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In France, Comic Books Are Serious Business (nytimes.com)
282 points by agronaut 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 202 comments

BD are a perfect example of one the french biggest weakness : we have awesome things, and we don't know how to sell them.

We do that all the time. The minitel. The credit card chips. Hell the TGV should have been everywhere, and we struggle to sell it to a few countries.

We are a superpower with only 70 millions of people working a mere 35 hours a week and so many occasions to skip work. That's damn impressive.

France could really shine more, technologically and culturally.

Did you know that the biggest (in term of sheer content mass, quality is more subjective) Python blog is a french one ? I know, because I wrote it. 1k articles, 700 being about python.

But it's like being french is a curse that forces you to do great things... And let them stuck in france forever.

It's also a French habit of pretending things are french. Specifically in the context of comics, it's at least Franco-Belgian (there's also a large culture of comics published in Dutch, which warrants its own genre these days).

Anyway, I leave it to the Germans to set the record straight on the smart-card. (and to the Polish to set the record straight about Marie Skłodowska)


Are never said they were all french. But we did have innovative and robuts industries based on those techs.

Belgium is kind of like France to be honest (I'm french).

Their beer is way better though.

The Flemish would typically beg to differ.

desole :D

I don't see why you say that french BD follow the same fate as some of the other things you talk about.

From personal experience, growing up in India we always had either Astérix or Tintin to read. Even some of the lesser known works such as those by Giroud were available.

Now that I have been living and working in France for 6 years, one possible reason for this lack of penetration of french products is the language. There is very little effort to actually make the products accessible to the world at large. Now we may discuss the merits and demerits of this but the fact remains that if we want our products to be known all over the world, we have to make it known to the world. And most of the world speaks English.

Mes deux centimes.

> There is very little effort to actually make the products accessible to the world at large.

Exactly, we should stop searching for excuses.

Except Tin Tin is Belgian..

Exactly, when we talk french bd, it's more things like "la quete de l'oiseau du temps", "fluide glacial", or "les chroniques de la lune noire".

... and Rene Goscinny (the author of Asterix) was born in Poland...

And lived in Argentina, Buenos Aires from the age of 2 to 18. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Goscinny#Early_life

Sorry, my mistake. His parents were immigrants from Poland.

"Lesser know works" such as those by Giraud? The guy is practically the god of modern BD!

Saying asterix and tintin are well exported to demonstarte bd are a success outside france is like saying Saying being on netflix shows the total success of bollywood outside india.

But agreed, language is a big problem.

I think this is because we are a socialist state: everything used to live or death by selling it to a government monopoly or was made by the state itself. In your examples: Minitel was developed by the Post ministry, TGV by the SNCF. In this context you have very few incentives to sell it abroad since these national companies are satisfied once the French people got the innovation.

We still have issues with this mentality: startups are created to surf on public money, often lacking a real technological advantage (e.g, "the sovereign cloud"). Some services such as Uber could not even have emerged since there conflict with an existing monopolies.

And finally there is the fiscal pressure which is killing the smart and medium companies while the biggest ones have very advantageous rates or even no tax to pay when foreign.

Interesting point. Not sure the socialism itself is enough to expalain it, but the french way of applying socialism surely plays a role.

Language might play a role in this, with pretty aggressive aversion to communicating with outsiders in anything other than French.

Case in point:

- the XIII comic series, very popular in Francophone countries but not much beyond

- The Bourne Supremacy, directly inspired by the series, a massive movie success worldwide.

c'est la vie.

c'est la guerre, c'est la pomme de terre

('les biftecks' don't have an exclusive on silly rhymes)

France isn't a superpower and has never been. The french empire was once the strongest empire, but even then it wasn't a superpower, but we could be using different definitions of the word.

It's great that you maintain a python blog, but is it written in french or english? If it is in french, you are limiting your reach. And that's not just limited to french, it also applies to chinese, japanese, german, arabic, etc.

If you want to expand your reach, you have to use english as it is the lingua franca today.

> Hell the TGV should have been everywhere

The TGV is one of the crappiest trains ever. It was made for businessmen/bureaucrats who travel with a satchel, they never realized that folks would actually go in it with suitcases since there is so little space to put them and they had to modify the inside of the trains after the fact to accommodate some space for it.

Also, they never considered that people with disabilities might want to board the train as you need to climb stairs even at the first level.

And let's not mention toilets are always broken and are washed like once a day or something which makes it look like you live in a developing country or something.

Compare that to the shinkansen in Japan and you are in for a good laugh.

I like that all your comments on this thread are a variation of: "…Yes, but Japan is better!" It's not a competition buddy.

You are confusing the trains and the way the trains are managed. It's like saying seats are too small on a340 planes: there are not sold with it on the first place.

Funny. The last time I was in a TGV, I can indeed confirm the lavatory was broken. Specifically, I discovered the sink spigot did not work only after I had soaped my hands.

It's true in a lot of french trains, not just the tgv. Not a technical problem, but a logistic one.

I take the TGV weekly. It has greatly improved and is top class in the world with Japan right now. Have you tried American trains ? ;)

Compared to american trains, lol.

The name "comic" is totally wrong. The french name "bande dessine" illustrates better what it's all about. Take Pyongang by Guy Deslisle for instance. Since no one is allowed to take photos in many places north Korera, he created a "comic" book instead.

To be honest as a French, I don't mind everyone talking about "comics" when referring to French and Belgian graphic novels.

It might not capture all the depth of what it really is but at least everyone understands.

It encompasses the same breadth, it just reflects a different etymology. "Comics" invokes how, in the US, the form was originally popularized by newspaper funnies. But the word isn't understood to imply that comics need to be about comedy anymore.

If we're just focusing on the modern meanings, I'd say the two are about as close to perfect translations of each other as you could ask for.

They both started as comic strips, but now comics mostly means DC / Marvel from the US culture, while in Europe, Franco Belgian went into another flave of comics, and the name B.D.

In India, my generation grew up on Tintin, Asterix, Archie comics, Phantom, Mandrake, Superman, Spiderman etc. and local indian comics dealing with Indian freedom fighters and leaders and indian mythology.

Somehow I still prefer those kind of comics and korean / japanese comics than those by DC / Marvel (they look technically marvellous, with their computer graphics, but still pale compared to the non-US ones).

Didn't know european comics were famous in India. Cool. Also never seen an Indian comics.

It's interesting to see how US evolved very different from European.

Tiny anecdote, France was quite aware of US comics (including Disney) and I read that there was some anti US reactions to this. Some magazines started as an effort to make more french stories (leftist, ecology). See PIF Magazine, which was funded by the French Communist Party (no joke). Even Asterix is said to be influenced a bit by US super heroes, hence the magic potion giving super powers.

The style and humor was different though.

I'm curious, has the US exported much of its non-Disney, non-superhero comics? There's quite a bit more to American comics than that stuff.

I'm not very knowledgeable, I'm an 80s kid.. so US comics === super hero (also movies to an extent, Donner's Superman was a massive event, Robocop, TMNT ..).

