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ARCHIVED - Breaking into the Quebec Market
In the 1970s, comics aimed at an adult public appeared, first in Europe, and then throughout the world. In Italy, Linus (1965), Alter Linus, and then Alter Alter (1974) were published. Spain produced Trinca (1970). In France, L'Écho des Savanes (1972), Circus (1975), Métal Hurlant (1975), Fluide Glacial (1975) and (À Suivre) (1978) joined Pilote (a monthly since 1974) and Charlie (1969). In the United States, Heavy Metal (1977) and Raw (1980) came out. Specialized publishers put out several albums for their new, better-heeled public and their offerings covered the shelves.
This move towards adult readership considerably changed the landscape of international comics. Comic art was no longer treated as minor, marginalized art form; instead comics creators came to be seen as real artists.
In Quebec, the Quiet Revolution was coming to an end and, on the eve of a referendum on the national question (1980), Quebec culture underwent an unprecedented period of expansion and recognition. The comic strip was unfortunately not part of this boom, since Quebecois creators had not made sufficient impact.
The Search for Readers (1979- )
Jacques Hurtubise's efforts during the 1970s led to the creation of the monthly Croc in October 1979. Having concluded, based on his past experience, that a magazine consisting exclusively of comic strips would have difficulty surviving in a market as limited as Quebec's, Hurtubise supplemented the comic strips with a large proportion of humorous texts with a social and satirical flavour. From the beginning, Croc received a grant of $ 80 000 from the ministère des Affaires culturelles du Québec. The publication team, reduced to a minimum (Hurtubise, Hélène Fleury and Pierre Huet), nevertheless worked quickly to make Croc a success. Its sales rose from 20 000 to 75 000 copies (even sometimes reaching 90 000).
During the following 15 years, Croc was a major showcase for Quebecois comics. Every major Quebec creator of comics passed through its pages: Réal Godbout, Pierre Fournier ("Michel Risque," "Red Ketchup"), Michel Garneau -- alias Garnotte -- ("Pauvres riches"), Jacques Hurtubise ("Le Sombre Vilain"), Serge Gaboury ("Les Aventures de Hi?Ha Tremblay"), Lucie Faniel ("Olga et les bêtes, Flip-lip"), Patrick Moerrel ("La Patinoire en folie," "Roch Moisan"), Caroline Merola, Jules Prud'homme ("La Sœur violente," "Xavier," "Vie moderne"), Jean-Paul Eid ("Jérôme Bigras"), Jacques Goldstyn ("Toto le Bosniaque," "Les Fiches du neurone banni"), Claude Cloutier ("La Légende des Jean-Guy," "Gilles La Jungle," "Nevada Allaire") and many others. Carried away by this success, Ludcom-Croc, the Hurtubise publishing house, broadened its activities and, with varying degrees of success, produced a collection of comics albums (Croc-Album), television ("Le Monde selon Croc") and radio programs, games ("Croc, le jeu qu'on rit"), software, t-shirts and various gadgets (including a map of the world). In April 1995, the 189th and last number of Croc came out. Hurtubise also published a few numbers of Mad-Québec, a Quebecois version of the popular American magazine, and Anormal, a magazine for teens.
In spite of the many obstacles, Jacques Hurtubise's true ambition was to publish a real comic-strip magazine. With a team of now seasoned artists, in October 1983, he launched Titanic, an unhappily auspicious name. A professional magazine, Titanic published several talented creators and some series that would make a mark on the history of the BDQ. Among Titanic's authors, Garnotte ("Bougon des Grands-Routes"), Rémy Simard ("Zaza D'abord"), Serge Gaboury ("Alys"), Christian, Henriette Valium ("La Mallette de plastique"), Réal Godbout and Pierre Fournier ("Red Ketchup"), Jules Prud'homme and Sylvie Pilon ("Xavier") and Claude Cloutier ("Gilles la Jungle") were all represented. Even the mythical Capitaine Kébec by Pierre Fournier had new adventures in its pages. Despite sales that vacillated between 11 000 and 17 000 copies, the experiment was a financial disaster for the publisher and Titanic sank after 12 issues.
An explosion of magazines
Titanic's brief existence galvanized Quebecois creators. The possibility of being published motivated them. In the next few years, several new magazines appeared that provided varied and professional content. Their existence was frequently brief -- some only lasted for a few issues.
