Although the US has contributed immensely to the comic book medium, there are many fine comics from other countries. Have you ever heard of Asterix? Le Transperceneige? Diabolik? What do all these comics have in common? They’re not American or originally produced in English speaking countries.
Are foreign comics worth collecting?
You bet they are.
In this post I’ll give a run down on four non-American comics worth owning right now (if you can find them).
To clarify and to narrow my criteria here: my primary goal is to list valuable non-American comics and collectible comic strips ignoring foreign, i.e. non-American versions of popular American superheroes or other pop culture figures, except where the stories involving them are new and not originally available in English.
My choices are guided mainly with pop culture impact and popularity for the current US market in mind.
This means that almost all the books listed below have or will make an impact on the US market at some point and many therefore have English translations. The English versions (where available) are subsequently also listed so that the curious reader who don’t speak the original language can find reading copies.
Asterix Le Gaulois #1 [Dargaud, France] (1961) – First collection of Stories
Asterix is a Franco-Belgian comic created by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo and originally serialized in Pilote magazine in October of 1959. Even if you’ve never read it, you’ve probably seen images of this fat Viking. Set during the Iron Age, Asterix is a Gaul who is unhappy with the up and coming Roman takeover of his country. This is a humorous Belgian comic, but Asterix does have various heroic qualities. The earliest stories from Pilote Magazine were collected in 1961 as Asterix Le Gaulois and published by the French Comic publisher Dargaud. The English translation: Asterix the Gaul #1, was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 1968. The latest Asterix film: The Secret Potion, was released for the US market in June of this year.
Le Transperceneige [Casterman, France] (1982) – Basis for the film Snowpiercer
Le Transperceneige is a dystopian tale set in the 1980s. Created by the Frenchmen Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette, it chronicles a revolt on a one-thousand and one car long train after a second ice age hits the planet. Doomed to circle the globe and never stop, this sci-fi tale will be known to most American readers from the movie ‘Showpiercer’ from 2013. The movie featured Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, and John Hurt among others and was directed by Bong Joon-Ho. This graphic novel, by contrast, was originally published by Casterman in France, but the English version ‘Snowpiercer’ was published by Titan Comics in 2014 to capitalize on the success of the film. The original comic is currently in development as a television series set to air on the TBS network in the Spring of 2020.
Diabolik [Astorina, Italy] (1962) – Italian Anti-Hero
Italian sisters Angela and Luciana Giussani created the masked acrobat and thief known as Diabolik, an anti-hero who robs from other criminals. This comic is one of the more popular Italian titles (along with series like Dylan Dog) that highlights the grittier side of European comics. Originally published by Italian publishing company Astorina in 1962. It was a huge hit in Italy, selling millions of copies and inspiring a radio show, an Italian TV series and even, in 1968 a live action film directed by Mario Bava called ‘Danger: Diabolik!’ and starring American actor John Phillip Law with music by Enrico Morricone.
If you want to find out what all the Diabolik hype is about, the English language version of this comic was published by Pacific Comics Club. Also, a remake of the 1960s film with an all Italian case, will be released Stateside in 2020.
El Sorprendente Hombre Araña #128 [Editora de Periódicos La Prensa, Mexico] – Spider-Man Wedding Cover
Finally we end with a happy ending, because who doesn’t like that? Well, if you’re a Spider-man fan and completest, and if you preferred Gwen over Mary Jane, then you’ll be happy to know that the Mexican version of Spidey didn’t accept Gwen’s death in 1973. So, instead, they changed the story. If you can find this Spanish version, it has a happy wedding cover that anticipates the Peter/ MJ wedding by about a decade- with a happy Peter and Gwen tying the knot to boot. Mexican Spider-man actually followed the American version very closely until the death of Gwen. Also, since nobody really dies in comics (everyone is immortal on the comic page), and we know Gwen has since come back in various forms, in hindsight, this comic was prescient.
Currently this is a hot comic on eBay, sales go for between $40.00 – $100.00. If you find this, hold onto it, this story line might be printed in English soon, which will boost its popularity.