So my answer would be .. no. US comics = Disney + Marvel + DC. I actually struggle to remember anything else. I'd be happy to know more though..

Anything by Strangers in Paradise, Bone, Frank, anything by Art Spiegelman, anything by R. Crumb, I'm not sure if the US gets to claim Neil Gaiman or not, The Walking Dead, Ghost World, Love and Rockets, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. . .

Be a little more specific for Bone and Frank, I'm not sure if these are authors or characters.

Also, I had no idea Ghost World was a comic, neither The Walking Dead..

Oh and lastly, not comic per se, but cartoons were a staple of US drawing culture. WB, toons, even the simpsons to an extent.

Bone is a series by Jeff Smith. It's a good one for kids - sort of an epic light fantasy.

Frank is by Jim Woodring. It's hard to describe.

Aight, for a reason I was confused by Frank as in Frank Herbert ..

Frank does look odd.

Some titles have been popular due to tying into some trendy stuff (The Walking Dead), but really anything other than Disney comics (which are actually largely European) is invisible. It's funny how Don Rosa is a classic master here and Americans don;t even know the guy.

Do French and Belgian comics / comic artists share some relationship? (Or did you just pull that out randomly because of "Asterix & Obelix" and Tintin? :).

Franco Belgian is a specific style. It's been a very close relationship between France and Belgium: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-Belgian_comics

That's interesting! On a slight tangent - So did both Tintin and Asterix start out as "strip comics" leading to their popularity?

I can't say for Astérix. For Hergé, the author of Tintin, he did start his career by doing publication in newspapers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herg%C3%A9#Totor_and_early_car...

It's quite interesting to observe then all the changes that happened between the multiple publication of the same story: https://tintinomania.com/tintin-dans-ses-cases

There's a lot of mutual influence between French and Belgian comics. Both Pilote and Spirou Magazine featured comics from either origin for instance. They're usually considered to be the same genre (at least in France).

They are written in French and have the same market.

You forgot the translation: “bande dessinée”, literally, means “drawn strip”, or, equivalently, graphic novel. The latter term exists and matches the French wording pretty closely. “Comic”, by contrasts, really only describes a subset.

“Graphic novels” are called “Romans graphiques” and are their own category of “bande dessinée”. And yes, it’s a quite important thing, not only in France but in Belgium and Switzerland too (at least in Romandie, the French speaking part).

I’m in Berlin since a few years now and one of the main thing I miss are places where I can go and read good comics, that’s not really something as developed here, majority of people I meet don’t even know that’s a thing.

As a contrast, in Switzerland or France I can go to any Fnac store and spend a Saturday afternoon reading comics from a huge set of artists.

Hmm. I spent my late teens in France, was/am an avid graphic novel reader, and I have never heard the term “roman graphique”. Is it a recent term? It actually sounds like a back-translation of “graphic novel”. The term BD is ubiquitous.

If you’re in Berlin check out Dussmann if you haven’t already (it’s hard to miss …). It’s nowhere near as well stocked as an average book shop in France but it does probably have the largest collection of BDs of any shop in Berlin.

Yes, "roman graphique" is a rather recent term (whose usage has slowly grown over the last 15 years, generally applied to BDs with more "serious" topics; it allowed some people to say they don't read plebeian BDs, they read romans graphiques).

Speaking of broadening people conception of BDs, I highly recommend people to have a look at La Revue Dessinée, a quarterly news magazine in BD https://www.larevuedessinee.fr

> it allowed some people to say they don't read plebeian BDs, they read romans graphiques

I don't know, that's not the way I see it personally. I see roman graphiques as more experimental concerning the narration, art, even how the actual book is produced (experimenting with different type of paper, different format) where traditionnal bandes dessinées have more strict codes they follow. So yes it can feel a bit more serious in some way but you also find weird and funny things.

At least for the English term this is explicitly the reason it was created: to avoid the bad reputation “comic strips” (and the term has been criticised for precisely this, because it’s seen as pretentious).

If the goal was distancing oneself from mainstream comic strips and books, that fell apart pretty quickly. I'm pretty sure the term was popularized by Marvel's Graphic Novels series of books.

"Fan historian Richard Kyle coined the term "graphic novel" in an essay in the November 1964 issue of the comics fanzine Capa-Alpha. The term gained popularity in the comics community after the publication of Will Eisner's A Contract with God (1978) and the start of Marvel's Graphic Novel line (1982) and became familiar to the public in the late 1980s after the commercial successes of the first volume of Art Spiegelman's Maus in 1986 and the collected editions of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns in 1986 and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen in 1987. The Book Industry Study Group began using "graphic novel" as a category in book stores in 2001."


I read A Contract with God and some other of Eisner's stuff lately, e.g. The Plot: The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and the version of the "To be, or not to be" speech in Comics and Sequential Art - just awesome.

Yes, Dussman has some good things, the small English store they have in the back is my default go-to place :)

While there’s certainly nothing that compares to a well-stocked French bookstore in Berlin, you could try “Grober Unfug” (groberunfug.de) or Modern Graphics (modern-graphics.de)

Sadly it’s only every second year, but take the train to Erlangen next year and visit the https://www.comic-salon.de/de/home

I feel using the original word is better since it represents a different format & art culture, the same way 'manga' is still used in English.

I don’t disagree, I just wanted to point out that there’s a close equivalent in the English language that’s a much better fit than the word “comic”.

Similar thing in Scandinavia. E.g. "tegneserie" in Norwegian => "drawn series". In modern usage "tegneserie" can refer to a magazine or graphic novel, but you can also explicitly distinguish between "tegneseriestripe" and "tegneserieblad" (strip vs. magazine), and nothing really prevents anyone from making the similar distinction with novel ("tegneserieroman" is not used much, but it's a reasonable extension; some also use "grafisk roman" as a more direct translation of "graphic novel" but it's a misleading translation as using "grafisk" suggest something much wider than "tegneserie", e.g. anything built around a visual presentation would fit)

The french typically call «bande dessinée» the french-belgian comics, while using the words «comics» for US comics (typically Marvel/DC/etc, and «Manga» for asian (manga/manhwa/etc).

The word «bande dessinée» is also the hyperonym for all the comics genres, although connoisseurs usually don't use it for «Comics» or «Manga».

That sounds a bit pointlessly pedantic to me. "Bande dessinée" is aptly translated as "comic strip", I'm not sure why you couldn't call them "comic books".

Of course there are massive cultural differences between American-style comics and the Belgian/French kind but it's also true for many other art forms and we don't feel the need to come up with a different name every time.

I suppose there's a precedent with Japanese comics that are usually called "mangas" but at least that's short and easily pronounceable by your average anglophone. "Bande dessinée" will be painful both to pronounce and to write (as you showcase yourself, you forgot the accent and the feminine -e at the end of dessinée). I guess you could borrow the common shorthand "BD" (pronounced bédé).

