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The construction of national and foreign identities in French and Belgian postwar comics (1939-1970)

Pascal Lefèvre

Résumé

The second World War had various repercussions in the comics produced in the 25 years after the Liberation in France and Belgium: one remarkable consequence was the construction, in comics as La Bête est morte ! and Astérix, of a fictive French ethnicity which was eagerly contrasted to the stereotype of the militaristic Prussian. Despite a few comics demonstrated the positive effects of reconciliation with former enemies or of European cooperation, most comics rather clung to older stereotypes of other European people. These popular culture products offered a particular - but not always consistent - view on national identities in the post-war period

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Texte intégral

  • 1  The social psychologist Serge Moscovici and his followers claim that communicative processes among (...)
  • 2  Though hard and unambiguous evidence is still lacking about the supposed influence of comics on th (...)

1Though academic debates on the modalities of the effects of representations are still lingering on, various theories in the social field claim that representations influence the way people perceive reality.1 As entertainment products for children comics may seem devoid of serious intentions, but paradoxically they are also supposed2 to play a role in the construction of social or cultural representations - especially in places as Belgium or France where comics since the 1930s have been widely read, not at least by children. Therefore it might be interesting to consider how French and Belgian comics in the 25 years after the war dealt with issues as the Second World War and the construction of an European identity: more precisely this study will not only focus on the definitions of a proper national identity in France and Belgium, but also analyse how their comics represented other national identities as those of the former European enemies (Germany and Italy).

Context

  • 3  Most historians (a.o. Groensteen, 2000) treat the French-language comics production as a whole, na (...)

2Though French and Belgian comics are not completely identical, they are often grouped by comics publishers, critics and fans under the label of “bd francobelge”3, usually indicating francophone comics published in France and Belgium. Admitting that the comics production and consumption in these two neighbouring countries share various features, this analysis will nevertheless argue that important differences remain in their dealings with WWII and European identity.

3Already before the Second World War, France and Belgium had a lively comics culture. While the precursors of the European comic strip in the 19th century were mostly destined to adults, early 20th century the comics focused primarily on children. By the 1930’s, various popular series as Zig et Puce or Tintin were being published in newspapers and new children’s weeklies as Mickey or Spirou were offering a large choice of comics – both home made and imported (from the U.S.A. or other European countries). During the German occupation of France and Belgium, the import of American comics was interrupted, but also the own French and Belgian production was in those years rather limited - due to restrictions on paper some comics magazines as Hurrah !, Filette, Spirou had to stop publication during a certain period, but other comics magazines as Le Téméraire (1943-44) could been published because they collaborated openly with the new facist regime (Ory, 2002 ; Grove, 2005). The period after the liberation saw a new boom of comics publications: the comics magazines flourished in Belgium and France and the comics industry kept growing in the post-war decades. Before the war the comics made in Belgium or France for their own national market were not afraid of referring to their own culture, but, after the war, when the exportation of French-language Belgian comics to France and other countries boomed, local references diminished or disappeared completely: for instance in the Tintin-stories of the 1930’s one can find various references to Belgium or Brussels, but in the later revised editions these allusions were made less visible or even erased.

4Though also adults could enjoy reading Tintin, Astérix or Suske en Wiske, till the 1970s comics were foremost destined to children. In that period comics were mostly consumed in specialised comics journals as Spirou, Tintin, Cœurs Vaillants, Âmes Vaillantes, Coq Hardi and Pilote. The production of albums was in those years rather limited, contrary to France with only one official language, the much smaller federal state of Belgium incorporates moreover two main language groups – the French speaking Belgians in the south and the largest group, the Dutch speaking Flemish in the north. Each language group in the culturally divided Belgium has created its own tradition in the comics production and consumption. Moreover one can see also a bigger cohesion of the French language comics production of Belgium with France than with the Flemish counterpart. Since most Dutch language comics were produced by Flemish publishers (as Standaard Boekhandel or Het Volk), Flemish comics were dominantly and explicitly defined as Flemish with Flemish protagonists living in Flanders: examples are Suske en Wiske, Nero, Piet Pienter en Bert Bibber, Jommeke. The various Flemish comics producers did not aim at markets abroad because they found their own Flemish market profitable enough. By contrast the French language Belgian publishers as Dupuis and Lombard exported their magazines and albums also to France. The consequence was that they avoided clear references to Belgium in their comics or that they explicitly located their stories in France with French heroes (think of Michel Vaillant, Ric Hochet or Gil Jourdan). The market share was for French Belgians actually more important than the definition of a proper national identity in their comics. In comparison the comics artists of France saw no problem in choosing characters explicitly identifiable as French or Gauls (think amongst others of Astérix, Bécassine or Les Pieds Nickelés).

