Collaboration seven: Making a comic book

L to R: Middle Eastern Heroes, Captain America and Chacha Chaudhary

How do comics reflect the countries they were created in? As a series featuring collaborating artists from around the world concludes, a global look at comic styles offers a glimpse into national cultures.

The cult of comic has many followers. Some love the characters, some are in awe of the artwork. For many is it the simple skill of telling a story through pictures.

While the simplicity and soul of the comic is universal, the pages can vary according to the countries they were created in.

"There are different styles and themes," says Tim Pilcher, author of The Essential Guide to World Comics and the chairman of the Comic Book Alliance.

"These approaches can make the comics very different."

While the comic industries in Japan, Europe and the US are well established, in the Middle East it took more time.

The first comic book superheroes were created in 2005. Aya, Zein, Jalila and Rakan from Middle Eastern Heroes have dark pasts that have transformed them into superheroes. Landmarks such as the Sphinx appear in the background, reinforcing the setting and the relevance to its readers.

An experiment in creativity

Collaboration Culture
  • British artist David Shrigley, famous for his childlike line drawings, travels to Tokyo to work with Japanese artist Teresa Chiba
  • They work together to create a comic, which they then hand out for free
  • Find out how they get on with features and picture galleries in the Magazine
  • And watch on BBC World News, Saturday at 00:30 or 07:30, and Sunday at 12:30 or 18:30 (all times GMT)

India's comic book history goes back much further. Amar Chitra Katha is a comic book based on stories from Indian classics. Sprawling epics are condensed into comic strip form.

Cartoonist Pran Kumar's Chacha Chaudhary, is another Indian favourite. Chacha the wise old man uses his intelligence to outwit his enemies and story lines include cricket matches and chapatti eating.

"I wanted to created something that is Indian, that covers themes that are important and relevant to India," says Kumar. "I started making comics in the 1960s but everyone was reading Western ones, I thought why not create an indigenous comic, based on local themes."

In Japan, comics, or Manga, are read by children and adults alike. Subject matter varies wildly, from adventure stories to romance and the X-rated. The industry is fast and disposable. Artists can turn out 20 to 30 pages a week resulting in phonebook size booklets, devoured and then discarded.

"Because they are so long, you can get things like a bead of sweat on someone's forehead moving downwards over three pages," adds Pilcher. "There is a character called Gon, who is a tiny dinosaur, it has these amazingly detailed and beautiful landscapes. People love it."

Here is a brief rundown of seven countries and their comics.

Country Artwork Characteristics

United Kingdom

Dennis the menace

The Beano is loved for its silly humour and fart jokes. It is about mischief and naughtiness, and it is clearly aimed at children. Viz is the raunchier, swearier comic for adults. Inspired by Beano and Dandy, Viz has the same level of daftness, but for grown-ups.

United States

Spiderman

The US is home to the superhero - Batman, Superman, Captain America and Spider-Man are among the stars. They set out to save the world, thanks to their super strength. US landmarks such as the Empire State Building, often feature in the artwork.

Japan

Fan look at manga images

Manga comics, popular with both adults and children in Japan, deal with themes like school romance and literary classics, innocent stories and even pornography. The artists are prolific, and the comics long - often with as many pages as a phone book.

India

Chacha Chaudhary

Chacha Chaudhary is a wise old man who solves problems with his sharp intellect - it is said his brain works faster than a computer. The brawn comes from Sabu, a muscle man from Jupiter. Sabu eats 100 chapattis at a time, but he is softly spoken and shy around girls.

France and Belgium

Asterix

Both are big comic book countries, and linked in their approach. Tintin (Belgian) and Asterix (French) are the best known. "The language helps," says Tim Pilcher from the Comic Book Alliance. "Many artists train in Belgium and move to France where there is a wider audience."

Egypt

Zein The Last Pharaoh

Middle Eastern Heroes, launched by Cairo based AK Comics, features a Princess of Darkness, a time-travelling pharaoh and an ancient Arabian swordsman. Launched in 2005, the comic is printed and sold in the Middle East, but drawn in Brazil.

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