The literal translation is "drawn strip", which doesn't have the continued implication that everything in the media must be comedy that "comic book" does.

Americans seem to have mostly settled into accepting this contradiction, with some incredibly unfunny and serious stuff being published as "comics". There's also the term "graphic novel", which sometimes only applies to stories first published as a book , rather than a series of monthly pamphlets, and also still sometimes has people saying "are they full of explicit porn or something?" as a misinterpretation of the "graphic" part.

> The literal translation is "drawn strip", which doesn't have the continued implication that everything in the media must be comedy that "comic book" does.

There is no implication that "comic books" are comedic in modern American culture. You're over-focusing on the etymology of a term that has since come to mean something quite different.

> Americans seem to have mostly settled into accepting this contradiction, with some incredibly unfunny and serious stuff being published as "comics"

This is merely how language evolves. We park on driveways. "Fat chance" indicates, in fact, a very slim one. Suitcases are a thoroughly incorrect way to store or transport suits, unless you like creasing them. Civil wars, aren't. Comic books are rarely comedic.

We speak in customary meaning, not based on overly literal analysis of component words.


I make comics.

I have spent a lot of time reading about the history of the medium.

I have opinions about the terms used for it, and how they have shaped the medium in the past, and how their meanings have changed.

This conflict between the term we use for this art form in America and the ways it shapes what we think "a comic book" can be was an important discussion for comics creators to have had, as the medium grew and changed. Comics has been a medium seen as only suited for children for much of its American lifespan; it's only in the eighties that this began to change, with best-selling work by creators who would tear you a new one if you called their "graphic novel" a "comic book" because Comics Were For Kids and they were making work that was distinctly Not For Kids. (In the sixties, folks making works distinctly Not For Kids mostly called them "comix", and there are still creators who favor that term for their work because they feel a connection to that particular horny, counter-culture kind of energy. In the nineties, Scott McCloud floated "Sequential Art" as an umbrella term, but it never really stuck, even my copy of his later book "The Sculptor" says "graphic novel" on the back.)

The diversity of literal translations of other terms for "stories told as sequential pictures, often with words" is worth reflecting on, especially if you have devoted a significant chunk of your life to the medium like I have. Were the French more open to adult work than Americans because their term for the medium didn't include implications about the content? Or is it just that Americans are weird and uptight?

And on the other side of the world, a literal translation of "manga" is "whimsical/impromptu pictures" and Japanese comics sure grew up a lot faster than American comics - but on the other hand, the sixties saw the coining of the term "gekiga", which literally translates to "dramatic pictures", and was promoted by... creators who wanted to mark their work as being distinct from kid-friendly manga. The term has faded, they're all just "manga" now for the most part (to the best of my knowledge, I am not exactly up to the minute on the current manga scene), but the way this parallels the period of distaste for the literal meaning of "comic book" is pretty interesting! This is a thing people making Serious Work in a medium whose name has connotations of being silly need to grapple with.

Of course, there was also Frederic Wertham and his 1954 book "Seduction of the Innocent", which lead to the creation of the Comics Code. Which essentially set back acceptance of the medium as something you could tell adult stories in for a generation, and it's only in the past couple decades that "comics" have been something it wasn't considered kinda childish for an American adult to read, outside of the subculture of comics aficionados. France had their own crackdown on Immoral BD around the same time, but embraced adult work a lot faster. Did their lack of a term that inherently marked the medium as frivolous help? Maybe it really is that Americans are weird and uptight.

Perhaps we have finally arrived at the point where we can call the overall medium "comics" without ever worrying about the fact that the word originally referred to the comedic content found in much of the form. And that's pretty cool! But the literal meaning of the name has only recently stopped being a thing creators felt a need to really engage with, and the alternative terms still have a life as a cue to booksellers and librarians that they should probably double-check the contents before reflexively shelving a "graphic novel" in the kid's section.

tl;dr: i make comics, and the literal meaning of these words is an important part of the three strands of the global history of this medium.

Interestingly enough, Stan Lee always preferred the term "comicbook" on the grounds that writing it as one word made it more clear that it was its own thing and not just a book that's comedic.

Another term I've seen bandied around is "sequential art".

As an aside -- and this is not a disagreement with your comment! -- I found Pyongyang by Guy Deslisle horribly condescending. I really disliked it, especially because I also recently read a similar book* about Japan by Igort (who is Italian), Japanese Notebooks, and fell in love with it and its sequel. I really recommend them, in case you haven't read them.

* Obviously not similar in political terms, but similar in that it's about a Western man who writes comics, trying to work in an Asian country and fit in a sometimes impenetrable culture. But if you want political, there's also Igort's Russian Notebooks.

The premise was great - given that it's prohibited to take unbiased photojournalism in North Korea, the idea of getting a firsthand account from a graphic novelist and artist instead is an amazing idea! It could have been a great chance to show stories about Pyongyang, including accounts by people living there, that otherwise are literally impossible to show.

Unfortunately the book was terrible. Deslisle was so condescending and disrespectful to the people he was covering that it was painful to read. And he clearly had no concept of how to broach, well, journalism. For example, there's one scene where he essentially interrogates a woman who works for him about whether she really believes "all the propaganda". She nervously agrees, then politely excuses herself from the room, and the author uses this to "show" how brainwashed and uncritical these people are, not realizing that this is a completely inappropriate setting for the conversation given the power imbalance, and not bothering to consider that she may not have been telling him the truth.

Yeah, for all she knows, he may very well have been a spy for the Kim regime, or there might be a hidden microphone present or something, and she and her whole family could end up sent to gulags for answering him.

I'm honestly struck by the sheer awfulness of Deslisle's tactics here. He put a woman and three generations of her entire family at risk just for his own personal greed.


Or she could have assumed, quite reasonably, that Deslisle was a dumb foreigner who could blurt out what she said to whatever person, out of ignorance.

There's another horrible bit near the end where Deslisle is on a tour where they describe alleged torturing of Koreans by US soldiers, and Deslisle thinks (sorry, the bad translation is mine) "our tourist guide was beautiful, and after hearing so many descriptions of torture, I began to imagine myself as a US soldier practicing new torture methods of my own invention on her".

I was speechless after reading that, my little remaining sympathy for Deslisle completely evaporating.

Yes, I agree the premise was great, which is why I bought the book. Unfortunately the execution was very bad, for exactly the reasons you mentioned. Very, very disappointing.

In contrast, Igort and his Japanese Notebooks seem to treat the Japanese with respect, even when they do things that seem strange or unappealing to him (like the stressful work environment of manga artists).

I'd say "comic" is a better translation, since the term BD encompass both self-contained stories (like Poyangang) and album series like Tintin, and newspaper strips. You wouldn't call Asterix a graphic novel.

The term Graphic Novel was invented in the US initially to describe comic books which contained a single self-contained story - as opposed to newspaper comic strips and superhero periodicals with never-ending storylines. So it is a subset of comics, which are marketed differently.

I am pretty sure bandes dessinées comes from "comic strips". Or it's the other way around.

