Super-Héros : Une histoire française

March 2nd, 2015

Super-Heros CoversmallDavid L Chapman
Xavier Fournier (Paris : Huginn & Muninn, 2014)

“For centuries the United States has produced thousands of superheroes—so many, in fact, that at first glance we might think of this genre as exclusively American. But this is not the case; French superheroes exist.” Xavier Fournier from the introduction to Super-Héros : Une histoire française.

Everyone knows that superheroes were born in the USA when Superman first appeared in 1938. That much is fact. Or is it? In his new and lavishly illustrated book, Super-Héros : Une histoire française, French journalist Xavier Fournier attempts to trace the origins of superheroes back to France where he finds ample evidence of the European heritage of the Man of Steel and others. Fournier admits that his quest to find the antecedents of the more familiar super men and women to be a bit like “looking for a dinosaur skeleton where no one thought it was worth digging for.” But find them he does.

The author traces superheroes not to Depression America but to Napoleonic France in the person of Pierre (or François) Picaud. This honest cobbler was arrested in 1807 and falsely accused of spying for the English by three of his acquaintances and subsequently imprisoned; Picaud later escaped and took terrible vengeance on the men who had him thrown in jail. If this sounds like the plot to the novel The Count of Montecristo, there is no mistake since Alexander Dumas later took the story and transformed it into the tale of a mysterious avenger who dispatches his enemies one by one. This, according to Fournier, is the earliest example of a masked righter of wrongs—the grandfather of all others who came afterward. Is this Picaud really the ancestor of heroes like Batman or Spiderman who turned the hurt and injustice that they suffered from into a burning desire for justice? Perhaps.

French pulp novels of the late 19th and early 20th centuries provide the next step on the road to full superhero-dom. Masked and mysterious avengers were terribly popular, and as the technological advances of the 1800s and 1900s were recognized by the public, writers began to give their heroes some very extraordinary powers based on seemingly miraculous science. Characters who could fly, see through walls, breathe under water or see perfectly in the dark thrilled readers of these cheap and popular novels. But the real supermen did not arrive in Europe until Siegel and Schuster’s original S-man began to appear in newspapers and boys’ papers in the late 1930s. Fournier tells the story of this first American superhero at great length.

The first bona fide Euro-superhero, Fantax debuted in 1946.  He had a secret identity, a great costume and a mission to fight the forces of evil.  In this issue titled “The Priestess of the Sun” the caped hero struggles with Inca warriors.

The first bona fide Euro-superhero, Fantax debuted in 1946. He had a secret identity, a great costume and a mission to fight the forces of evil. In this issue titled “The Priestess of the Sun” the caped hero struggles with Inca warriors.

The first French publisher of Superman was an Italian who had escaped Mussolini’s Fascists, and although he loved the character, he was not very happy with the hero’s name. He thought that it was too much like the term Übermensch (usually translated as “superman”) that the Nazis used to describe the perfect Aryan man. The Man of Steel was consequently called at first Yordi, Marc the Modern Hercules, The Daring Detective, or François the Invincible. After France was defeated and the Germans occupied over half the country and World War II began, all communication with Allied countries eventually ceased. The comic-book heroes continued to be published in France, but they were now steadfastly European or at least so disguised that no one would guess their American origins.

A masked cowboy called “Big Bill the Bruiser” is a comic-book hero who seems to be a mixture of Elvis, bodybuilder Steve Reeves and the Lone Ranger.  Big Bill stuffed his well-muscled physique into his tight red tee shirt and roamed the old West from 1947 to 1954.

A masked cowboy called “Big Bill the Bruiser” is a comic-book hero who seems to be a mixture of Elvis, bodybuilder Steve Reeves and the Lone Ranger. Big Bill stuffed his well-muscled physique into his tight red tee shirt and roamed the old West from 1947 to 1954.

Global conflict was a curse for humanity, but in many ways it was a blessing for Euro-heroes. Freed from the constant influx of superheroes from America, the French and Italians had to devise their own. This was true even after the conflict ended. Comic books continued to be produced in liberated France, but the heroes that rolled off the presses were completely original in design and origin. The first recognizable homegrown French superhero was Fantax who first appeared in 1946. In his non-super life Fantax is a British lord in the U.S. embassy, but when he dons his tights, mask and cape, he fights such foes as unrepentant Nazis, the Ku-Klux-Klan and other enemies of freedom; he often has a Gauloise hanging from his lips and his relationship with his petite amie is a good deal earthier than Superman and Lois Lane’s. Another amazing creation was Big Bill le Casseur [Big Bill the Bruiser], a comic that was produced between 1947 and 1954. He is a masked cowboy who operates in the American West, but he wears a skin-tight tee shirt over his super-hot and very muscular body—a body that was clearly inspired by American bodybuilders like Steve Reeves who had recently come to Europe. Other unique French superheroes like Satanax, Wonderman, Salvator, Atomas, Fulguros and many more who are virtually unknown to most Americans became popular with young readers in postwar France. There were outer-space supermen, cowboy supermen, those with superpowers and those without, but they all had a unique European flair that was totally different from their American counterparts. Oddly enough, most of these superhero comic books were set in the USA, as if this was the only place where fantastic creatures, mad scientists and wacko criminals might possibly exist.