Already in 1981, six issues of Cocktail had appeared, drawn by Yves Millet, with, among others, Jules Prud'homme, Caroline Merola, Luis Neves and Jean Lacombe. Cocktail addressed an adult and knowledgeable public, offering a mix of Quebecois comic strips and classical strips of the American Golden Age. Cocktail stopped in 1982, but, a few years later, was followed by Tchiize! présente and Tchiize! bis. Tchiize! présente was a small leaflet, distributed for free, which appeared twelve times between 1985 and 1987, and then returned from 1996 to 1999, long enough for nine additional issues. Tchiize! bis, in contrast, featured several creators: Luis Neves and Jean Lacombe, as well as Luc Giard, Julie Doucet, André Rowe and Grozœil (Christine Laniel). There were seven issues between 1985 and 1988.
The fanzine Iceberg came out in reaction to the publication of Titanic, and brought together underground authors. Between 1983 and 1985, a first series of five issues presented strips by Henriette Valium, Thibaud de Corta, Normand Hamel, Diane O'Bomsawin, and others. Iceberg returned as a magazine in 1990, bringing together traditional and experimental comics by Grégoire Bouchard, Oncle Graat (Martin Dupras), Cédric Loth, Rémy Simard, Denis Lord and Jean-Pierre Chansigaud. After eight issues, the second series of Iceberg ceased publication in 1994.
Inspired by the translations of American comics published by Éditions Héritage, several fanzines came out between 1978 and 1985, including Météor, Tornade, Laser, Empire, Galaxie, and Phoenix. Stories of superheroes progressively gave way, in these fanzines, to science-fiction stories, as several authors made their debuts: Robert Rivard, Éric Thériault, Benoît Joly, Michel D'Amours and André Poliquin. Today, as with the underground, science fiction continues to be one of the most popular fanzine genres, giving us Strange Memories, Escadron Delta, Veena, Gravité Zéro, Fulgurant and Exil, among others.
Comics-related activity was not exclusively concentrated in Montréal. Several magazines came out of the Québec region including Enfin bref -- which presented five issues (from 1985 to 1986) of comic strips by Love (Michel D'Amours), Denis Goulet, Pierre Drysdale, Marc Pageau, Jean Morin, Louis Rémillard and Benoit Joly -- and La Tordeuse d'Épinal, with eight issues between 1985 and 1988, drawn by Denis Lord and published Jean-François Bergeron, Gilles Picard, Guy Arseno and Hélène Brosseau.
Among the most important magazines in the Québec region was Bambou (Bambou plus as of its eleventh issue). Under the direction of Stéphane Delaprée, Bambou offered, starting in 1986, both humorous and adventure strips by Thierry Sauer, Carbo (Michel Carbonneau), Benoit Laverdière, Jean-Marc Sanchez, Pierre Drysdale, Louis Rémillard, Marc Pageau and Benoit Joly, and provided a full mini-comic, attached to the inside of the magazine. Bambou was also one of the first magazines to have an exchange with European colleagues. Thus, Spanish creators were published in its pages as of issue 10. Bambou disappeared in 1990 after 17 issues.
Humour magazines on the offensive
A new magazine, founded by Sylvain Bolduc, came out in 1987. Named Safarir, it dealt in parodies of American films and television programs Above all, Safarir reached out to an adolescent public, with humour Inspired by Mad, especially in its first issues. The launch of Safarir and its unexpected success hurt Croc, as the two magazines vied for the same approximate niche in illustrated humour. Whereas Croc favoured social satire, Safarir addressed a younger public with a more burlesque sense of humour. Several Quebec creators made their mark in Safarir, including Serge Boisvert DeNevers, André-Philippe Côté, Mario Malouin, Denis Goulet, Love (Michel D'Amours), Christian Daigle, Jean Morin and Jean-Nicolas Vallée.
The arrival of Safarir forced Croc to significantly change its orientation in the hopes of winning back part of its lost market. Caricatures of television and singing stars appeared but to no avail -- sales took a dive and the magazine folded. Once Safarir was the sole remaining humour magazine, it attracted more Quebecois comic-strip producers. Jean-Paul Eid, Serge Gaboury, Bruno Rouyère, Éric Asselin, Sampar, Marc Cuadrado, Denis Rodier, Jüll and Simon Lebeau, among others, joined the original team. Réal Godbout and Pierre Fournier tried to transplant their series Michel Risque and Red Ketchup, but without success -- Safarir's public was too different from Croc's.