It sounds weird to me as a french, I much prefer the term BD. Everybody calls that a "BD" in french, as opposed to comics and mangas.

> But in France, at least, comic books were taken seriously as an art form, Peeters said. “When I was a young author I came from a more literary world,” he said. “People said, ‘What are you doing with comics? You are a clever person. You should work with movies or literature.’ Now, nobody would say that.”

Contrast this with a petition initiated and signed by a collective of authors, including Benoît Peeters: https://collectifartistesauteurs.tumblr.com/post/17004407655...

Maybe the art form is taken seriously, yet over half of the comic books, authors cannot make a decent living off this profession in France today.

The golden age of Belgo-French comic artists and authors may have been 1960-1990, at least all my favourite series are from this time. They are incredible to this day and always a pleasure to reread. Like Yoko Tsuno by Leloup, Gaston by Franquin, Spirou & Fantasio (esp. the books my Tome and Janry), Valerian and Veronique by Mézières and Christin, Asterix and Obelix, and many more. I'm pretty content that for the length of my childhood, I could read through an entire treasure trove of works that already existed, and wait more the latest ones. Except for the Disney Duck universe, all the other American comic books look very much subpar in quality in direct comparison, regardless of whether in print or as movies, esp. the super hero ones.

Sad to see the industry turn this way.

Incidentally, Gaston is finally being published in English after several abortive attempts, as Gomer Goof

[EDIT: as an illustration of just how weak the comics market is in the US: Gaston, along with Spirou and Marsupilami, as well as Idées Noires, were all published even in Norwegian - with 5 million Norwegian speakers - pretty much as they were published; Idées Noires was also finally translated to English last year as Franquin's Last Laugh]

There are some gems in American comics too, but part of the problem is that they're often impossible to follow with the incessant cross-overs and re-numbering. Couple that with having the choice of either wafer thin issues or waiting for trade paperback collections, and it's no wonder comics has declined into a niche in the US.

It sounds crazy to me that Franquin's masterworks (Gaston and Idées Noires) were not yet translated in English yet ! For sure it would not appeal to US mass market but certainly there is also a small connoisseur market out there ?

How could you miss Tintin?

We call it "Tim and Struppi" here. Never liked it very much. Though I also forgot e.g. Lucky Luke which I liked very much. There are quite a lot good series.

I'm trying to remember the name of one specific comic or series though: sci-fi theme, floating city in space, many different races live there, there is an elite humanoid alien race with blue skin and 6 eyes in 2 columns, with blue blood wearing skin-tight shiny armor, with psycho-kinetic powers, human male poses as one of them and kills a female alien possibly to steal her power, steals also her space ship, IIRC a chase through the space city ensues.

Maybe somebody knows the book, I absolutely cannot remember if this is from Valerian or something else, any hint would be grately appreciated. I think I read it last 20 years ago. Text was in German. Typical Carlsen/Egmont comic book format.

Edit: It's NOT Yoko Tsuno "City of the Banished Ones". Different series or one-shot.

French here. Your description reminds me a hell of a lot of Valerian and Laureline "Sur les frontières" : https://www.amazon.fr/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?field-keywords=978220...

You should check it out.

(Not sure about the actual translated English title, but a literal translation would be "On the frontiers")

Most Valerian comics are great by the way, and they all have been republished recently, at least in France (and probably also US because of the -rather disappointing- Besson's movie)

YES – that's exactly it, I remember the cover. Thanks!

And Lucky Luke, from the writer of Asterix!

Except for Asterix & Obelix, I haven't come across any of those comics mentioned by you. Are they available in English translation?

It seems so. On Amazon I found Yoko Tsuno, Gomer Goof (English name of Gaston Lagaffe), Spirou & Fantasio, Valerian and Laureline. Personally I would like to add recommendations for stuff like Lucky Luke, Ekho and Blacksad.

>Maybe the art form is taken seriously, yet over half of the comic books, authors cannot make a decent living off this profession in France today.

That's not surprising to me, many artists don't get paid a decent living wage for their work (i.e. musicians, painters, video creators, etc). It's an unfortunate reality of going solo and trying to start a sustainable business.

Buyer's market.

On the other hand, ludicrous value gets assigned to random pieces of modern art. It seems like capitalism introduces notions of "valuable enough" meaning you can sell your art for a living or "not valuable enough" meaning you cannot sell your art for a living. Any art may still have value, but the question of art value under capitalism isn't what you want it to be but what others say it is, and if existence itself has a price, the price may be high enough or not.

Capitalism, by it’s very nature, abhors art and its appreciation as something unproductive. It will not survive much longer under this system.

I'm inclined to say it's just the opposite. In capitalist societies, art tends to be much more diverse, and all sorts of artists make lots of money at it. Not as many as want to, sure, and one could argue endlessly over which artists are under- or overrated, but, regardless, no artist gets as rich as Jeff Koons (or Steven Spielberg) outside of capitalism.

Moreover, art is pretty tightly constrained in non-capitalist societies. In communist ones, it tends to be limited to traditional forms and propaganda. In mercantilist ones, it was traditional forms or, if you could find a patron, whatever would keep your patron happy.

Art isn’t a necessity and higher inequality squeezes artists and would be buyers. Growing the middle class would help art. Its shrinking has hurt art. At least that would be my hypothesis.

Mmm I would say art is a necessity but it’s economics are weird - winner-take-all, etc.

I say it is a me necessity because it is impossible (and perhaps a contradiction in terms) to imagine a human culture or society which had absolutely no art at all.

No music, no visual art, no literature, no fashion, no film or theater, no sculpture, no “craft arts” (which are really just plain art) like architecture, pottery, interior design, graphic design, product design, etc ...

Even propaganda and the fashion of military uniforms ultimately depend on art.

It’s just not possible. And somehow if it was, who would want to live in it?

Therefore art is a necessity :)

There's also much more competition in entertainment; Video-Games, TV Series, Manga & Anime, Youtube, etc. The market for Bande-Dessinée has shrunk immensely.

Capitalism cares about value, not productivity. If people value something, capitalism will deliver it for you.

People do value the arts, but the pricing is broken because a present-day artist has to compete not just with peers but also the ancient greats.

Also the entertainment budget is usually the last budget after everything else. And a lot of things compete for the entertainment budget. Of course weee taking about the masses here not the .01% or art collectors.

Those same people are very conscious about wasting their limited funds so faces wirh the product of 10,000 artists they tend to only spend money on the ‘best’ (could be Twilight) which is usually driven by what’s popular.

Things become popular almost entirely though control over marketing and distribution. These days we have a better chance of going viral but the old gatekeepers are still picking most winners and losers.

Well I don't think most writers of "more serious books" can make a living from that either.

The same is true for artist in general...

France regulates books prices very heavily (a.k.a it's a single price for every single distribution point), meaning there's little to no interest buying books online / at a mall (except convenience sometimes). In contrast, it allows a dense network of specialized libraries to maybe not thrive, but at least survive.

