Tag Archives: Spirou

Symposium report: Tradition and Innovation in Franco-Belgian bande dessinée

by Fransiska Louwagie and Simon Lambert


On 13 March 2020 the University of Leicester hosted an International Symposium titled “Tradition and Innovation in Franco-Belgian bande dessinée” organised in collaboration with Wallonia-Brussels International. This one-day symposium – for which the progamme can be found here – was organised with generous support from the ASMCF, the Society for French Studies and the School of Arts at the University of Leicester.

The day was opened by Simon Lambert as Academic and Cultural Liaison Officer for Wallonia-Brussels in the UK, in conjunction with Fransiska Louwagie (University of Leicester). Keynote speakers were Professor Laurence Grove from the University of Glasgow and graphic novelist Michel Kichka, who also delivered a public seminar on his work. Across three panels, the day focussed on various forms of tradition and innovation in Franco-Belgian bande dessinée: the first panel was dedicated to “Revisiting the classics”, the second panel to “Contemporary perspectives”, and the final ASMCF panel to “Reshaping Franco-Belgian bande dessinée”. The closing remarks were organised as a roundtable session on collaborative international research projects.

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Death to Bandes Dessinées! Long Live Hypergraphy

(Geste hypergraphique by Roberto Altmann, 1967)

by Antoine Sausverd

Translated by Annick Pellegrin

Edited by Lise Tannahill

Original publication: Sausverd, Antoine. “« À mort les bandes dessinées ! Vive l’hypergraphie ! » (Geste hypergraphique de Roberto Altmann, 1967)” TONIQUE avril 2017. Print.

For bande dessinée, the year 1967 seemed to favour formal and aesthetic experiments. After Les Aventures de Jodelle (1966), Pravda la survireuse appeared in the pages of the monthly Hara-Kiri from January to December, before being published in album format in 1968. The stylisation of shapes and the uniform solid colours were openly inspired from the pop art aesthetic. Similar to the exquisite corpse,[1] Saga de Xam by Nicolas Devil was an epic work that bore the marks of the counter cultures of its time: from chapter to chapter, the work alternated between various graphic styles, challenging established page layout norms.[2] The texts were written in three alphabets, two of which were invented and undecipherable, unless one consulted a correspondence table at the end of the work. Finally, the same year saw the release of the first situationist comics: posters and tracts reproduced bandes dessinées and replaced the content of the speech bubbles with excerpts of revolutionary political theories advocated by the Situationist International, that would play a significant role in triggering May 1968. It was also in 1967 that Geste hypergraphique, a strange album just as original as the previous ones, was published in Liechtenstein. Completely unnoticed at the time and still largely unknown to date, this “hypergraphique narration en 15 chants” [hypergraphic narration in 15 songs] was the work of a young Cuban aged 25, Roberto Altmann, who was at that point part of the lettrist group.

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Natacha: Flying Bellhop

by  Philippe Capart

Translated by Annick Pellegrin

Edited by Lise Tannahill

Original publication: Capart, Philippe. “Natacha : Groom de l’air.” La Crypte tonique nov/déc 2012: 28-34. Print.[1]

Peyo’s Gang

Peyo, Franquin, Will, Tillieux and Roba, the creative nucleus of the magazine Spirou, were buddies. Stuck at their drawing tables for long days, they occasionally needed to get together and often went out as a gang. However, Gos specifies: “But it was their… they were friends amongst themselves, as for us, we were a generation below, hey!”. There were drinking parties that sometimes made Mondays a difficult day for the team. According to Gos,

François [Walthéry] understood psychology better than I did, he had said to me “For God’s sake! Don’t come and show your drawings on Mondays, he may have partied hard on the Saturday and still be headachy, it’s not the right time to show him what we’ve done! I never show him anything on Mondays, I show him on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.” François, he’s a “clever peasant” as Peyo used to say.
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The International Bande Dessinée Society: February 2014 by Lisa Tannahill and Chris O’Neill

The International Bande Dessinée Society (IBDS) was founded in 1999, aiming to encourage scholarly discussion of the French-language comic or bande dessinée, in all its forms. Their journal, European Comic Art, (ECA), is published twice-yearly, with previous issues focusing on national identity, caricature, narration, 19th-century comic art, adaptation and other diverse themes in the European comic medium. IBDS conferences have taken place bi-annually since 1999; the most recent conference was held at the Universities of Glasgow and Dundee in June 2013.

However, English-language bande dessinée scholarship is still in relative infancy, and French-language works are seldom translated. The purpose of this new, twice-yearly column is to draw attention to both recent English-language work on bande dessinée and francophone scholarship which may otherwise go unnoticed in anglophone countries. We do not aim to cover all relevant work; the popularity of bande dessinée in the francophone world means many books on the subject are published every year. Instead we will highlight a selection of the most notable or interesting works which appear throughout the year. In this first edition we will look back at books published in 2013.

