Chris Hemsworth was probably a name you had never heard until a few weeks ago. Even if you do not really know who he is, you are bound to have seen him lately – he stars Scandinavian god Thor in Marvel latest movie of the same name.
The market of superheroes has been flourishing for the last few years. It is hard to keep track of all the video games and movies featuring the X-Men, Batman or the Fantastic Four. American-flavoured superheroes are everywhere. Truth is, they have spent a long time working on their stardom. Originally sold as comic books, Spiderman & co. are owned by two major publishing houses: Marvel Comics (1939) and DC comics (1934).
Together, they own over 80% of the market in the U.S. They are behind the branding of Ironman, Spiderman, the X-Men or Ghost Rider (Marvel) and Superman, Batman, Wonder-Woman or Cat-Woman (DC).
Is the comic industry under an English monopoly? Not quite. French is loud on the comics market, especially in Europe. French Comics – or bandes dessinées – represent a 320 million euro industry in France only.
However, not all that sounds French is French; pillars of the bandes dessinées are Belgian or Swiss. Morris, creator of cowboy Lucky Luke, was from Courtrai, Belgium. He is the first one to have called comics “le neuvième art” (the ninth art).
Belgian Hergé, who wrote the adventures of Tintin and Snowy (Tintin et Milou), sold over 200 million books and was translated in over 100 languages. His fellow citizen Peyo wrote and drew The Smurfs (Les Schtroumpfs), which have been in book stores since 1958.
Asterix & Obelix were created by the French artists Uderzo and Goscinny. Over 325 million books sold worldwide, the Gauls have lived on as animation movies, motion pictures, video games and even as a theme park Park Astérix, 50 km outside Paris.
More recently, Swiss writer Zep created schoolboy Tootuff (Titeuf), currently the most popular hero of the comic strip industry in Europe.