In turn, those libraries create events, participate to the cultural life of their neighbourhoods, create social links.

In the end, it makes it very easy to find a book store, get good advice, create links with sellers (I spend hours talking with the shopkeeper at my comics place), and take an interest in the medium.

So it's not really a random singularity happening there, but also in part the result of a very specific books policy. And of course, the cultural legacy is also super strong !

Germany has regulated book prices too ("Buchpreisbindung"), but Amazon thrives and the small book shops do not really. If anything, that must be more the culture.

I think you're right that the law preserved the original culture indeed, not that it created one. I must confess that even as a moderate hobbyist, I don't know more than a couple of german authors.

I fear long form reading is dying anyway. I wonder how many Amazon kindles are actually used, or how many purchased books are actually consumed.

It's a fair fear, but I'd guess my consumption rate for books slightly exceeds my former consumption rate for paper books. I don't always have my Kindle on me, but I almost always have my phone on me, which makes dipping into a book via the Kindle app easy as my digital distraction of choice.

(Though of course there are competing distractions, like HN and social media.)

I am constantly glued to my kindle. I LOVE the idea of being to have almost any title I want instantly. The kindle basically changed my life since I moved to an area without a local bookstore. I read all. the. time. And I'm not an outlier. Not everyone has amazing bookstores near them.

And this is the strong argument for purchasing online. When I lived in Boston it was fun to spend a few hours on the weekend perusing book stores. When I moved to a less urban place I had only large bookstores in suburban strip mall hell to choose from. My dislike for driving kept me from going to them.

Now, with a Nook, I love the ability to finish a book at night, realize I want to read longer, and purchase another one immediately. I don't have to plan ahead. There are a lot of upsides to purchasing them online. But, I do miss the culture and community of small bookstores.

I have 2 kindles and have yet to read a book on them. (One is a digital remote, the other in a drawer somewhere) I strongly prefer paper, and settle for my phone or pc otherwise. Toting a kindle is as big a pain as a book, and much more fragile. Unless I needed a refrence of hundreds, whats the point? I seldom if ever read 2 books at once. Books don't need charging, or a 3rd party. Its a solution in search of a problem to me.

> Toting a kindle is as big a pain as a book

A kindle is 0.36" (9.1mm) thick. It has the dimensions of a tiny 100-page book I have right here on my bookshelf. Fair enough if you only read books of that size, but even Harry Potter gets massive.

It's also much less fragile than a book. It seems indestructible. Meanwhile my backpack alone turns out to be a book-cover destroyer before we even get into lending books out.

I think most people here would agree that books are bulky and fragile, so it's weird to hear someone suggest that books have these advantages over an e-reader.

One killer feature for me is that e-readers have a backlight so I can read anywhere. E-ink lets me read in the sun. The backlight lets me read without an external source of light. It's a massive convenience. And the battery charge lasts weeks.

It's fair enough if you don't think e-readers are worthwhile to you, but it's in your best interest to figure out why it's not "a solution in search of a problem" for the people who buy them. A better angle is just to ask people why they like something and they'll happily illuminate the mystery.

I seldom use my Kindle anymore but I bought Infinite Jest a few weeks ago and immediately regretted not having dusted my old Kindle and bought the digital version instead. These large books are cumbersome to handle and carry around.

For shorter books I agree that paper is superior, I don't have to worry about damage, battery level or theft, I can easily borrow and lend them (I think you can do that with Kindle nowadays but it can't be as convenient as lending a physical object).

Part of the joke of Infinite Jest is the physical size of the thing. You'll realise if you ever manage to get more than halfway through. It's so much more than just a story...

During holidays, I typically read a book every 3/4 days, so a 2 week break means 4-5 books read, and having a kindle-like device is really helpful for me ^^

I miss conversations with people at specialized book stores. I miss spending hours looking through the aisles. It was a great way to spend an afternoon on the weekend.

I like the convenience of purchasing books online. Admittedly, though, I've lost the whole community and culture of books that small bookstores provided.

That’s me but with cd’s.

As a kid growing up in uk interested in US hip hop the specialist shops and their clientele turned me onto a whole different world.

The UK had something similar called the Net Book Agreement. It wasn't written into law, rather it was between publishers and book sellers.

Eventually some of the big book retailers abandoned it then it was found to be illegal in the courts. After that the supermarkets moved in and discounted the best sellers.

The decline set in for bookshops before Amazon came along.

I'd very much prefer buying online. I don't have room to store those books, but I do want to read em.

> meaning there's little to no interest buying books online

meaning there is no competition and prices are artificially inflated for no particular reason except some ideological one. I'm not sure it's a good case for regulating the price of books.

My observation: Japan has WAY more bookshops than France without any regulation of book prices. And they produce a LOT more books locally than France ever does.

Japan has fixed book prices too: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixed_book_price

In a society we have to consider a balance of various values, competition is a value, and having a rich ecosystem where small bookshops aren't completely obliterated by unequal competition on prices with big online stores is another one. For some reason we live in a world where increasingly the only value that has any worth is money, and any other value is belittled. And somehow, we're the ideologues.

Does culture need to be market driven?

Historically, markets for media powered by mass media and technology tended to squash diversity from the Industrial Revolution up through the late 20th century. Now, networks and markets have produced a flowering of diversity, but often with lower profit potential, though individuals are often empowered to be in business for themselves, and a few still manage superstar status.

Markets tend to do both harm and good to culture, much as trade, migration, and wars have done both harm and good. Culture will always be market driven. However, there is definitely a place for culture outside of ordinary commerce.

I'm a bit skeptical of technology in general squashing diversity. Pre the printing press you could pretty much just get the bible hand written. With the early press far more then as you didn't need type setters more again. In general it seem better tech -> lower costs -> more diverse.

I'm a bit skeptical of technology in general squashing diversity.

My understanding is that the advent of the 78 record managed to popularize the Sligo style of Irish fiddling all over the world and across Ireland. Unfortunately, it caused a lot of local fiddlers to just hang their fiddle up, resulting in a tremendous die-off of regional styles. I'm also given to understand that every holler in the mountains of West Virginia had their own style of banjo. There was once a central Pennsylvania fiddle style. All of these have largely died out. (Imagine you meet a cosplayer from 200 years in the future, and their conception of "American" is a simplified homogenized mix of all 19th and 20th century American culture of all regions. This is the degree of squashing of diversity I'm talking about.)

Pre the printing press you could pretty much just get the bible hand written. With the early press far more then as you didn't need type setters more again.

Sure, if you only have that one data point, that's what you'd think. There's a lot more to it. Prior to widespread literacy, there was a tremendous amount of oral tradition and storytelling. Back in those days, if you wanted media, the family or community had to produce it, itself. (In America in the 1800s, it used to be the norm for at least one member of every family to be capable of performing at a level that would get one paid today.) Why would you think all of those would have been written down? In fact, people who study these things know much was lost. We only have a smattering of what once was.

