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Women Who Kick Ass in Franco-Belgian Comics

Many of the readers around here are American or Canadian, some of us are British or from other parts of the world. Some of you may like comics, and it seems that comics are not held in high regards by the feminist crowd, since the “comic” word is most applied to American comics, full of skinny women with big boobs. That’s why, when I say I was influenced by women in comics when I was young, a person who hasn’t read a Franco-Belgian comic may be quite confused. So here are three examples of Franco-Belgian comic heroines who kicked ass like a nicely grilled cheese toasty. Most of them come from Spirou Magazine (pronounce Speeroo), a weekly comic magazine funded after World War II, and that remained awesome until the ’90s (aaah, in the good ol’ days, everything was so much better).

#1- Yoko Tsuno

Yoko simply kicked ass. In the very white-dominated comic landscape, she is a Japanese electrical engineer. And for a female character created in the ’70s, that was pretty daring. Roger Leloup, her creator, chose to give her a Chinese grandma to prevent any propagandist use. The stories have a sci-fi drive: Yoko time-travels, she solves mysteries and crimes, goes on other planets, she saves worlds full of giant insects (The Titans) and blue people (The three suns of Vinea)! She wears mini-skirts, is comic-pretty, is qualified in scuba-diving, aikido and helicopter piloting. Vic and Pol are her male sidekicks and they’re not stupid either. They solve problems with their brains and the help of technology. Her flaw is to be a bit too trusting at times but even that is cute. 25 albums of Yoko Tsuno have been published, and they are all available in English. Lucky you.

#2- Adele Blanc-Sec

Some of you may have heard of Adele, as a shitty movie was made out of the awesome juice that the comic is. Jacques Tardi is a fantastic writer (his comic accounts of the First World War will never leave your memories, once you’ve read them) and Adele has brains, balls, and a gun. First published in 1976 in a newspaper, the last album was published in 2007 and it seems most of them are available in English as well (oh what a coincidence!). Adele goes around in Paris post-World War I after being cryogenically asleep for the duration of the war. She is intrepid, feisty, clever, frank, ballsy and big-mouthed. Her adventures include fighting pterodactyls, running after a caveman and uncovering criminal and mad-scientists schemes. She is not drawn in a particularly pretty way and even though sometimes she assumes some sexy poses, she is not a skinny stick.

#3-Jeanette Pointu

Jeanette was a reporter created in 1982 by Marc Wasterlain, and apparently the series stopped in 2005 after 20 volumes. She wasn’t drawn in a very sexy way and was doing her job pretty well, going all over the world (and on Mars) uncovering dirty schemes and saving some lives (and battling giant ants, you know, casually), using her brains and her journalistic instincts. The stories would be quite informative about the countries she was visiting. I just realized that sometimes she showed her boobs, as in “I’m in a third world shower and I need a towel” kind of situation. In a comic magazine aimed at children I find it cool: they’re boobs, not babies’ severed heads, so at the time people were cool with it. Some volumes were dedicated to “Women over the world” describing how Massai or Amazonian women lived but I’ve never read them.

Of course there are more, check out Natacha the air attendant in “Natacha” or Juliette in “Sambre,” but they weren’t as influential, to me, as those ones in the list. Most of those heroines don’t have a love interest, maybe because Spirou’s audience target were boys and so maybe love stories would have been considered boring in those times. I kind of find it good that they had no attachment, they didn’t need a man to get where they wanted. When people tell me that comics are bad for the image of women, those three show that since the ’70s there is some light in the dark tunnel. There must be more to add, though I left the Franco-Belgian comicsphere a while ago. Did any comic heroine influenced you? Why?

3 replies on “Women Who Kick Ass in Franco-Belgian Comics”

Thanks for this article, I’m going to check out Adele Blanc-Sec.

I always had a love/hate relationship with April O’Neil from the ‘Turtles’. She was so kick-ass and smart… until it came to needing to be rescued. That constant ‘silly girl getting into trouble’ trope kind of ruined the character for me.

Yes, Yoko Tsuno! I think I still have a few of those back home (in dutch, flemish-belgian speaking).
I didn’t realise it back then, but they were very feminist comics. Yoko raises her adopted daughter while working in a predominantly male/white enviroment and kicking ass … She almost got me interested in technology ;)

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