Tintin and Hergé

Daubert, Michel. Musée Hergé  Paris: Editions de La Martinière – Editions Moulinsart, 2013. Print. 39€

Maricq, Dominique. Hergé and the Treasures of Tintin. Paris: Editions de Noyelles – Editions Moulinsart, 2013. Print. £30/29.95€

As one of the most famous examples of bande dessinée, Tintin predictably inspired many books of analysis in 2013, with two works covering the history and legacy of Tintin and his creator Georges Remi, known to the world as Hergé, as well as a first translation into Scots of an old Tintin adventure, The Black Island. This year also marked the third anniversary of the Musée Hergé, and to honour this fact Michel Daubert, who interviewed Hergé in the 70s, has produced his own guide to the creator of Tintin. This almost 500 page book explores the world of Tintin, his adventures, and also the inspirations for his creator. In the foreword, Fanny Rodwell described this work as a museum on paper, which echoes the true Hergé museum in Louvain-la-Neuve, providing an overview of the well-known series.

The other important Tintin work from 2013 was Hergé and the Treasures of Tintin. Produced in both English and French, and following on from Maricq’s excellent Hergé côté Jardin, this work offers new insight from the Moulinsart archives. While it offers insight and anecdotes relating to each adventure and album, the originality of this work comes from the 22 unedited rare facsimile reproductions from the archives, including a copy of the first Petit Vingtième, to interest even the strongest Tintinophile as well as a broader public audience.


Picaud, Caroline (ed). Astérix de A à Z. Paris: Editions de la Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 2013. Print. 35€.

Bande dessinée’s other international success story also aroused much interest this year, due at least in part to the publication of a new album in the series, Asterix and the Picts. Asterix, Obelix and friends were also the subject of a major new exhibition at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (French national library), entitled Astérix à la BNF! and featuring 120 pages from the series, donated by Albert Uderzo in 2011. Editions de la Bibiliothèque Nationale de France have published an exhibition catalogue under the title Astérix de A à Z [Astérix from A to Z], an alphabetical guide to the Asterix phenonenon. The book also features various interviews with, amongst others, Albert Uderzo, Anne Goscinny, and Anthea Bell – one of the series’ English translators – as well as analysis from notable Asterix and bande dessinée experts including Nicolas Rouvière, Gilles Ciment and Jean-Pierre Mercier.

Spirou & Franquin

Pissavy-Yvernault, Christelle, and Bertrand Pissavy-Yvernault. Le Véritable Histoire de Spirou, Tome 1 (1937-46). Marcinelle: Dupuis, 2013. Print. 55€.

Rob-Vel. Spirou par Rob-Vel, l’intégrale 1938-1943. Marcinelle: Dupuis, 2013. Print. 24€.

Renouil, Elisa (ed). Franquin et les fanzines. Marcinelle: Dupuis, 2013. Print. 28€

Although not well known in English (with English translations only consistently released in India, by publisher Euro Books) Spirou is Belgian bande dessinée’s other superstar alongside Tintin. First appearing in 1938 and published by Dupuis, Spirou is a young hotel bellboy who finds himself in the midst of various adventures. Many authors have written Spirou stories over the years, including Jijé and André Franquin, with the latter revolutionising the Spirou series with longer stories and more complex plots. The series’ current authors are Fabien Vehlmann and Yoann Chivard.

2013 marked the 75th anniversary of Spirou and to commemorate the occasion Dupuis published a number of retrospective works.

Two of these concentrate on Spirou’s earlier incarnations. Christelle and Bertrand Pissavy-Yvernault’s Le Véritable Histoire de Spirou, Tome 1 (1937-46) examines the circumstances surrounding the creation of the character and his eponymous magazine in pre-war Belgium, as well as the early stories created by Rob-Vel and Jije, before authorship passed to André Franquin and the series was transformed. The two authors are closely involved with Dupuis and were given access to many private documents held by the Dupuis family; the book includes some of these documents, interviews and previously unreleased images of one of Belgium’s most important bande dessinée characters.

Also reissued in one volume was every Spirou story by the character’s first author, Rob-Vel (Robert Velter). Spirou par Rob-Vel, l’intégrale 1938-1943 works as a companion to Le Véritable Histoire de Spirou, showing Velter’s “American-style” artwork and storytelling. The volume also includes a detailed introduction to the Spirou series.

Although he was only one of many authors to work on Spirou, André Franquin became the most famous and most influential, working on the series for many years, from 1946-1967. Franquin also worked on other series and characters, including his own creation Gaston Lagaffe. Part of Dupuis’ Patrimoine [heritage] collection, along with the two Spirou volumes, Franquin et les fanzines is a collection of twenty interviews given by Franquin to, as the title suggests, fanzines- but in this sense also including independent magazines of bande dessinée analysis and criticism. Franquin was unusual among major bande dessinée creators in granting interviews to these magazines in addition to more traditional press. The book includes several interviews previously unpublished in French.

Joann Sfar

Groensteen, Thierry. Entretiens avec Joann Sfar. Brussels: Les Impressions Nouvelles, 2013. Print. 22€.