5After the liberation also the American comics were distributed again in France and Belgium, but the major political parties in France did not appreciate very well this foreign influence. Consequently the right wing Catholics and the left wing communists voted the law of 16 July 1949 (n°49.956), officially to protect children against bad literature, but in reality the regulation proved an ideal tool to block the Belgian and American competitors from the French market (Morgan 2003, p. 145). A well known example of this censorship is the banning of the Korea-story of American fighter pilot Buck Danny, because the French committee found it too political - understand too American. Remarkably in the same period a French comic propagating Mao’s Long March (Fils de Chine by Gillon and Lécureux, 1950-53) did not elicit any criticism from the same commission.

  • 4  I consultated via e-mail in July 2008 various comics specialists (the Spanish Álvaro Pons Moreno, (...)

6About the representation of WWII in francophone comics only a few studies have been conducted: the most extensive one is Azouvi’s master thesis of 1997; the only academic article which includes also the Flemish production is Lefèvre’s (2007). Generally these studies conclude that in the years after the war comics proposed a rather romantic view of WWII, occulting the most cruel or painful aspects of the conflict as the Holocaust or collaboration. It seems that the only comics referring before 1974 to the Holocaust were all published right after the liberation, in 1946: in France Calvo’s, Dancette’s and Zimmermann’s La Bête est morte !, in Belgium Dineur’s Tif et Tondu s’en vont en guerre and Funcken’s Geneviève. Surprisingly in the two decades after WWII, the francophone comics insisted rather on the war in Pacific - where a hero-nation (the United States) triumphed over a detested nation (Japan) - so that they could forget that the war, much closer home, was not so gloriously (Azouvi, 1997, p. 9). It seems quite evident that spectacular actions of large scale violent conflicts and its supposedly Manichean structure inspired the script writers, working for children, a lot more than rather slow political or economical developments as the construction of Europe – which seem largely absent not only in French and Belgian comics, but also in other European comics of the period.4 While censorship still restricted firmly the depiction of disturbing violence, the comics artists tried to make their comics as interesting as possible, which may explain the preference for Manichean conflicts between good heroes and bad adversaries. Moreover the publication format itself (usually 48 or 64 pages, categorisation by genre) and the policy of the publishers limited authors already in their approach of subjects (Lefèvre, 2000 ; Wahl, 2008).

National identity

  • 5  While Al Pecklers in Roger la Bagarre tells the adventures of a fictive French resistance fighter (...)

7Nevertheless, the interesting point for our concern is that those comics about World War II implied also a view on national identity. First of all, the immediate responses to the war experience differed somewhat in Belgium and France: while in a few Belgian comics the liberation was seen as a collaborative effort of the varied Allied forces, in France the mythology of the own resistance was far more stronger. At the liberation, Belgian comics celebrated the victory: for instance the double cover of the weekly Bravo showed the united flags of Belgium, Great-Britain, France, the USA, the USSR and the Netherlands, various amateurish, quickly improvised comics about the struggle against the enemy were thrown on the market5, but they were never reprinted and quickly forgotten. Remarkably, Belgian authors often choose foreigners as the heroes for their war comics, think of the long running series about an American fighter pilot, Buck Danny.

