Bande dessinée

Bandes dessinées (singular bande dessinée; literally 'drawn strips'), abbreviated BDs and also referred to as Franco-Belgian comics (BD franco-belge), are comics that are usually originally in the French language and created for readership in France and Belgium. These countries have a long tradition in comics separate from English-language comics. Belgium is a bilingual country, and a few comics originally in the Dutch language (stripverhalen, literally "strip stories", or simply "strips") are part of bandes dessinées culturally; these BDs are almost always quickly translated to French and concurrently sold to the French-reading audience, however.

Among the most popular bandes dessinées that have achieved international fame are, among humorous BDs, The Adventures of Tintin (Hergé), Gaston Lagaffe (Franquin), Asterix (Goscinny & Uderzo), Lucky Luke (Morris & Goscinny), and The Smurfs (Peyo). Well-regarded realistically drawn and plotted bandes dessinées include Blueberry (Charlier & Giraud, aka "Moebius"), Thorgal (van Hamme & Rosiński), XIII (van Hamme & Vance), and the creations of Hermann.


In Europe, the French language is spoken natively not only in France and the city state of Monaco, but also by about 40% of the population of Belgium, 16% of the population of Luxembourg, and about 20% of the population of Switzerland.[1][2] The shared language creates an artistic and commercial market where national identity is often blurred, and one of the main rationales for the conception of the "Franco-Belgian comics" expression itself. The potential appeal of the French-language comics extends beyond Francophone Europe, as France in particular has strong historical and cultural ties with several Francophone overseas territories, some of which, like French Polynesia or French Guiana, still being Overseas France. Of these territories it is Quebec, Canada, where Franco-Belgian comics are doing best, due – aside from the obvious fact that it has the largest comic reading Francophone population outside Europe – to that province's close historical and cultural ties with the motherland and where European comic publishers like Le Lombard and Dargaud maintain a strong presence, in the process heavily influencing its own native Quebec comics scene, particularly from 1960 onwards. This is in stark contrast to the English-speaking part of the country, which is culturally US comics oriented.

While Flemish Belgian comic books (originally written in Dutch) are influenced by Francophone comics, especially in the early years, they evolved into a distinctly different style, both in art and in spirit, which is why they are nowadays sometimes (sub-)categorized as Flemish comics, as their evolution started to take a different path from the late-1940s onward, due to cultural differences stemming from the increasing cultural self-awareness of the Flemish people. And while French-language publications are habitually translated into Dutch/Flemish, Dutch/Flemish publications are less commonly translated into French, for cultural reasons. Likewise, despite the shared language, Flemish comics do not do that well in the Netherlands and vice versa, save for some notable exceptions, such as the Willy Vandersteen creation Suske en Wiske (Spike and Suzy) which is popular across the border. Concurrently, the socio-cultural idiosyncrasies contained within many Dutch/Flemish comics also means that these comics have seen far less translations into other languages than their French-language counterparts have due to their more universal appeal, and the French language's cultural status..

Belgium is officially a trilingual country as there is also a German-speaking minority, though Belgian comic home market first print releases, be it in Dutch or in French, are rarely translated into that language with German-speaking Belgians having to wait for internationally released editions for reading in their native tongue, typically those from licensed publishers stemming from neighboring Germany. Though Dutch and German are Germanic-language cousins, the German-speaking Community of Belgium lies within the territory of the Walloon Region, so that French is the most utilized (second) language in that area and has caused the handful of comic artists originating from there, such as Hermann and Didier Comès, to create their comics in French. Born Dieter Hermann Comès, Comès actually "Frenchified" his given name to this end, whereas Hermann has dispensed with his (Germanic) family name "Huppen" for his comics credits, though he maintained the Germanic spelling for his first name. Due to its relative modesty, both in size and in scope, and despite the close historical and cultural ties, no German-Belgian artists are as of 2018 known to have created comics specifically for the German comics world, when discounting commercial translations of their original Francophone creations.

Something similar applies to France, where there exist several regional languages, of which Breton – represented by comics artist Claude Auclair – and Occitan are two of the more substantial ones. But while these languages are culturally recognized as regional languages, they are, contrary to Belgium in regard to German, not recognized as official national languages, with similar consequences as in Belgium for comics and their artists; native comics are rarely, if at all, released in these languages by the main comic publishers, whereas artists stemming from these regions, invariably create their comics in French – like their German-Belgian counterparts forced to do so in order to gain commercial access to the main market. On rare occasions though, small, independent local and regional publishers obtain licenses from the main comic publisher to release comic books, or rather comic albums (see: below), of the more popular comics in translation into the native tongue – albeit almost always long after the original French-language release of the album in question. One such known publisher is Bannoù-Heol [fr] (est. 1999), operating out of Quimper, Brittany, who has released several into Breton translated comic albums.[3] For the very small Catalan speaking populace there actually is a round-about alternative though, as several Spanish comic publishers (including the most prominent ones, Norma Editorial and the Spanish subsidiary of Glénat Editions) regularly release bilingual editions of their comics for their Catalan population, which include imported Franco-Belgian comics, and of which Asterix and The Adventures of Tintin are prime examples. The situation for France's slightly larger German-speaking minority – represented by comics artist Guy Sajer aka Guy Mouminoux – is identical to its more sizable counterpart in northern neighbor Belgium in regard to comics-related matters.