In general it seem better tech -> lower costs -> more diverse.

The tech we had in the Industrial Revolution up through the late 20th century wasn't as interactive and capable of gathering data, and so wasn't as good at serving the long tail. So there was a bias towards only a few things that were mass produced, and unless you did a lot of legwork, that's what you got. As technology progressed, you had easier discovery/access, more customization, and more choices. In 2019, everything is preserved, everything is available if you just casually search for it. The world wasn't always that way.

It seems like a good thing to let the market make books as cheap as possible so that more people can access them.

But even with fixed prices, books _are_ cheap. Pocket editions here are the price of a cigarettes pack, something a lot of people even not rich afford once or more a week. I don't think affordability is a problem.

I'm sure how it compares, but here it's $5 USD for a book you'll finish in 15-30 minutes. I find that to be _very_ expensive and I have a great job. So expensive that I've given up on buying and I always go to the library or use a subscription service.

I think that a free market would actually lead to steeply rising prices. It's a seller's market, especially for the popular titles. Occasionally you might see some price wars from publishers pushing others out of the market, but between those, the average book price is not going to go down.

Is that really an observation ? I personnally observe than Japan in fact practices fixed book prices.

Well, I disagree: Germany has similarly fixed book prices (the publisher sers the final price). But prices for textbooks are generally much more reasonable there than in the US.

> no particular reason except some ideological one ...

You make ideology sound like a bad thing.

Depends on the particular beliefs of the ideology, no?

After all the “free market” (for lack of a better term) beliefs in your post are an ideology too ...

That's a bit like arguing that atheism is a religious belief.

I'm an atheist, but I've seen "atheists" intone their beliefs, even though there was no one around to convince, like it was a profession of dogma from a Mass. There are definitely some "atheists" around who approach it from more of a tribal affiliation perspective, not an intellectual one.

Even the most intellectually sound movement can become toxic.


Atheism is a believe, just not a religious believe.



Whereas, Christianity doesn't hold a believe, just a religious believe.

That's interesting! So how does this regulating work exactly?

The book price is fixed by the editor/publisher (I'm sorry, I'm not sure of the correct english word for "éditeur" in french), and all resellers have to sell it at this price.

To allow bookshops to do a margin, they have a specific different agreement with editors. I _think that in general they pay a yearly flat fee to editors (in the tens of thousands of euros) and then get the books at a lower price. If they sell enough copies, they end up a profit.

Ok. So does that make books expensive in France (assuming all editors / publishers are corporate capitalists looking to squeeze the maximum profit?. And what about second-hand books - do old and used books also have to be sold at a price dictated by these editors / publishers?

I travelled in the UK and in the US, and I felt that classic books were similarly priced there. In France, for books, there is quite often a cycle of "first edition with luxury components around the 20 bucks mark, followed by a pocket edition a year later around the 9 bucks mark".

For traditional french comic books, the price is France is I think higher than what I observed in the US and UK.

This is partly due to traditional culture where french publishers prefer full color editions needing more work ( where in the rest of the world we're happily mixing colors and white and black), and partly due too I suppose to a lack of incentive to lower prices when the demand is so high at the moment.

Second hand books are a total free market, and are very popular items.

Fortunately, you can resell your books the price you want. There is no money for the publisher.

Alas, no money either for the author.

And yes, books are expensive in France. And alas again, only a small part of the price goes to the author.

They are pretty much greedy yes. Or, mainly, the big publishers. Small one struggle to survive.

And the worst part of it ? Epub and PDF are almost the same price than the hardcover versions !

The official reason is that it protects small book stores from Kindles (or any ebook reader), but I'm pretty sure it's just publishers lobbying.

And, again, in the end, the author receives only a small part of the sell.

> Epub and PDF are almost the same price than the hardcover versions !

That's atrocious and something I really dislike. I personally believe that ebooks should be cheaper - by subtracting the cost it takes to print the paper books (and that should be the maximum price).

Cost to print, but also cost to stock (I worked with a small publisher for years, and they had to rent a big storage facility for their stock), the cost to ship, etc.

These are marginal when selling ePub, and yet it’s still expensive in France.

Wanna know something even more stupid ?

Most of the time, you can’t buy them from out of France !

I don’t know if this is still true, but two years ago I tried to buy ePub online and couldn’t because I was not in France.

Fun fact ? I was living in the Caribbean on a French island (Guadeloupe), which is run on French laws and administration.

There is still competition in the sense that another author can write a book on a related genre. Second hand books are as common as in the US I’d say. The first Harry Potter is 8.70€ as a pocket book on Amazon.fr and I see $7.20 for paperback in the US.

The big difference is in school books, I just looked into solid mechanics, we are une the 30-70€ range in France and $80-130 range in the US (in a bad comparison, I see stuff completely irrelevant in my query result).

The trick is that the French gouvernement is not passive, it often tell industries that if they don’t change this or that, they’ll just use the law. In the end I feel it works better than in the US. In particular on book, France is under constant watch by free market entities, so they’d better reach some measure of success for the consumer or the EU will just intervene.

The goal is to preserve the French culture, it only works if French people read and write French books. If it's too expensive, people don't buy books, if it's too low, authors don't survive.

Second-hand books are extremely common. If anything, habitual readers probably buy more second-hand than new.

The editor of a book decides at what price it is going to be sold. Then, whether you go to your local bookshop, a huge mall or Amazon, the price is going to be the same.

It's like the "Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price" in the US, but instead of Suggested it's Compulsory.

The appeal of buying books online is not just the price, but the available of a larger catalogue. There is only so many titles a single physical bookshop can stock and display.

I understand that, but honestly, picking a comic among 10000 or 100000 titles isn't really a different experience for me, in both cases the number is "enough".

Having a knowledgeable shopkeeper to talk with on the other hand is really a fantastic experience for me !

> Having a knowledgeable shopkeeper to talk with on the other hand is really a fantastic experience for me !

This is a fairly rare experience for bookstores in some of the U.S. geographies I've lived in.

The shopkeepers I encounter aren't widely-read or intellectuals. They're either college students working at slightly above minimum wage to pay for school, or ex-hippies with lots of used books in their garage who figured they could make some money selling them. They have no sense of the intellectual pulse of today (they don't know what ideas are popular), don't have a good mental semantic tree of authors and their works, and worst of all, aren't readers themselves. I don't expect bookstore owners to have the omnivorous interests and breadth of Tyler Cowen, but they should at least have intellectual curiosity and a love of books.

The only exceptions are bookstores near great universities, where the owners tend to be stragglers who loved their university town so much that they stayed. They're usually former English lit, philosophy or other humanities majors who continue to read widely. You can tell a bookstore is good by the quality of their curation -- really good bookstores understand space is a premium and don't stock junk.

That said, you also need someone with a mind for business. Unfortunately this confluence of skills doesn't occur regularly so we live with what we have.

What geographies?

Don't want to be too specific, but let's say rust belt cities with no top ranked colleges.