Joann Sfar is one of the most important bande dessinée authors of recent times, as well as a film director (e.g. 2010’s Serge Gainsbourg biopic Gainsbourg (vie héroïque)). He is a prolific comic writer and creator, with most of his work published by well-regarded independent publisher L’Association. Several of his books and series have been published in English, including Dungeon (with Lewis Trondheim), The Rabbi’s Cat and Klezmer. These last two series are inspired by Sfar’s Jewish ancestry, an important element in his work.

Leading bande dessinée critic and theorist Thierry Groensteen conducted a series of wide-ranging interviews with Joann Sfar, collected in this illustrated volume from Belgian publisher- Les Impressions Nouvelles. Subjects are varied, and include Sfar’s artistic style, personal life and childhood.

World War Two

Lambeau, Frans. Dictionnaire Illustré de la bande dessinée belge sous l’Occupation. Waterloo:André Versailles, 2013. Print. 34.50€.

Capart, Philippe (ed.) Crypte Tonique: Occupés! No. 10 (2013). Print. 12€.

Two interesting works on the Nazi occupation of Belgium and bande dessinée appeared in 2013. The first, Frans Lambeau’s Dictionnaire Illustré de la bande dessinée belge sous l’Occupation (The Illustrated Dictionary of Belgian Bande Dessinée during the Occupation) is a comprehensive, encyclopaedia-like survey of the bande dessinée industry in Belgium between 1940 and 1945, with 270 entries and 240 illustrations covering authors, series, characters and publishers, as well as the political and social context of the Occupation. Both the French-language and Flemish industries are examined, including famous figures such as Hergé and Jijé alongside their less well-known counterparts, in this exhaustive, detailed work.

Issue 10 of Crypte Tonique, a magazine published by the Brussels bookshop and publishing house of the same name, also focuses on the Belgian bande dessinée industry from 1940-1945. Described as a “micro-companion” to Lambeau’s Dictionnaire, it shares much common ground with the larger work, but focuses particularly on issues of collaboration, the political leanings of different industry figures and the consequences of those political decisions.

Bande Dessinée Scholarship in English

Grove, Laurence. Comics in French: The European Bande Dessinée in Context. Oxford, UK: Berghahn Books, 2013. Print. £25

McKinney, Mark. Redrawing French Empire in Comics. Ohio: The Ohio State University Press, 2013.

2013 saw the paperback reprint of 2010’s Comics in French by Laurence Grove. An ambitious work, the result is a text which successfully situates most of the major works of bande dessinée during the twentieth century, offering historical and cultural analysis on the Franco-Belgian tradition. He offers up interesting insight into the field, and a theoretical underpinning of the medium through the work of cultural studies scholars such as Bourdieu and Hall. His chronological approach is justified within the text, offering his own defence of the medium as worthy of academic study, while targeting his work to an English speaking audience. This work acts as an excellent introductory study of bande dessinée, a strong follow-up to The Francophone Bande Dessinée (2005).

Mark McKinney’s Redrawing French Empire in Comics examines the representations of the French colonial experience in Algeria and Indochina on both sides of these still politically sensitive conflicts. McKinney examines in detail the French colonisation of Algeria (1830s onwards), the French war in Indochina (1946-1954) and the Algerian war (1954 – 1962), using francophone comics as lenses through which to look at these already well-trodden areas of study. His work offers valuable insight into areas perhaps overlooked, such as the perspective of the pied noirs in Algeria during the conflict, and is a good companion to his earlier work, 2011’s The Colonial Heritage of French Comics.

Looking Forward

January 2014 saw the annual Festival International de la Bande Dessinée d’Angoulême in France, which annually receives over 200,000 visitors. With concerts, exhibitions and activities, it has become a must-visit event for bédéphiles. This is coupled with the ongoing Astérix exhibition at the BNF in Paris.

We look forward in 2014 to a number of exciting works in the field of bande dessinée scholarship, particularly in light of the centenary of the First World War, and will keep you informed in July of all the current affairs in the field.

European Comic Art

Table of contents for the latest edition of European Comic Art:

Volume 6, Issue 2, 2013

Editorial: Comics in Dialogue with Other Arts The Editors


Impolite Interventions? English Satirical Prints in the Presence of the Academy, c. 1750–1780 Danielle Thom

Comic Art in Museums and Museums in Comic Art Michael D. Picone

High Comics Art: The Louvre and the Bande Dessinée Margaret C. Flinn

Reframing European Diasporas in Contemporary France: ‘Second Generation’

Subjectivity and the Road ‘Home’ in Portugal (2011) and La Commedia des ratés (2011) Michael Gott

Festival and Conference Reviews

Book Reviews

Lisa Tannahill is a PhD student at the University of Glasgow. Her research focuses on representations of the peripheral French regions in francophone bande dessinée, particularly Brittany, Corsica, their respective regional identities, and France’s historical attitude towards its periphery. Other interests include gender and postcolonial issues in the bande dessinée and graphic representations of the World Wars.

Chris O’Neill is a PhD student at Aston University, Birmingham. His research focuses on the development of newspaper cartooning in France between 1920 and 1944, particularly the impact of Candide and Gringoire during this period. Other areas of interest include representations of political figures and conflict in bande dessinée, and right-wing French politics in the inter-war period.


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