Superheroes Photonik and Micros streak forward while the Native American superhero, Ozark rides out to protect the helpless on his fiery steed.  This issue of Mustang from 1980 clearly reflects comic-book art that was becoming less European and more international.

Superheroes Photonik and Micros streak forward while the Native American superhero, Ozark rides out to protect the helpless on his fiery steed. This issue of Mustang from 1980 clearly reflects comic-book art that was becoming less European and more international.

One thing that definitely existed in America were the huge comic book companies like Dell, Marvel and DC. As the 1960s and 70s progressed, more and more of these American companies sent their products abroad, and since there was already a huge market for superheroes in France, the new American books fit right in. The French were not ready to give up totally, but the higher production values, excellent printing and great writing all meant that the French had a lot to fight against if they wanted to keep their market share. The last great flowering of French superheroes came in the 1980s with characters as Micros, Saltarella, Crabb and Ozark, all of whom were entertaining but ultimately doomed to be overshadowed by rivals from across the Atlantic. Thanks to Hollywood films and comic books produced specifically for the European market, US characters now pretty much rule the superhero roost.

Interest in nuclear power led to the popularity of Atomas, the Atomic-powered superhero who appeared in French newspapers and comic books from 1947 to 1948.  According to author Fournier, this comic was “undoubtedly the most beautiful French superhero of the 1940s.”

Interest in nuclear power led to the popularity of Atomas, the Atomic-powered superhero who appeared in French newspapers and comic books from 1947 to 1948. According to author Fournier, this comic was “undoubtedly the most beautiful French superhero of the 1940s.”

Fournier’s volume takes a long and affectionate look at some superheroes that are totally unknown to most North Americans. One minor problem that I have with the book is that the author never really gives readers a definition of a superhero, and he therefore tends to discuss just about every comic-book character who ever wore a mask and lumps them in with the more obviously recognizable figures. Despite this quibble, it must be admitted that Fournier definitely knows his stuff (he is editor of the magazine and website Comic Box), and he writes in a breezy and entertaining way. So far this is the only book ever devoted exclusively to French superheroes, but it will almost certainly become a classic source in years to come. It is beautifully designed and the illustrations are exquisite, so its rather hefty price (nearly €40) is definitely worth it. Since there are lots of pictures, even if you can’t read French, I can say that Super-Héros : Une histoire française should find a place in the library of every super-hero lover.

Purchase Super-Héros : Une Histoire Française from Amazon.
David Chapman is the author of Universal Hunks, American Hunks: The Muscular Male Body in Popular Culture, Venus with Biceps: A Pictorial History of Muscular Women, and Sandow the Magnificent: Eugen Sandow and the Beginnings of Bodybuilding.

Gay Previews April 2015

February 22nd, 2015

kaptaralarge1Looking forward to April here! Maybe the snow in Boston will melt by then and we’ll all enjoy spring time! Don’t forget that C2E2 happens in late April too! And here are comics and graphic novels you can look forward to in April! Award winning cartoonist Jillian Tamaki has two books to tantalize you! Gail Simone gets the spotlight in Blue Line’s Sketch! The popular Lumberjanes receives its first trade! Greg Rucka returns to The Question and the Wonder Woman ’77 special debuts! Tim Fish and Tana Ford contribute to a Vertigo anthology! Two queer sci fi series start – Infinite Loop from IDW and Kaptara from Image! Titan collects a second volume of Elric adventures from Roy Thomas and P Craig Russell! Alex De Campi and Carla Speed McNeil team up for No Mercy! And more zombie Archie!

Help support this site with your purchase of any of these books or other items from Amazon. Thank you!
Amazon & Gay League

People’s names listed in bold are either LGBT+ or supportive. Credit to Andy Mangels whose idea this is originally.


RACHEL RISING #33 $3.99 Page 256
Terry Moore
Rachel’s search for her killer leads her to the doorstep of Manson’s most famous resident. But finding him is one thing, proving it is another. Now Rachel finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the most devious man in town.

