A beloved storytelling format referred to as “The Ninth Art,” bandes dessinées (BDs) are literally translated as “drawn strips” and are unique from similar graphic storytelling. BDs are also known as Franco-Belgian comics for their places of origin, while comic books (specifically those about superheroes) and manga are more associated with the United States and Japan, each with their own defining characteristics and cultural contexts.

BDs have an expansive genre selection and readership. You can probably name some coups de coeur off the top of your head! If you are looking to expand that list from the comfort of your screen, look no further than Hoopla’s digital collection of Francophone BDs. You likely have access to Hoopla through your local public library, and can find our recommendations en français on our blog. So far, we’ve curated options for movies led by our favorite actors, mystery and crime TV shows, and movies with or about musical components.

In the same way we’ve needed multiple posts to explore Hoopla’s film collection, we’re recommending BDs in sections. This first installment will focus on stories rooted in reality as we know it, while future posts will focus more on mythology, fantasy, or science fiction.

Miscellaneous

Let’s start off this latest list with a variety from a beloved BD author, Moebius (aka Jean Giraud). Lac des émeraudes collects his early work - spanning genres like swashbuckling adventure, humor, science fiction, westerns, and satire - originally published from 1956 to 1979. With shorter, varied stories, this collection could be a great palace to start for those new to bandes dessinées and French learners alike!

Historical

Philippe Thirault dominates this section of our recommendations, with author credits on the first 3 of the following 4 options! Explore different parts of history rendered by different authors through the digital pages of these bandes dessinées !

Shanghai Dreams follows aspiring filmmaker Bernard Hersch and his screenplay writing wife Illo in 1938 Berlin. As Hitler’s influence over Germany becomes increasingly discriminatory and dangerous to our Jewish leading man, Bernard begins to see deportation to Japan as their only option. How will he use his talent to cope with the massive changes his life is about to undergo?

Le Vent des libertaires takes readers to the tumultuous early 20th century in Ukraine, where a young Nestor Makhno struggles to find his place in a country dominated by the rich. This fictionalized tale of the real anarchist shows the defiance of the Bolsheviks and the Germans that sparks fifty years of uprisings and revolution.

L'Aigle Des Mers takes place in 1916 on the high seas of the Atlantic, where a German captain seeks to sink all enemy ships. When captain Von Krüger captures a French crew led by Pénélope de Luynes, will he falter in his plan of attack?

Bouncer, a series from Alejandro Jodorowsky, follows the adventures and misadventures of a one-armed gunslinger (and sometimes saloon bouncer) as he traverses the Wild West. Described as “défenseur presque malgré lui de la veuve et de l'orphelin” (translated: defender, almost in spite of himself, of the widow and the orphan), Bouncer is a complicated hero who is willing to use methods just as stark and deadly as the landscape around him. If you’re looking for an anti-hero and some great depictions of American frontier finery, this is the series for you (and there are 7 books available via Hoopla)!

Polar

Polar: Shots entre amis à Cognac includes the previously unpublished stories from almost thirty award-winning authors. This anthology is a great place to start in the polar category for the uninitiated and a fun addition for the super fan! These stories were chosen by the Cognac Polar festival to help celebrate its 25th anniversary.

Naissance du tigre is Feldrik Rivat’s cross-genre wild ride of a story featuring a supernatural haunting, a suspicious detective hired to help, and murder in Paris of 1889. If you are looking for some spooky frissons with your crime solving, this is the duology for you!

Bonus! This graphic novel is available in translation. See if you can spot any differences between these and their francophone counterparts:

Meyer: Derniers Pas Dans La Mafia by Jonathan Lang takes a look at the flipside of the investigators vs. criminal dichotomy. This BD follows infamous Jewish gangster Meyer Lansky, pulled from his post-faked-death retirement for one final misadventure… which relies on an innocent bystander to have a chance of success.

Hoopla’s bande dessinée collection is borrowable for 21 days at a time, giving readers plenty of time to get wrapped up in each installment! Be sure to keep an eye out for our future posts on this topic, as our librarian is a huge fan of this style of storytelling.

What are you planning to read first? Bonne lecture !

Ingrid began her passion for French through the immersion program in Milton, MA, and has followed it around France and the world. She took a break from this first love to pursue a B.A. in English with a minor in Irish Studies at Boston College and a Masters of Library and Information Sciences at Simmons College. She is thrilled to meld her excitement for libraries and French language and culture in her position at the Center!

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