Iconic French comics characters

They’ve all had adaptations to the silver (or the small) screen -both live-action and animated ones- and even video games. Ten iconic characters to discover or rediscover French-Belgian bande dessinée.

Spirou et Fantasio

These two characters have been entertaining the French audience since 1938, and have been under the pencil of many great artists.

Like Tintin, Spirou and Fantasio are two journalists who find themselves in the middle of strange, out of the ordinary adventures.

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Blake & Mortimer

The adventures of Blake and Mortimer, born in Tintin magazine (and another example of ligne claire) feature three main characters: scientist Mortimer, MI5 agent Blake, and the ubiquitous villain Colonel Olrik (with an uncanny resemblance to author Edgar P. Jacobs).

Also adapted to several formats; the video shows the trailer for a mobile game.

9

Largo Winch

Born in Jean Van Hamme’s novels, Largo Winch had a second, most successful life when artist Philippe Francq suggested he became a bande dessinée character.

The story of this world traveler, heir to the W empire, is one of the most famous and bestselling BD, also turned into a TV series and films.

8

XIII

XIII is an action BD that follows the story of a man with amnesia trying to get his memories back. From the first pages, all he knows is that someone wants him dead.

Just like Largo Winch, it’s written by Jean Van Hamme, in this case with art by William Vance. It has several adaptations for video games and TV. In fact, many people outside of France have only heard of XIII because of the well-regarded video game for PC, Gamecube, PS2, and Xbox.

7

Lucky Luke

Full of stereotypes and clichés for some, a parody of those for others, cowboy Lucky Luke is one of the bestselling, most translated French comics in the history of bande dessinée.

Famous for “shooting faster than his shadow” and for his always-present cigarette, which he had to leave aside when smoking became politically incorrect.

The video’s a trailer for the movie adaptation starring Jean Dujardin, famous outside of France thanks to the success of his film The artist.

6

Adèle Blanc-Sec

The only female character on this list.

Fans of this anti-heroine were lucky that Jacques Tardi accepted the offer to make a longer comic book series, and thus The extraordinary adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec were born, with a leading character the author had conceived as the villain at first!

It’s been adapted to film by loved/hated director Luc Besson.

5

The Smurfs

Born in the Johan and Peewit comic, the Smurfs (French, Les Schtroumpfs, a word invented by Belgian author Peyo) beat the success of their predecessors and became one of the most beloved comics and animated series of many people’s childhood.

You might remember the show “Smurfs on Ice” or even their music recordings, which sold millions of copies.

4

Corto Maltese

Even though we could consider it part of fumetti (Italian comics) for having an Italian author (Hugo Pratt), Corto Maltese can’t not be included in a French BD list, since Pratt lived and published his stories in France, and the French have practically adopted him.

This sailor’s adventures help him meet all kinds of historical figures. They’ve been adapted to many formats including movies and, as you can see on the video, interactive comics.

3

Astérix

Goscinny and Uderzo’s Gauls are popular around the world and feature several adaptations to all kinds of formats: animated series, films, games, a theme park, and even a satellite named after Astérix!

Featuring lots of funny names, as well as words and phrases with double meaning, translators have done a really good job for years so we could enjoy their stories.

2

Tintin

Who hasn’t heard of Tintin? (French pronunciation, “tantan”). Despite being labeled a racist, Hergé, the creator of the ligne claire style, gave us a character that, along with Astérix, represents BD par excellence.

The adventures of this reporter who looks more like a detective have been adapted to the silver screen by Peter Jackson and turned into an animated series featuring the video’s unforgettable opening.

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