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Ariell Johnson’s Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse

February 16th, 2015

If I lived in Philedelphia I’d buy my comics at the shop that Ariell Johnson is going about making a reality. What makes her idea for a comic shop different than the average one? In part it’s that she envisions her shop as a hybrid space that combines a comic shop with a coffeehouse to provide a place for comic geeks and non geeks aline to gather and relax. The other part is Ariell Johnson herself for her enthusiasm and desire to make her Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse a space that focuses on inclusivity and diversity, where comics and graphic novels that “go beyond the straight white male paradigm” will be featured. Johnson also wants to host special events such as movie and trivia nights, gaming tournaments, and geek inspired craft nights. Another goal is to offer summer workshops that would introduce comics as art and a storytelling medium with a focus on low income, female, and minority children.

Johnson’s secured a space in Philadelphia’s New Kensington neighborhood with plans to open in the spring. Watch her video and consider helping to support Johnson and Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse with her crowdfunding campaign or buying your comics and coffee when the shop opens!

Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse from MoolaHoop on Vimeo.

H/T to Comics Reporter who reported on this first.

Sequart’s Wertham Documentary Diagram For Delinquents Is Out

February 16th, 2015

diagramfordelinquentsWertham coverSequart Organization is proud to announce the DVD release of their Fredric Wertham documentary, Diagram for Delinquents.

In 1950, America was in a state of panic; many felt that juvenile delinquency was destroying the very fabric of society. In 1954, psychiatrist Dr. Fredric Wertham wrote a scathing indictment of comic books called Seduction of the Innocent. Its central premise was that comics were the leading contributing factor to juvenile delinquency. (At the time, 90% of all children were reading comic books.) That same year, Dr. Wertham testified at special hearings on comic books at the Senate Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency in the United States. Comic books were on trial!

Diagram for Delinquents captures the zeitgeist of late 1940s / early 1950s America and investigates how the funny books found themselves on the bonfire. Using expert interviews and never-seen-before historical photographs and films, Diagram goes further than any documentary to explore and understand the controversial figure at the center of this American tale: Fredric Wertham.

The DVD (as well as a digital download version) is now available for purchase at the Sequart Store. For more information on Diagram for Delinquents, and to watch the trailer, you can visit the film’s page on

Here’s what the critics are saying:

“Diagram does a tremendous job of creating a human and social context for events that are too easily oversimplified, bringing full color (literally and metaphorically) to the usual black-and-white portrayal of Fredric Wertham. It’s also incredibly fun to watch, using everything that’s good about comic book graphics without ever trivializing the material.” — Gerard Jones, author of the Eisner-winning Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book

“For those who might not have thought to look back at the path the medium has had to walk to get where it is today, Diagram for Delinquents is a well-researched and comprehensive history lesson, and should be required viewing for anyone who ever wondered what the fuss was over those silly old monster comics, anyway.” — Stephen Andrade, Ain’t It Cool News

“Diagram is so extensive in its research and its relaying of the facts that it’s commendable… A thorough and balanced study of the evolution of comic books, and of Wertham’s career.” — Chris Evangelista, Cut Print Film

“Diagram for Delinquents delivers the most well-rounded approach [to Wertham’s story] in recent memory… This movie has an impressive collection of old footage, recordings, and photographs that are put to great use.” — Cliff Wheatley, IGN

“With commentary by expert comics and pop culture historians like Bart Beaty, Amy Nyberg, Bradford Wright, Carol Tilley and others, viewers get an extremely nuanced view of the comics industry of the time and gain a new perspective on the industry.” — Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin

Sequart’s The Future Of Comics The Future Of Men

February 12th, 2015

Sequart Organization is proud to announce the release of The Future of Comics, the Future of Men: Matt Fraction’s Casanova, authored by Geoff Klock (How to Read Superhero Comics and Why).

Matt Fraction, Gabriel Bá, and Fábio Moon’s Casanova is a stylish adventure about a sexy, amoral, universe-hopping, time-traveling spy caught in a war between the militaristic E.M.P.I.R.E. and the decadent and villainous W.A.S.T.E. (led by a bandaged, cackling madman in sunglasses).

The Future of Comics, The Future of Men argues that beneath its pop surface, Casanova is doing more. It challenges the corporate driven comic book production model, in which Disney and Time Warner own all the major superheroes. And it critiques the limited and damaging vision of masculinity that informs so much of modern superhero comics and movies.

With the recent debut of Casanova: Acedia, now is the perfect time to explore the depth of Casanova.

The Future of Comics, The Future of Men features a striking cover by none other than Casanova artist Fábio Moon! It runs 136 pages and is available in print and on Kindle.

