Ages ago back in March 2008 I wrote a blog post about how I was a comic book newbie, and needed some help in figuring out where to start. Then last week it hit me. I was never a newbie. Not at all. I don’t even know how I could have overlooked it, but I grew up with comic books. Lots of them, in fact. Just not the typical US/UK type comic books, which is why I kind of “forgot” and regarded myself a comic book newbie (weird how your mind works sometimes, but in my mind these ‘comics’ I used to read, just didn’t register as comics).
The comic books I grew up with were mainly European ones. My mum collected all types of comic books since she was a kid, but when she “grew up” got rid of most of her collection (like 90% of them, I believe), keeping only a fraction of the huge collection she used to own. I called her last night to ask again what comics she used to have and it was even more than I initially had thought. Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Fantastic Four, and more, she bought all of them when they were first published in the Netherlands (so all in Dutch, of course). Then also the French and Belgium comics, like Michel Valiant, Tintin, and stuff that I had never even heard of before.
Her collection must have been massive (she got rid of a part of them when she was sixteen, getting rid of the ‘childish’ ones. Then later when she was about my age it got trimmed again. And then once more when she moved to Australia with my dad) and I’m a bit sad I never got to experience her full collection, I truly wish I had. I grew up with about 200 of her comics, and, like I said before, that was only a tiny bit of what she once used to own.
So, yeah, I’m not really a comic book newbie. Not really. I am when it comes to the US/UK ones, the ones that most people here will be familiar with. But I’ve actually been reading comic books for ages, and stupidly enough it took me until last week to really realize that.
Here’s a short list of my favourite comic books that I devoured as a kid/teenager, and I have a feeling most of them may be unfamiliar to you.
1. Yoko Tsuno
Yoko Tsuno is a Belgian series (written in French) which started in 1970 of which there are 24 volumes in total (with a 25th one on the way). I love this series, and have read all of them, except for the latest volume. The series tell the story of Yoko Tsuno, an electrical engineer, who was raised in Japan now living in Belgium. How cool is that, right? A main female character who’s an electrical engineer!
The stories were a great mix of sci-fi and fantasy, featuring things like outer space, time travel and robot dragons. There was a whole storyline devoted to the Vineans, a blue skinned alien race that have come to Earth in the distant past due to catastrophic changes to their own planet.
So far there have been four volumes translated into English (although not in the same order as originally written, which is weird) and I highly recommend them if you want to try out something new: On the Edge of Life, The Time Spiral, The Prey and the Ghost, and Daughter of the Wind (Amazon US, Amazon UK, Book Depository).
Franka is a Dutch comic books series that also started in the 1970s by the graphic artist Henk Kuijpers. The lead character is Franka, a young adventurous private investigator from Amsterdam. The cases she solves often take place in the worlds of art, antiquities, fashion and film, and also often feature exotic locales full of smugglers, pirates and other shady businessmen.
The latest volume came out last year, and I think they’re still continuing with it. In total there are 20 volumes, with one being published every 1-2 years. I love the drawing style in this; some of the ‘sets’ and clothes are gorgeous. I’ve had a look to see if there are English translations, but I couldn’t find any; it has, however, been translated in German, Spanish and French.
3. Suske en Wiske
Suske en Wiske might be the most well-known one on this list, being translated into English under different names: Spike and Suzy (UK), Willy and Wanda (US) and Bob and Bobette (Australia). This series started in 1946, and as of today there are over 300 titles. From what I understood from my mum she started collecting these from an early age and had over a 100 of them, including some of the rare early editions. She got rid of all of them.
When I turned 8, a week before moving to the Netherlands from Australia, I got 2 English translations of Suske and Wiske for my birthday. Ever since then my family started collecting Suske and Wiskes again, and I think our collection is almost complete again.
The series is about the adventures of two kids Suske and Wiske, and their friends Aunt Sidonia, Lambik and Jerom. The stories combine elements of comedy, fantasy and science fiction, like talking animals, time travel and ghosts. It wasn’t my favourite series, but it was the one we had the most of just because it was so popular (300 volumes in 50 years, in comparison to the above 2 series, which each only had 20-30 in 30 years).
4. Rik Ringers (Ric Hochet)
This one I’ve only read in Dutch, and it was only now that I discovered the terrible pun of the French name of this. Ric Hochet is a French detective comic book series about the reporter Rik Hochet. It started in 1955 and currently has 75 albums. I think I made it to album 50 or so, up until the point where my mum stopped collecting. Unlike the other series I don’t remember much of the actual story lines, just that I did read these more than once.
5. Natasja (Natacha)
Natasja is another French-Belgium comic from the 1970s. It tells the adventures of a young sexy air hostess and her colleague and on-again off-again boyfriend Walter. Again I don’t remember that much of this series, just that I did read it a lot.
So that’s it; those are the 5 main comics I grew up with. There are a couple more, like Michel Valiant and Barbara, but the above 5 are the ones I remember reading and re-reading and re-reading. Looking at the covers above makes me want to read them all again. I know what I’ll be doing during my Christmas holiday!
Which comic books did you grow up with? What were the ones you read over and over again?