8In France the most famous comic celebrating the liberation was without doubt La Bête est morte ! La Guerre Mondiale chez les Animaux [The Beast is Dead, The World War among the Animals] by Emond-François Calvo, Victor Dancette and Jacques Zimmermann. Already during the last months of the occupation the authors were preparing this revengeful animal satire. The virulence is more explicit in the textual parts than in the rather kind drawings, reminding the round Disney-style. Furthermore each nationality is represented by a typical animal: the Germans are mainly wolfs, the English bulldogs, the Americans bison, the Japanese monkeys, the French are many animals (amongst others squirrels and storks). All the animal nations are divided in two camps: the good nations versus the bad Germans, Italians and Japanese. The text describes the Germans as cruel, warlike Barbarians, while the French animals are called innocent and peace loving. The wolves, the Barbarians of the East, are in the last pages characterised as inherently bad.

  • 6  My translation of the original French text: “Believe me, my children, I’ll repeat this till my las (...)

Croyez-moi, mes enfants, je vous le répéterai jusqu’à mon dernier soupir, il n’y a pas de bons et de mauvais Loups, il y a la Barbarie qui est un tout, et ne comporte qu’une seule race, celle des monstres, des bourreaux, des sadiques, des tueurs. Il y a parfois chez nous des animaux qui naissent sans pattes ou sans oreilles et nous les trouvons anormaux. Mais cette race-là naît sans cœur normalement. Le plus doux est capable de vous ouvrir le ventre avec le sourire (CALVO, 1944, s. p.)6

  • 7  How easily some French could forget about the French collaboration with the German occupier can be (...)

9The time of creation may explain this harsh, satirical view, but in fact it is not completely new, because already after the French-Prussian war of 1870-71 and the First World War, the anti-German feelings flamed up in France (Demm, 1988 ; Bryant, 2006). Therefore what happened during the Second World War was to the French only a confirmation of the already constructed image of the Germans. The stereotypical representation of the Germans as militaristic Prussians implied on the other hand also assumptions and claims about the own French identity, which was almost by definition very different from that of its enemy. This revengeful comic La Bête est morte ! does not seem to offer many hopes for an united Europe, because the intrinsic differences between the French and the Germans are presented as unbridgeable. O’Riley (2004, p. 52-53) argues that the myth of the French resistance7 also reinforces a certain ethnic myth in France : “La Bête est morte ! displaces the trauma experience in France during les années noires through recourse to the principles of fictive ethnicity”. “Fictive ethnicity” is a term O’Riley takes from Etiene Balibar and Immanuel Wallerstein (1988), “ ‘fictive ethnicity’ allows a nation to fabricate its nation base by representing its populations in the past or in the future as if they formed a natural community, possessing of itself a identity of origins, culture, and interests which transcends individuals and social conditions.”

  • 8  In Julius Cesar’s time the Goths were still living in the Northern and Eastern European regions (a (...)
  • 9  See Astérix chez les Bretons (1965), Astérix en Hispanie (1969), Astérix chez les Helvètes (1970), (...)
  • 10  Three years later a new translation Asterix und die Goten was serialized in MV68/MV Comix (by Ehap (...)