In 1995, Safarir tried, without success, to make inroads into the French and European markets with Safarir-Europe, three issues of which came out. In 1997, it tried again on the American market, where the magazine was called Nut! It was a failure yet again. Nut! stopped production after eight issues, reminding everyone rather brutally of the difficulty in exporting humour and breaking through abroad.
The magazine Délire attempted to lure readers with thematic issues. Work, holidays, life as a couple, the car and trips, were only some of the subjects it addressed. Beginning in March 1996, Délire offered primarily humorous texts and illustrations but also a few comic strips written by Gordon Collins, Marc Auger, Émilie Goulet, Pierre Berthiaume, Jacques Lamontagne, and others. Ben by Daniel Shelton also appeared.
In 1990, the first discord occurred among the members of the Safarir team. Several creators left to found Gaga Comix (which published six issues until 1991). This magazine retained the spirit of Safarir, but offered a few more comic strips (by Love, Louis-Guy Dumais, Éric Valois, Jean-François Guay, Denis Goulet, and others). After Gaga Comix disappeared, some creators returned to Safarir. Eleven years later, another crisis shook the magazine: when it moved to Montréal, some members of the team remained in Québec to found the magazine Kamikaz.
The latest comics magazine to arrive on newspaper stands (the first issue appeared in July 2001), Kamikaz also used parodies of television programs and of films and called on "in" humorists to capture the adolescent public. However, the use of touched-up photographs was more widespread than in Safarir. Comic strips, drawn by Bruno Rouyère, Serge Gaboury, Éric Asselin, Jean-Nicolas Vallée and Christian Daigle were regrouped in a section christened "Kam-illustré."
Magazines for children did not disappear with Hérauts and François in 1964-1965. A few years later, in 1971, the Éditions Paulines initiated the magazine Vidéo-Presse, distributed in schools as its predecessors had been. A didactic magazine with religious overtones, but focussing on social, historical, ecological and sporting features, Vidéo-Presse also presented a few pages of comic strips. Between serial adaptations of Jules Verne novels produced by Italian authors, some Quebeckers (Gabriel de Beney, Jean Bello, Marco Illin, Marie-France Guy, Marc Auger, Yves Perron, Fédérico Sanchez, Louis Paradis, and others) produced generally humorous tales. Still, the comic strip star of Vidéo-Presse was "Alexis le trotteur," a strip produced in Italy by Blaise and Bos. Vidéo-Presse closed its operations in June 1995, at the end of its 24th volume.
As of January 1982, the Agence Science-Presse published a bulletin for members of the Club scientifique des petits débrouillards, called Je me petit-débrouille. This bulletin became a full magazine, which, as of January 1992, was called Les Débrouillards (the title of the television program it was inspired by). Jacques Goldstyn was its primary artist from the beginning and the strips of Al+Flag (Alain Gosselin's pen name), Serge Gaboury, Lucy Faniel, Garnotte, Jean-Paul Eid and Raymond Parent also appeared.
Other magazines for children tried unsuccessfully to attain recognition during the 1980s. There were only five issues of Mic Mac between October 1979 and February 1980 and they put forward comic strips by Jean Bello and Bernard Assiniwi ("Le Joyeux Mic Mac"), Raymond Parent ("Églantine et Magané") and Charles Vinh ("Les Naufragés de l'espace"), among others. For five years, between 1986 and 1991, Radio-Canada sponsored the magazine Zip, which promoted its children's programs. Zip published original comic strips by Jean-Paul Hennion, Marco Illin, Serge Gaboury, Lucie Faniel and d'Arche. As opposed to Débrouillards or Vidéo-Presse, these two magazines had no other objective than to amuse children with comic strips, stories and games.
Pignouf was the last attempt at a magazine aimed exclusively at children. The most successful of such magazines, Pignouf presented quality series created by a professional team: "Béatrice l'aubergiste" by Makoello and Richard Houde, "Super-H" by Paul Le Brun and Dario, "Ariane et Nicolas" by Paul Roux, "Pete Kevlar" by Makoello and Jean-Louis Roy, "Barnabé et compagnie" by Jean-Philippe Morin, and, of course, the title hero, "Pignouf," by David and Yves Rodier. Several of these characters were later published in magazines by the Éditions Mille-Îles, where they had new adventures. Pignouf only published five issues from 1995 to 1996 before disappearing.