Paris reading – or what do you do with a comic book?

It’s a book fair. But most people line up – for someone drawing and painting often entire pages, in ink and bright colour!

Getting back from Paris and the Salon du Livre, happy to have survived aisles jammed by endless cohorts of youth lining up for their favorite comic book stars, I still have a smile on my face. Those comic book heros have been held responsible, in my youth, for an expected decline in reading. Yet today, all across Europe, and particularly so in France, comic books are, in every respect, a foundation of the book market and of reading culture.

Titeuf, that boy with his daring blond hair, is considered to have had not such a strong year in 2006, with ‚only‘ 570800 of his 11th album sold in a country of 50 million (which put Titeuf still on top of the year’s bestseller ranking once again)… Altogether, the French comic book market is growing steadily now for 12 years, and even in 2006, comic books are, with +0.5 %, one of the rare segments of growth.

However, even the dungeon that is French home grown comic book culture, for years has come under huge pressure from Far Eastern contendants, or to put it more simply: Mangas tend to overtake the French heros now more and more often, thereby triggering, according to Livres Hebdo, the serious threat of a ‚bubble‘ of overproduction. In this week’s top 20 bestseller list of ALL books sold in France, „Naruto“ (with vol. 20) is number 2, while a 50th anniverary volume of Gaston Lagaffe is only sixth.

While Europe this weekend was celebrating not only Gaston Lagaffe, but also the 50th anniverary of the European Union (what a coincidence indeed), I must remember, still smiling, as I said, that question of an American friend of mine who was wondering not so long ago: ‚Is there a comic book tradition in Europe‘, he asked.

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