When the film adaptation of Barbarella, the French comic book by Jean-Claude Forrest, was released in 1968, America started to recognize European comics. It was not rapid widespread, though, but it began the translation of many other titles for American readers. Eventually, more French comics entered the American market, including the Tintin and Asterix series.

The biggest challenge in reaching an audience outside of Europe is definitely comic book translation. The poor quality of translations was the major reason for the slow success–or undeniable failure–of European comics in America. It opened the eyes of European comics publishers, shining the light on the importance of localization and translation.

Now, the European market for comic books continues to aim for a wider readership after facing various challenges and downfalls. With innumerable titles in the market, the region is set to maximize new opportunities.

The market status and degree of digitization are the highlights of the EUDICOM project, which is co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union. The project is partnered with four focus countries: France, Italy, Poland, and Spain. It aims to strengthen the market’s digital dimension by supporting European publishers to go digital.

How big really is the European comic book market? And how can comic book translation affect the success of European titles?

The Big European Comic Book Markets

France, Germany, Italy, and Spain are four of the largest comic books markets in the region. The countries produce at least 3,000 titles annually, with France taking the lead. France also has the most number of publishers, followed by Germany and Italy, with 100 to 400 publishers.

Belgium and Poland are considered to be the mid-sized markets with at most 2,000 titles per year. Generally, the most popular genres are European-style digital comics and manga.

The digital comics market in Europe is also continuously growing, with Europe Comics as an emerging European e-comics catalog with the goal to spread the European graphic novel heritage across the globe. What started as an idea of Franco-Belgian comics agent Mediatoon Licensing in 2015 is now a 13-partner pan-European alliance supported by the European Commission.

With the number of active publishers and new titles, it is evident that the market is far from running dry. This also means that there is a myriad of opportunities to reach a wider audience. So if you have titles waiting to enter the markets outside your region, it is high time to make European comics in English, too.

Best European Comic Books

Take inspiration from the ones that have already made history. Aside from the European classic comics mentioned earlier, there are more comics that always make it into must-read lists. To name a few, there are Corto Maltese created in 1967 by Italian comic book creator Hugo Pratt and Torpedo, a Spanish comics series by Enrique Sánchez Abulí.

It is also a privilege to read Belgian comics aside from Tintin. There is Lucky Luke by Belgian cartoonist Morris in 1946 and The Adventures of Nero by Marc Sleen and the main character’s name. Even the popular The Smurfs came from Les Schtroumpfs et le Village des Filles (The Smurfs and the Village of Girls)!

Several German comics also help language learners in improving their German. Liebe und Monster by Adrian von Bauer is an example, greatly contributing to the introduction of European comics to the international market.

European Graphic Novels

Since the market has been going digital, it is necessary to learn about successful European graphic novels. Le bleu est une couleur chaude or Blue Is the Warmest Color by Jul Maroh is a captivating triumph of a graphic novel. It is a manga-inspired French graphic novel published in March 2010 and adapted into a film in 2013.

Some other French Graphic Novels also make it to must-read lists, such as Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and The Incal Series by MĹ“bius and Alejandro Jodorowsky. It is important to recognize The Snowpiercer by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette as well, including its film version in 2014.

For German language learners, graphic novels in German are also a big hit. There is  Berlinoir by Reinhard Kleist and Tobias O. Meißner, and Asterix 36: Der Papyrus des Cäsar by Jean-Yves Ferri, Didier Conrad and Klaus Jöken.