Most commonly in physical stores, one often finds that, in a multi book series of books, volumes are missing or not available, good shop managers may be trying hard to avoid that situation, but I think it is a pretty common thing. This problem can only be worse with comics, graphic novels, most of which come in serial volumes.

Another is the available of cheaper international paperback editions online.

For translated books, I do not find bookshops striving to carry as many different translations of the same work as possible, most carry only one, when some works like Homer and the Russians Greats are published in very many translations.

There's no denying that the "online" catalogue will always be larger than what a physical bookstore can have in stock.

My point is rather than in France the advantages offered by the physical bookstores (namely, its friendly employers) outweighs that, in part because the online marketplace doesn't have a price advantage. Of course, in the end it's a matter of sensitivity to various criterias, stock definitely being a relevant one !

Every bookstore I know and regularly go too has a online shop too. I can order there and go pick up my order in the store and pay in cash.

The problem with the large catalog on sites like Amazon is that it's impossible (at least for me) to sort through it if you are just browsing. If I'm in a bookstore I always find new and interesting books that I end up buying and enjoying.

> The problem with the large catalog on sites like Amazon is that it's impossible (at least for me) to sort through it if you are just browsing.

That could have something to do with Amazon's sorting/searching features, which are so bad that the results are often comical, with random unrelated results intermixed with the thing you're looking for.

Default sorting is by the "Featured" variable, which probably means 'makes most money for the seller', rather than something that actually benefits the searcher. This is a guess, it is not defined.

I think they maybe, finally, let you sort items when you're searching outside of a specific category now, but that's a relatively recent development.

It doesn't help that less than scrupulous Amazon sellers are constantly changing products around so that reviews don't line up with the product description. That widget you've found with 100 five star reviews, well, it turns out that the reviews were for a different product, but you can't tell unless you go read enough of the reviews to figure that out.

The rest of the internet can assist with browsing. Amazon is just an O(1) search for what you are looking for.

Bookkeepers can order you books as well, and they get delivered to the shop in about the same amount of time it would take to get it through online stores.

In France, the software they use is more powerful than Amazon to buy books. The database is clean, deduplicated and well maintained by professionals that know each others.

> The appeal of buying books online is not just the price, but the available of a larger catalogue.

That's part of it, but the price is a lot of it, too. I rarely go to bookstores anymore, even for books that I know I'll find there, because the books are more expensive than at Amazon.

Back then we had publishers' catalogues, and we would follow reviews in the newspaper, the weeklies and the relevant journals. Besides, Amazon's catalogue is a giant pile of shit.

For that you can make call and retrieve the book a few days later.

They can order it for you except for very obscure or foreign books.

I moved from the UK to France last summer (yes due to Brexit before you ask) and they do indeed take comic book and related things very seriously.

You are never far from a place selling comic books, graphic novels, trading card games, action figures and such.

Another thing I find different to what I am used to is how they all still buy DVDs and Blurays. Not just the odd one here and there but regularly and have a pretty impressive collection. What I find interesting is that they have good internet here. I got 1Gbit fibre with a whole host of extra (TV package, landline, SIM with 50GB data) for €55/month. And it has been perfect since I got it installed a few months back. I would have thought with such fantastic internet access they would all be using streaming services but nope they love their physical discs!

Edit: And not just movies but full TV show boxsets. Those are like €100-200 !!

I sat down to work out the value difference between a few streaming sites and how much they pay for physical media and streaming is way cheaper as DVDs and Blurays are not cheap! I know you can sell it on but it seems nobody does. They are often given away! It is quite alien to me.

Well, the difference is when you buy a DVD, you actually have it, you know you can keep it, watch it, give it to friends or family whenever you want.

So for your run-of-the-mill blockbuster streaming is fine, but for a movie you really like, nothing beats owning it.

I discovered music listening to my parents' vinyl records, now if they had only listened to radio, what kind of cultural legacy could have they passed on? Their music would have "vanished" by the time I was there, and that's what would happen to my music and movies as well if I only used steaming services.

Streaming is like the fast-food of media, it allows easy consumption of unremarkable content but it doesn't seem fit for remembering pieces of art.

Sorry but there is nothing noble or superior about buying and keeping DVDs. That’s just materialism.

I had a collection of 100 Blurays a few years ago. Eventually I sold everything when I realized that owning pieces of plastic that get dust on a shelf didn't bring me any joy. I enjoy movies at the theater or on Netflix as much as movies on physical support.

And movies are not going to "vanish" if you stop buying physical copies of them on Amazon. Conserving movies is the job of film archives. You probably have one in your country that offer screenings of old movies. Or arty/independent theaters that offer the same kind of content.

Of course it is materialism.

There is a big difference between having something physically available, and knowing you could have it if you wanted. The first one is preferable to many people.

Things don't have to bring you joy at every instant you own them, that's cheap philosophy used as marketing for selling books. Things can also be useful for the future

Oh I totally understand the benefits of owning the disc. It is just that they buy everything on disc. I own a few Blurays of some of my favourite films but I think that I have 5 or 6 total. I know people with over 300 movies on Bluray! I mean yes it is cool they can lend it to a friend but that isn't something that happens often in my experience.

So yeah I get the benefits for your favourite things but for some generic Hollywood action movie? Dunno man that seems like a waste of €20 to me when you can watch it on Netflix or some other service you already subscribe to. I mean they all have Netflix of course. They don't even seem to check if the film is even available to stream on a service they already pay for. Very strange to me.

As a counter point to what you said about music I have found way more music I love thanks to Spotify. I discovered music much like you when I was younger but it wasn't really anything I wouldn't have discovered anyway as it was all popular rock, indie, pop, jazz artists that had wide vinyl/CD distribution. Thanks to Spotify I can listen to some random artist in a small country with close to the same discoverability as Taylor Swift, Jay-Z or Coldplay. Of course that is more to do with the internet that Spotify specifically but I still love Spotify. I listen to so much more music than I did when we had CDs or just the iTunes store. The same is true of TV and movies thanks to Netflix imho.

We also have mobile plans for 2€/month, which start charging you after some internet usage. I would use them like it was an unlimited plan and would end up paying 10€/month.

Yeah if I didn't have it included as part of my home plan I would get one of those plans as they are dirt cheap. Like €1/GB or something crazy cheap like that.

> Rumiko Takahashi won the Grand Prix, the festival’s lifetime achievement award. Takahashi began publishing manga comics in 1978 and her books, including “Inuyasha”, (...)

Interesting choice by the NYT. In my corner of the world, she was well known for writing "Ranma 1/2", while "Inuyasha" flew pretty much under the radar. I'm assuming it must have been the other way around in the US.

Ranma 1/2 is probably technically child porn in the US. Do they sell it there? Even Inuyasha has a full nude picture of 14 year old of Kagome in the first book. I was going to send the Japanese version to my niece in Canada (I live in Japan) and quickly scanned it first to be sure...