10In contrast to the rather serious tone of La Bête est morte !, the French humoristic series as Astérix applies a rather light-hearted approach, but on the other hand it carries also the old stereotypes of the militaristic Prussian (Stoll 1978, p. 137-142). This 19th and 20th century image of the Prussian is in Astérix retroactively imposed on so-called forefathers of the Germans in ancient times. In the 1961 story Astérix et les Goths, the people at the eastern border of Gaul are called Goths which is of course historically incorrect8, but such a popular, humoristic comic series is not meant as a correct account of historical events, but it uses rather various elements from the past to comment comically on the present: for instance the resistance of a small Gaul village to the dominant Roman Empire could be compared to the resistance of president De Gaulle in the sixties to the American superpower (Stoll 1978, p. 152-154). When Asterix and his Gallic friends travel to other European “countries”, they mostly regard the other nations as uncivilized people with ridiculous customs. Goscinny and Uderzo use the existing stereotypes of mid 20th century, prejudices which were not only shared among French people but also among people from other nations. Stereotypes as the militaristic German, the stiff Englishmen or the hot-tempered Spaniard are indeed quite widespread in Europe. Notwithstanding this stereotypical humour the Gauls in Astérix share rather amicable relations with some of these ‘strange’ folks (especially the Brits, the Spanish, the Swiss, the Corsicans and the Belgians9). Some foreigners as the Brit Notax are family of Astérix (Astérix chez les Bretons, 1965). In this comics series the Gauls are often collaborating with other occupied tribes against the Romans, which may indicate some kind of support to the idea European collaboration. On the other hand some tribes as the Normans or the Goths remain enemies of the Gauls. In Astérix et les Goths (1961), the Goths march like the German army of the 1940’s and they wear spiked helmets – referring to the typical helmets of the German army late 19th and early 20th century. When this story was serialized for the first time in German translation in the magazine Lupo modern important modifications were made by the German publisher, Rolf Kauka (Heine, 2005 ; Dolle-Weinkauff, 2008, p. 31): the title changed to Siggi und die Ostgoten, the Gauls became thus the Westgoten (western Goths) and the Goths the Ostgoten (eastern Goths). The Gaul village of Astérix got the name of Bonnhalla, the druide changed into Konradin and the leader of eastern Goths was called Hullberick, clear allusions to the contemporary political leaders of West and East Germany (Konrad Adenauer and Walter Ulbricht). The eastern Goths speak with an eastern German tongue and their texts are set in red. The frontier sign points to the “Westsektor” on the one side and to the “Ostsektor” on the other side. By only altering the text and leaving the drawings intact the publisher Kauka transformed an orginally “anti-German” story into an anti-GDR story. The authors of Astérix, Goscinny and Uderzo, were of course not amused by this Cold War interpretation and Kauka lost his rights to publish Siggi any longer.10 The picture is even more complex, because it is remarkable the Gaul hero Astérix as some forerunner of French nationalism was in fact created by two immigrant children: Uderzo was the son of Italian immigrants in France and Goscinny, despite being born in Paris, descended from Polish-Ukrainian Jews and spent the first decades of his life in Argentina and the United States of America. The young Uderzo suffered sometimes of the current “italophobia” in France because of Mussolini’s facist regime (Philippsen, 1985, p. 14-15). The Dutch psychologist Jaap van Ginneken (2003, p. 153-156) suggests therefore that the immigrant Uderzo, struggling with these divided sympathies between Italy and France, wanted to present himself as a real Frenchman and consequently turned his own forefathers, the Romans into the adversaries.

  • 11  For instance one can find the militaristic Prussian in Vandersteen’s Rikke en Wiske (1945).
  • 12  My translation of the original Dutch text: “Muller, iemand die zijn fouten durft bekennen en berou (...)
  • 13  Moreover Azouvi (1997, 140) states that for instance only exceptionally French comics show Germans (...)
  • 14  The series Michel Vaillant was made then for a Belgian publisher (Lombard) by a French author, Jea (...)
  • 15  In De Sissende Sampam / Le Sampam mysterieux (1963) another episode of the Suske en Wiske series, (...)

