Comics / Knowledge

Les Éditions Héritages

By Patrick Bérubé
Mar 27, 2010 - 8:15

I often get asked why so many of us French-Canadian read North American comics instead of European comics. After all, most European “albums” are distributed here, available in most public libraries and written in a language we understand. Part of the answer lies in the past, mainly in the late 1960s when a small publisher decided to translate Marvel Comics in French for the Quebec's market.

It's in 1968 exactly that the Édition Héritage adventure began. At that time, only DC Comics were available in French for Canadians and they were imported from Belgium. It's in that context that Édition Héritage struck a deal with Marvel Comics to translate and distribute some of its more popular comic books: Fantastic Four, Hulk and Spider-Man. More followed soon after and Captain America and Rawhide Kid also started to speak French. The 1970s were mainly marked by the appearance of many more of these super-heroes on the newsstand. Even some of the names of these comics were translated and so we saw the “Vengeurs” (Avengers) or “Le maître du Kung-Fu” (Master of Kung-Fu) debut. This decade also saw new translation deals being struck with other publishers such as Gold Key and Archie Comics. This move was probably intended to diversify the readership and it was probably very successful since Archie is still translated today.

The golden age of Édition Héritage was probably between the late ‘70s and the early ‘80s. This period saw a substantial increase of available comics and is probably to most diversified period. At one point there was about 20 different super-hero series being translated plus the various Del Key and Archie comics. It was also at that time that many original columns appeared inside the comics. Those columns were articles about the comic book worlds, drawing tutorials or fan arts. They might not have been the best stuff out there but it was the only place were super-hero fan could learn more about the field.

The next major change for Héritage was the introduction of colors in the early ‘80s in most of its comic books. So far everything had been in black and white with a few notable exceptions. It was also in that period that sales began to decline dramatically. After 1984 only a few comics remained on the rack, until 1987 when every remaining series was canceled. Only a handful of youth-aimed titles were spared.

In retrospect, Édition Héritiage did a pretty good job all these years. It successfully reprinted most series in chronological order (which is why many Europeans collect Héritage comics because the French counterparts was doing a lame job on continuity). It reached different markets and it used its popularity to give a few local artists a chance with new series. One of its strengths was also that its titles were distributed on newsstands up until the end, which means that they were relatively easy to come by.

Some would argue that the lettering was at best acceptable, that some crossovers were not fully covered or that the diversity was not that present, but one thing is for sure: with roughly 17 years of publication, Édition Héritage introduced a whole generation of French-Canadians to American super-heroes. For my part, it took a long while to understand that New Yorkers were not French speaking, that the Fantastic Four were not really ordering Quebec's traditional foods at the restaurant and that the name “Daily Bugle” was probably not a French word that I was yet too young to understand.

Last Updated: Feb 19, 2015 - 11:46

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Heritage was important
Heritage was extremely important for an entire generation of readers - mostly gen X-ers. It's through Heritage that I first read about the Dark Phoenix saga, that I collected all of the early Transformers comics from issue #1 to 18 (the last one published in French). It,s through Heritage that I first heard of Daredevil, Longshot, the Avengers, the X-Men, the Submariner, Gene Colan, Jack Kirby, John Byrne and the New Teen Titans. When Heritage stopped publishing my favourite titles in French, I had to go hunt them elsewhere. For a few years, I survived on French exports with badly translated names (Wolverine was called Serval - a different animal than a wolverine in French).

The one day, I was told of a cool comic shop in downtown Montreal probably serving English speakers only but through the years grew to accommodate the needs of the French comic book collectors who could no longer get their fix in French.

The rest is history.

Without Heritage, there would be no Comic Book Bin today.
#1 - Herve St-Louis - 03/27/2010 - 10:55

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