It's funny though, Rumiko Takahashi is probably my favourite mangaka (all of her manga was easy enough for me to read when I was first learning Japanese). But when I mentioned her to my wife, the first thing that came to her mind was Urusai Yatsura, which I had never heard of :-) She's written a lot of popular manga!

Ranma 1/2 was available in the US for a long time at book and music stores. Not sure if that is still the case. Most of those stores are shuttered. Manga then wasn’t nearly as popular as it is now.

There was also a NA release of a SNES game, so it was popular enough https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranma_%C2%BD:_Hard_Battle

Both Inuyasha and Ranma 1/2 were sold en masse and broadcast as anime in Germany between 1999-2009, even with reruns, during times when most of us children came home after school (4pm or so) targetting probably 10-18 year olds, which is why these programs were quite popular. People didn't care much about the nudes, the books were full of it (was also a theme of jokes IIRC).

She's also known for Urusei Yatsura, known as Lamu in France, and apparently Lum in the US. But it might not have been popular in the US.

I grew up with Urusei Yatsura in the US - it was shown on KTEH in the Bay Area in the 90s. It's a really funny show, and I'm happy I got a chance to watch it.

But that was an oddity for the US, for sure. I'm really fortunate to have had KTEH around as a kid. I also fondly remember watching Doctor Who on Sunday nights.

You could also add Maison Ikkoku to the list; it was the definitive romantic comedy in Japan, and for a long time all new romantic comedies were compared to it, even with the dismissive "I liked this better when it was called Maison Ikkoku."

French, and Belgian. I have a big collection of French comics I enjoyed in my childhood and other new ones.

Same here, my favorit is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Giraud aka. Moebius, also very popular among other comic book artists.


And Italian, don't forget Italy... Hugo Pratt's Corto Maltese, Milo Manara, Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri, and less known in the West Luciano Secchi aka Max Bunker with his Alan Ford... even Sergio Bonelli's pulp book comics are actually great...

> even Sergio Bonelli's pulp book comics are actually great

I am from Turkey. I learned reading and writing before my school age, with the help of graphic novels. Me and many people I know, literally grew up with different Bonelli series. A great number of graphic novelists and artists from Turkey would easily refer to them as "inspiration" or "reason" to start drawing/writing. Zagor, Mister No, Tex and Martin Mystere (or with its Turkish printing title Atlantis) has been really popular, and in more recent years we had the chance to read Julia, Dylan Dog, Nathan Never, La Storia and many other one shot series from Bonelli.

I believe, until the mid-1990s, when you mentioned the term comic (or "çizgi roman", meaning graphic/drawn/illustrated novel), people would come up with those titles rather than Spider Man, or Batman. They have been available along with Italian titles but for a very long time, they were never as popular and widespread.

I am not sure about the usage of term "pulp" (mostly due to English not being my native language), but I'd consider those titles as important and serious as big auteurs' (Pratt, Manara etc...) creations.

Oh yeah, I had a very similar childhood story growing up in old Yugoslavia, I loved Mister No and Martin Mystere. It's really strange how Bonelli's comics got super popular in Balkans and Turkey, but are much less known in the rest of Europe. Also Max Bunker's Alan Ford has a cult status in Balkans, it's probably the best known and the most quoted comic book in a popular culture here, but no one heard of it pretty much anywhere outside ex-Yugoslavia region.

You are right. When I visited Serbia, I bought some locally printed copies of Bonelli titles, along with some other great artists' works printed in Serbian. I am not sure about the other ex-Yugoslav countries, but I can easily say that Turkish and Serbian comic/graphic novel readers have a very similar taste.

Oh, and in recent years, there has been a lot of complaints about Manara and Serpieri, by concerned (!) citizens in Turkey. Those complaints resulted in withdrawal of some titles from the market for good and re-release of some in black plastic bags.

Tintin, Asterix and Lucky Luke were pretty popular when I was a kid.

Unrelated: Why the hell is it so hard to find somewhere in the US that sells an Arzach tradeback? It's the most famous work by arguably one of France's most famous comic books artists, and it's almost impossible to find outside of France.

I saw it once at a Virgin Records store in Beirut, Lebanon, and I'm kicking myself that I didn't grab it then.

It is time for me to brag: I have all of the Moebius books that were released in English by Marvel's Epic imprint in the '80s (Arzach, The Gardens of Aedena, The Airtight Garage, The Incal, Blueberry, and several others).

But you are right: all of Moebius's stuff needs to be properly released again, and digitally as well. It's crazy that such a massively influential figure not just in comics but all of pop culture is virtually unknown in the English world these days.

I grew up in Brazil reading French/Belgian comics. Recently, as an adult, I decided to learn French just to enjoy all the BDs which are never translated into other languages I know. People looked funny at me (and with a bit of pity) when I said I wanted to learn a language to enjoy comics but to me, it is just a medium and the France/Belgium ecosystem around BD is fascinating. Sometimes I dream of moving from IT to work on something BD related... Those books are very good.

If you want to work on something, then make it English translations. There is still recent work by major figures like eg Enki Bilal that is still unavailable in English. And all of the Moebius material needs to be re-released.

My childhood favourites were Buck Danny, Tin Tin (Kuifje)

> Buck Danny

Now that is a title I haven't heard mentioned in a long time.

I wonder how many Americans know about Buck Danny. This is after all a 50 years old Belgian graphic novel starring a US Navy pilot! « Fire from the sky » trilogy by Charlier and Bergese is unbelievably cool.

From the same authors, as a child, I loved "Barbe Rouge". Who wouldn't? Pirates, age of sail (XVIII century), impossible missions, etc.

Now, I see it's a bit too black and white but at the time I loved it ^^.

In case you don't have them anymore and you want a nostalgia trip you can actually download these on the Internet from various sources.

French artists have influenced modern culture through their artwork intensively. I would even say without Valerian and Laureline [1]. Star Wars and many other science fiction movies would not exist.


For those interested in the breadth of BD titles, there is the great https://www.bedetheque.com/ "French comics wikipedia".

There are literally (tens of?) thousands series and characters. Usually printed in color hardcovers.

EDIT: I've checked. They have 49.000 series there!

In France, I often hear comic books (bande dessinées) refered as "Le 9ème art", ie the 9th art.

It is taken quite seriously, and we have some wonderful authors.

> “The market has risen from 700 books per year in the 1990s to 5,000 this year,” he said in an interview. “I don’t know any cultural industry which has had that kind of increase.”

Games. Unless he doesn't consider games a cultural industry.

What I don't understand, is why french BD is losing to comics around the world, both on paper and on the screen, when it has way more diversity. What was the last movie made out of a BD? Valerian? :(

Yeah and it's a so so BD. I mean if you want space, go for sillage, the meta baron, l'incal or belthegueuse (jodorowski and leo are not french born, but the bd are born in france).

Does the NYT really have to turn every headline into a bad pun?

Have to? No. But it’s kind of a sport amongst copy editors. Some of the good reputation of The Economist stems from the fact that they elevated puns (not only in titles) to an art form.

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