11While one may find in some Flemish comics11 the same stereotype of the militaristic Prussian, for Flanders most popular comics artist, Willy Vandersteen reconciliation seemed possible already by 1956: at the end of De Groene Splinter / Les Masques blancs (an episode of the popular Flemish series Suske en Wiske / Bob et Bobette), the bad German scientist Muller acknowledges his mistake and he is forgiven by the Flemish protagonist Lambik: “Muller, someone who dares to admits his faults and regrets his deeds is a man! Go, I have faith in you!”12. Such forgiveness is, on the contrary, rather absent in Francophone comics of that period.13 Nevertheless there is at least one popular French language comic - made by a Frenchmen working in Belgium - which tries to transcend the classic nationalistic approach in mainstream comics by foregrounding the advantages of European collaboration. In the 1959 episode Le Circuit de la Peur [The Circuit of Fear] of the popular comic series about the race pilot Michel Vaillant14, an international car race is organised between Russia, the USA and Europe. The various European car constructors come together and decide to form one big team to give a proper European answer to a Cold War challenge between the Americans and the Russians. The two superpowers want to demonstrate the superiority of their automobile industry by defying each other in a great car race. The European team consists of French, Belgian, British, German and Italian racers, which means that some of the former enemies of the Second World War are collaborating to take up the gage of the two superpowers. The “united” European team beats in the end their strong competitors - meanwhile it are still a French pilot and a Belgian pilot who are topping the individual rankings, which should come as no surprise since this comic was destined in the first place to a French and Belgian public. Anyhow, the European perspective is remarkable; this story was published two years after the signing in 1957 of The Treaty of Rome and the creation of the European Economic Community (EEC), whereby the signatory States (France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, Italy and the Federal Republic of Germany) laid the foundations of an even closer union among the peoples of Europe. So, it is mostly in the context of the Cold War that this sports comic affirms the special place and identity of a Europe that needs to unite if it wants to compete with the USA and the USSR. This Michel Vaillant comic seems to be the only explicit example of such an idea in a French or Belgium comic up to 1970. For the rest only small references to the European collaboration can be detected.15

12Nevertheless the contrast between Western and communist Eastern countries is sometimes stressed by using fictive countries (think for example of the dictatorial Bordurie in the Tintin-series). Generally Flemish comics depict a more satirical view of the communist world than the French comics. One of the most hilarious scenes can be found in the stories of Piet Pienter and Bert Bibber by Pom: in De dubbel-koolzure-sodabom [The Double Carbon Dioxide Sodabomb, 1961] the DAR (in Dutch “De Democratische Arbeidersrepubliek”, the “Democratic Labour Republic”) serves clearly as a parody of the DDR. While starved looking workers dressed in rags pity some Westerners: “Look, capitalists!... No, then We free workers are a lot happier!”, an officer is shouting that they should continue the job. Later, in a fake trial the translator wilfully distorts the testimonials of the Westerners and they are condemned to five year forced labour. In French comics till 1970 the references to Eastern European countries are seldom so explicitly expressed, but rather vaguely suggested. For instance in the Blake and Mortimer-story, S.O.S. Météores [S.O.S. Meteors, 1958] a hostile state – supposedly East European – uses a system for weather control to provoke storms, floods and other climate disasters in West European countries

Conclusion

13Though WWII interrupted a blooming comics industry in France and Belgium, after the liberation both countries saw a boom of comics publications. The war had various repercussions in those comics: one remarkable consequence was the construction, in comics as La Bête est morte ! and Astérix, of a fictive French ethnicity which was eagerly contrasted to the stereotype of the militaristic Prussian, supposedly already present in more ancient times as the Classical Age. On the other hand, in the context of the Cold War and the first political steps in European unification, a few comics demonstrated the positive effects of reconciliation with former enemies or of European cooperation: Astérix and his Gauls are collaborating with other tribes in the European territory, a Flemish language Belgian comic as De Groene Splinter (from the Suske and Wiske series) showed forgiveness towards a remorseful German scientist and, a French language Belgian comic as Le Circuit de la Peur (from the Michel Vaillant series) proved the advantages of European collaboration (among various car constructors). Despite these quite speaking examples the idea of a European communion remained nevertheless largely absent from the French and Belgian comics pages, instead they rather clung to older stereotypes of other European people. Paradoxically in the real world political leaders of France and Belgium were in the same period advocating European collaboration, but this official policy did not permeate decisively through the comics. To what extent such comics influenced their readers or played an efficient role in the construction of social representations may remain difficult to measure objectively, but this analysis has, hopefully, shown that these popular culture products offered a particular but not always consistent view on national identities in the post-war period.

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Bibliographie

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List of cited comics

CALVO, Emond-François. DANCETTE, Jacques, Zimmermann, Victor. La Bête est morte ! La Guerre Mondiale chez les Animaux. First part Quand la bête est déchaînée published in 1944 by G.P., second part Quand la bête est terrassée published in 1945 by G.P.

Chargil. Mustang Agent 549. Liège: Gordinne, about 1946.

