no exception! Here in a reprint of DC's "Adventures Of Jerry Lewis" we see some of that great Bob Oksner artwork and some of that subtle, intelligent Jerry Lewis comedy.
Only a pretty girl could convince Jerry to venture forth into the scary haunted house full of shenanignans and sight gags. Poor Jerry.
Charlton Comics fans, all two or three of you, will be delighted to learn that Charlton's "My Little Margie" comics are dismissed and forgotten in both America and Canada!
Not to be outdone, Charlton's "Freddy" also made the transition and is here to educate Quebecois children about "the twist" and also "unwanted touching."
Here, 50s rocker "Ellis" blatantly violates Quebec's language laws by singing in English, but the girls don't seem to mind.
Even Tower Comics' teen sensation Tippy Teen saw print thanks to Quebec's seemingly boundless thirst for off-brand American teen comics.
But as the 1970s came a new fad would sweep the Francophone world, and it wouldn't be from America but from the other side of the planet. I'm talking about those Japanese cartoons from Japan, which took Europe in a storm of giant robots, space pirates, and desperate early 20th century orphans!
Here Leiji Matsumoto's Space Pirate Captain Harlock endures his capture by the forces of the corrupt Earth police while also enduring how his name got changed to "Albator". Many liberties were taken with the source material as the 1978 Toei animation was localized for France - Harlock became "Albator", Yattaran became "Alfred", and Kei Yuki became "Nausicaa" and got her own film in 1984. Not really. (And yes these are actually French comics published in France, but we bought 'em in Montreal, so relax.)
Remember the time they fought the Space Battleship Yamato, and that time Yattaran built a giant robot? You don't? Neither do I. Hey, as long as they're writing new stories, they might as well write the hell out of them, I guess.
Space pirates and giant robots and generic teen comics are okay, I guess, but when it comes to comics kids really like, there's only one place to turn.
Yes, it's Betty et Veronica, delivering teen gags and hungry Jugheads to entire generations of French-speaking Canadian youth.
Far from a morass of Charlton reprints, today the BDQ scene is lively and vibrant thanks to cartoonists like Julie Doucet and publishers like Drawn & Quarterly creating innovative, original works in French and eventually English. It's a far cry from Classics Illustrated and Ma Petite Margie, and I can only say, the further the better.
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