Alysia Yeoh

February 10th, 2015

alysiayeohprofileAlysia Yeoh is a young woman of Singaporean descent living alone in Gotham City and looking for a roommate when readers are first introduced to her. The person she chooses happens to be Barbara Gordon, who is looking to start a new chapter in her life. Alysia has several interests and talents as a painter, activist and organizer, cook (for which she went to culinary school with the help of her parents), and works as a bartender. Food and rituals around it are important to Alysiah. She makes her mother’s special recipe for Laska (a spicy noodle soup) for Barbara and frequently serves her cookies and tea.

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Midnighter’s New Solo!

February 6th, 2015

midnighternewongoingDC announced early this morning – 4 am Eastern time early – its slate of new titles and new creative teams on its remaining series to give some tantalizing peeks at its post Convergence lineup come June. One of the books I’m more excited about is a new Midnighter series from writer Steve Orlando and artist ACO. Orlando may be most familiar to readers for his Undertow published by Image or for his Kickstarter backed graphic novel Virgil that recounts the story of an outed gay Jamaican cop. This may be ACO’s first ongoing series for DC.

Midnighter had a previous solo series published under the Wildstorm imprint that lasted 20 issues and ended in 2007. Look for DC to republish at least the Garth Ennis penned opening arc. Or snap up back issues at Ebay. Just don’t bother to buy any once Keith Giffen came on as writer.

We’re still sorry to see Batwoman’s series cancelled though.

Read DC’s full announcement here.

HavenCon – Texas’ First LGBT Comic Con!

January 31st, 2015

havenconlogoPlease check out the website where you’ll find more info as it becomes available!

For Immediate Release First Texas LGBTQA Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Gaming Convention Scheduled for Austin in April 2015

Haven Con offers gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, questioning and allied community members a fun, safe haven filled with gaming experiences, geek activities, incredible artwork, and pop culture panels from industry professionals and local talents.

Austin, Tex. (December 2, 2014) – Haven Con is proud to announce its inaugural convention will be held at the Holiday Inn Midtown in Austin, Texas on Saturday, April 4 and Sunday, April 5, 2015.

Although Texas is no stranger to comic book and gaming conventions, this event will be the first time the state has ever hosted a convention of this type targeted specifically to a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, questioning and allied (LGBTQA) audience.

Shane Brown, founder of Haven Con, has been working to bring sci-fi, fantasy, and gaming enthusiasts of the LGBTQA community together since 2012 when he started the social networking group Gay Austin Geeks. Brown said, “Even within the gay community, we often exist within our smaller segmented groups. But comic and gaming conventions are all about the melding of geeks, gamers and nerds of every size, race, age and gender identity.”

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Piper – The Sound & The Fury

January 29th, 2015

In Tuesday night’s Flash episode, The Sound and The Fury, viewers were treated to the first on screen appearance of long time Rogues villain Pied Piper, sans the “pied”, with Andy Mientus. In the TV version, Hartley Rathaway, Piper’s alter ego, is the son of wealthy parents who disinherit him after coming out to them and went to work as a research scientist for Harrison Wells at STAR Labs where he was a huge jerk to cisco. The episode was a lot of fun and has made me excited for future appearances. And the best line of the show I thought was Piper saying to Flash: “Being scooped up by a guy in head to toe leather is a long time fantasy of mine, so thanks.” I never dreamed Piper would say something like that to the Flash! What would Gardner Fox think?

First Atlantic City Boardwalk Con

January 29th, 2015

The first annual Atlantic City Boardwalk Con (ACBC) will bring together the worlds of comics, cosplay and “all things geek” with the quintessential experience for the first time in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The inaugural event will offer unique and never-before-seen workshops and activities for fans of all ages.

ACBC will be held May 14-17, 2015, at the Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The first full-sized convention of its genre in the city, ACBC will “officially” kick-off the 2015 East Coast Spring comic convention season.

Attendees will be able to meet and interact with guests and experts taking part in ATLANTIC CITY BOARDWALK CON, including publishers such as Marvel Entertainment, BOOM! Studios, Aspen Comics, and Top Cow. Celebrity Guests such as Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy and The Walking Dead) and Manu Bennett (Arrow, Spartacus and The Hobbit), Comic Artists and Writers including Phil Jimenez (Wonder Woman, Fables, X-Men, Wolverine), Humberto Ramos (Amazing Spider-Man) and Frank Tieri (Iron Man and Wolverine). In addition, ACBC has the comic book legend Stan Lee as a Special Guest of Honor, with a special one-on-one on stage interview by New Jersey native, Kevin Smith.

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