Charlier, Jean-Michel, and Hubinon, Victor. Les Japs Attaquent & Les Mystères de Midway [Buck Danny]. Originally published in the Belgian weekly Le Journal de Spirou, N° 455-548, 1947-1948, first album publication 19 ?? by Dupuis.

Day, Max. Les tribulations de Jim Spitfire en campagne. Liège: Gordinne, around 1946.

Franquin, André. Spirou, Le dictateur et le champignon. Le Journal de Spirou, N° 801-838, 1953-1954.

Franquin, Jidéhim, Greg. QRM sur Bretzelburg. Originally published in the Belgian weekly Le Journal de Spirou, N° 1205-1237 and 1304-1340, 1961-1963, first album publication 1966 by Dupuis.

Gillon, Paul & Lécureux, Roger. Fils de Chine. Originally published in the French weekly Vaillant & Pif Gadget by 1950-53 , first album publication 1978 by Glénat.

Goscinny & Uderzo. Astérix et les Goths. Originally published in the French weekly Pilote N°82, 1961 - N°122, first album publication 1962 by Dargaud.

Goscinny & Uderzo. Siggi und die Ostgoten. Originally published in the German weekly Lupo modern 3 N° 27- 37, 1965.

Graton, Jean. Michel Vaillant, Le Circuit de la Peur. Originally published in the Belgian weekly Tintin, N° 32 (1959) – N° 11 (1960), first album publication 1961 by Lombard.

Hergé. Tintin, L’Affaire Tournesol. Originally published in the Belgian weekly Tintin, December 1954 – February 1956, first album publication 1956 by Casterman.

Jacobs, Edgar-Pierre, S.O.S. Météores [Blake and Mortimer]. Originally published in the Belgian weekly Tintin, N°2 1958 – N°38 1959, first album publication 1959 by Lombard.

Marijac. Les Trois Mousquetaires du maquis (1944), Originally published in the French resistance publication Le Corbeau Déchainé and later in the French weekly Coq Hardi 1944, first album publication 1945 by S.E.L.P.A.

Pec (Al Pecklers). Roger la Bagarre. Liège: Gordinne, 1946.

Pom, Piet Pienter and Bert Bibber, De dubbel-koolzure-sodabom. Originally published in the Belgian daily De Gazet van Antwerpen, September 11, 1961 – January 29, 1962, first album publication 1962 by De Vlijt.

Vandersteen, Willy. Rikke en Wiske. Originally published in the Belgian daily De Nieuwe Standaard, March 30 – December 15, 1945, first album publication 1946 by Standaard Boekhandel.

Vandersteen, Willy. Suske en Wiske, De Groene Splinter. Originally published in the Belgian weekly Kuifje, June 27, 1956 – September 4, 1957, first album publication 1957 by Standaard Boekhandel.

Vandersteen, Willy. Suske en Wiske, De Sissende Sampam. Originally published in the Belgian daily De Standaard, April 2 – August 10, 1963, first album publication 1963 by Standaard Boekhandel.

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Notes

1  The social psychologist Serge Moscovici and his followers claim that communicative processes among group members can lead to a cognitive-emotional construction of reality (Raudsepp 2005, 466). By orienting and organising our behaviour and thoughts those social representations can influence our take on reality (Jodelet 1989, 31 & 36). Also in the field of Cultural Studies representation is regarded as a constitutive depiction of value, meaning and knowledge: “representation gives meaning to material objects and social practices which are brought into view and made intelligible to us in terms which representation delimits. To understand culture is to explore how meaning is produced symbolically through the signifying practices of representations.” (Barker, 2002, p. 226).

2  Though hard and unambiguous evidence is still lacking about the supposed influence of comics on their readers there is at least a persistent tradition of writings (eg Wertham, 1954) and of censorship actions (the French law of 1949, the British Children and Young Persons Harmfull Publications Art of 1955) claiming such an influence.

3  Most historians (a.o. Groensteen, 2000) treat the French-language comics production as a whole, national borders seem in the particular case of French language comics of little importance.

