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Friday, February 03, 2023 

The French love affair with bande desinee

The Local's edition in France wrote about how big the comics medium (bande desinee in French) is in their country, as opposed to the sad situation in the USA where nobody seems to know how to market anything to any age group:
Each year, thousands of people flock to Angoulême in south west France. The town, normally only home to a little over 100,000 inhabitants, almost doubles in size once a year as it transforms into the bande dessinée capital of France.

This year, from January 26th to 29th, will mark the 50th annual Festival Angoulême – as artists, authors, and comic fans from around the world gather to appreciate bandes dessinées, a hobby enjoyed by almost half of French adults and three-quarters of French children.
See, and plenty of children get their fill too, in likely contrast to the USA, where it's all very iffy, yet if children in the USA do get to read comics, one must wonder if it's stuff suitable for youngsters they're being fed, what with all the smut coming out of the Big Two nowadays. Sadly enough, it's a foregone conclusion many receiving a left-wing indoctrination could certainly be.
France represents the world’s fourth largest comic book market – behind Japan, South Korea and the United States, and according to a 2019 report published by the French ministry of culture, bande dessinée production in France has boomed in recent years – reportedly increasing tenfold since 1996.

In 2021, one book out of four sold in France was a comic book
, according to Radio France.

“If you go to any FNAC in France, it would not be a surprise to see an adult sitting on the floor reading a bande dessinée, but I would be very surprised to see that in England”, said Dr Matthew Screech, visiting lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University who specialises in French language and French studies and author of Masters of the Ninth Art: Bandes Dessinées and Franco-Belgian Identity.
The French succeeded in mastering adult fare, as time went by, and so too did Japan, but that's another story. By contrast, USA publishers fail to take advantage of the best ways to market and sell comics from a modern perspective in any format.

When the article turns to topics like Mickey Mouse, it says:
“People may not like to admit it, but French comics have been largely influenced by American comics,” he explained.
But the difference is that in France, the superhero genre's not so big, which is probably for the best, and in the USA, it's been way overused at the expense of the rest of the science fantasy genre. Worst, there's been a liberal obsession going on for a long time that's led to destruction of classic creations, along with even more recent ones, enabled by corrupt corporatism. This is why, after all these years, it's a terrible shame Marvel/DC weren't retired as publishers, if that's what it took to avoid the artistic fiasco they've since become.

They also point out how comics did serve political purpose during the WW2 era:
In the decades that followed, as the pioneering bande dessinée Tintin – created by Belgian author Hergé – grew in popularity, France and the rest of Europe were thrust into war. During this time, comics were used for various partisan and propaganda purposes.

This trend continued in the post-war period, where certain comics were funded by the Communist party – like Vaillant (the precursor to ‘Pif’), and others, like the Cœurs vaillants were sponsored by right-leaning, Catholic interest groups.

“A whole generation of French kids grew up reading these without realising there was an underlying political agenda,” the professor added.
But the difference is that unlike the sad state of USA comics today, not every European comic sold commercially was created solely for the sake of shoving woke agendas down everyone's throats. That said, if the Smurfs was a communist metaphor, it's very dismaying. That's why it's important to pay attention to whether even modern European comics could be serving bad purpose, and there are unfortunately some that do.

But there have been plenty, thankfully, that served positive purposes too, and those French/European creators who refrain from pushing bad agendas are doing the right thing. It's also worth noting that, unlike Marvel/DC, a lot of bande desinee books are creator-owned, making it easier to choose whose writings and art you think are the best for financing and reading.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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