This archived Web page remains online for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. This page will not be altered or updated. Web pages that are archived on the Internet are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats of this page on the Contact Us page.
ARCHIVED - Quebecois Comics
While francophone comics in Canada are primarily concentrated in Quebec, some albums and magazines have been published in other provinces where there are francophone populations -- notably Ontario and Manitoba -- and there has even been a fanzine in New Brunswick and a daily newspaper strip in the Yukon. These are, however, isolated, even exceptional, occurrences.
While the federal government has published numerous "giveaway" comics in French, Quebec remains by far the primary producer of French-language comics in Canada. Between 30 and 50 albums are produced in Quebec every year. As well, several popular humour magazines dedicate a significant number of pages to Quebecois comics. Moreover, certain comic strips native to Quebec are printed in magazines and daily newspapers, and many Quebecois comics fanzines appear on the shelves of specialty bookstores.
Until very recently, most of the activities related to comics -- publishing, organizing specialty shows and exhibits, gathering authors together and teaching comic art -- was concentrated in three large urban centres, Montréal, Québec and Sherbrooke. Since the end of the 1990s, the Gatineau region has also shown considerable activity; so much so that one can now speak of four principal centres of Quebecois comics. Moreover, fanzines are produced in all four corners of the province, including Rimouski, Trois-Rivières, and even Abitibi.
A heritage overlooked
Quebecois comic art, frequently referred to as the BDQ (bande dessinée québécoise), has had a very long tradition. Contrary to widespread opinion, it was not born in the 1970s. In the 19th century, both wordless and captioned1 comic strips could already be found in satirical newspapers. Then, at the beginning of the 20th century (as of 1904), comic strips with word balloons appeared in the large Montréal dailies. During that time, the first artists to use the word balloon struggled to pioneer what would prove one of the century's most popular arts. Throughout the following decades, the BDQ developed and was enriched by tales of knights and by historical, humorous, adventure and science fiction stories. The BDQ's heritage is rich, if largely unknown.
Since the 1970s, researchers have studied aspects of the history of Quebecois comics. Even though there are articles and works on the subject, the overall history of the BDQ remains to be written. It is a history closely linked to that of Quebec itself. In fact, all of the province's recent history is traced in the development of the BDQ: from urbanization to globalization, through Quebec's "great darkness," the Quiet Revolution, the rise of Quebec nationalism and the economic recession.
The following brief historical account of Quebecois comics is divided into seven parts: "Satirical Newspapers," "The Major Press," "The Comic Strip of the 'Great Darkness'," "Springtime of the Quebecois Comic Strip," "Breaking into the Quebec Market," "Groups and Creators" and "Publishing Comic Strips". Each of these parts covers a specific period in the evolution of the BDQ. However, "Newspaper Strips of the 20th Century" and "Comics During the 'Great Darkness'" deal with different aspects of the same period (1919-1965). It was at this time that the first comics periodicals appeared and, though they shared a social context with newspaper comic strips, their development was independent. Afterwards, Quebecois comic strips became more infrequent in newspapers and their history melded with that of periodicals.