4  I consultated via e-mail in July 2008 various comics specialists (the Spanish Álvaro Pons Moreno, the Italian Fabio Gadducci, the Dutch Kees Ribbens and Rik Sanders, the English Paul Gravett and Roger Sabin) for examples of the European community in their national comics, but there seems to be very few of them.

5  While Al Pecklers in Roger la Bagarre tells the adventures of a fictive French resistance fighter and Max Day takes an American child soldier, Jimmy Spitfire as the protagonist, Chargil figures Belgian resistance fighters in Mustang Agent 549.

6  My translation of the original French text: “Believe me, my children, I’ll repeat this till my last breath, there are no good or bad wolves, there is Barbarity which is one and implies just one race, the race of monsters, of hangmen, of sadists, of killers. Sometimes in our country animals are born without paws or ears and we find them abnormal. But that race over there is born without a heart. The most soft one is capable of tearing your belly open with a smile”.

7  How easily some French could forget about the French collaboration with the German occupier can be illustrated by a remarkable example of opportunism in the field of comics: the French comics artist August Liquois who had been publishing in the fascist comics magazines Le Téméraire and Mérinos, started working at the liberation for the communist magazine Vaillant, where he drew a series about the noble deeds of the a Resistance hero, Fifi. A few months before he was still making Zoubinette, which portrayed a patriotic French girl who fell prey of to the dishonest abuses of Resistance terrorists like a certain Isaac (Grove, 2006, p. 113 and 139).

8  In Julius Cesar’s time the Goths were still living in the Northern and Eastern European regions (as Poland) and not yet in the region that later became Germany. The authors of Astérix seem to suggest that the European nation states of the 19th and 20th century already existed in a rudimentary form at the time of Julius Cesar, but Gaul was for instance a name the Romans gave to the terrain (between the Atlantic Ocean and the Rhine) populated by hundreds of various tribes.

9  See Astérix chez les Bretons (1965), Astérix en Hispanie (1969), Astérix chez les Helvètes (1970), Astérix en Corse (1973), Astérix chez les Belges (1979)

10  Three years later a new translation Asterix und die Goten was serialized in MV68/MV Comix (by Ehapa Verlag in Stuttgart). See Asterix International (URL <http://www.asterix-international.de/asterix/germany.shtml>, consulted January 20, 2009).

11  For instance one can find the militaristic Prussian in Vandersteen’s Rikke en Wiske (1945).

12  My translation of the original Dutch text: “Muller, iemand die zijn fouten durft bekennen en berouw heeft is een man! Vertrek, ik heb vertrouwen in u!” (De Groene Splinter, plate 62). The forgiveness of Vandersteen may not be so surprising, because during the occupation he illustrated propaganda leaflets for some collaborating organisations and one of his life long friends fought at the Eastern front against the Soviets.

13  Moreover Azouvi (1997, 140) states that for instance only exceptionally French comics show Germans in defiance of a dictatorship: Les Trois Mousquetaires by Marijac (1944), QRM sur Bretzelburg by Franquin, Jidéhim, Greg (1961).

14  The series Michel Vaillant was made then for a Belgian publisher (Lombard) by a French author, Jean Graton, living in Brussels.

15  In De Sissende Sampam / Le Sampam mysterieux (1963) another episode of the Suske en Wiske series, one of the protagonists (Lambik) is making fun of the Brits who are yet not a member of the European Community – due to the veto of the French President Charles de Gaulle.

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Référence électronique

Pascal Lefèvre, « The construction of national and foreign identities in French and Belgian postwar comics (1939-1970) », Comicalités [En ligne], Histoire et bande dessinée : territoires et récits, mis en ligne le 11 mai 2012, consulté le 29 juillet 2014. URL : http://comicalites.revues.org/875 ; DOI : 10.4000/comicalites.875

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Auteur

Pascal Lefèvre

Pascal Lefèvre teaches at two belgian Schools of Art (Sint-Lukas Brussels & MAD-Faculty) and is affiliated researcher at K.U. Leuven. A list of his publications and papers is available at <sites.google.com/site/lefevrepascal>

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