Comics / European Comics

Purchasing European Comic Books


By Hervé St.Louis
Jul 4, 2006 - 12:50

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Purchasing European comic books can be a daunting task for a North American. Especially, when reading reviews about all those wonderful books at The Comic Book Bin. Some of the books reviewed are English translations by North American publishers such as NBM and First Second Books. These books are easily available through regular comic book stores which order them from Diamond Comics or from any bookstore.

The real problem is finding original European comic books in French, Italian, German, Spanish or Dutch. If you are a big fan of such books, there is an easy way to find most of these comic books in North America and have them delivered to your home without having to pay large overseas shipping fees or even locate a European store that can take your order and sell them to you. The best way to buy a European comic book is through a book store or a comic book store located in the Province of Quebec in Canada.

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Not only will you pay Canadian prices for these books, you can call them up or order books online and have the same service as you would at your local store. Montreal is the largest French-speaking city outside of Paris, France. It is also the second largest city in Canada. It’s only normal that most of the books that you seek will be available there and in other stores throughout the province. Almost everything published in Belgium and France makes its way to Canada a few months later. The delay is often three months.

For books published in other languages such as Italian, Spanish, German or Dutch, the best series from the countries who publish them are often translated for the French and European markets. The French-speaking market is the largest one in Europe and in terms of numbers, behind only that of Japan. Yes, there are more comic books sold in Europe than in North America! Classic series like Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese were originally published in Spanish and Italian before ever being translated in French. It’s hard to imagine that as later volumes from Pratt came out almost instantaneously in French as in other languages.

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Since everybody in Europe wants their books to be known, most artists and creators make it a point to be published in France first, before their own native countries. That’s why artists like Jodorowsky, whose name is obviously not French has so many books bearing his name and published by French or Belgium-based publishers.

There are several stores that sell European comic books in Montreal, Canada. There are the large book store chains that sell mostly classics like Astérix and contemporary graphic novels by the likes of Moebius. There are bookstores that are more specialized in European comic books. Finally there are regular comic book stores, which carry regular North American comic books ordered through Diamond Comics but also use other distributors to order European books.

Large Book Store Chains

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The easiest books store chain to use if you do not speak French is Chapters-Indigo. Chapters-Indigo is the Canadian equivalent of Borders or Barnes and Noble. It sells everything and anything. Because it is in Canada, it has a large section of books in English, but also a well-furnished section in French. If you buy over the Internet, you’ll have to pick the French section to find your books faster. Although, using an ISBN number, you will be able to locate the book with the English interface too.

Chapters has a large section on French comic books in its Montreal stores. An entire floor is dedicated to them at the two downtown Montreal stores. Using Chapters-Indigo online is similar to using Amazon.com. It’s a gigantic database of books with lots of tabs and often outdated information or no cover images available. However, the tracking on orders is decent and if you adhere to one of their clubs, you can save on orders.

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Archambault is a large bookstore and music chain that belongs to the same company that prints most of DC and Marvel’s comics in Montreal. It’s a large printing and media group called Québécor. Archambault started as a dedicated music store, but expanded into books and films. Prices are not very competitive, although in store service is famous for its well-informed clerks. Calling them is an easier way to locate a book. If they don’t have it, they will probably order it for you. Just one thing to look out for is that they may not be able to speak good English on the phone.

Renaud Bray and other book stores under its banner, like Champigny is the largest French-speaking bookstore chain in Canada. Champigny used to be the best bookstore in Montreal and the one to go to. For years Renaud Bray which was the challenging upstart tried to beat them. They finally did, by buying them out! Renaud Bray is known for its snobbish outlook and overpriced books. However, you will find all the books and comic books that you seek there. Most of their stores have dedicated areas to comic books. The folks who work there know their stuff too. That’s why it costs so much. Again calling them might be an issue as it depends on the ability of the clerk to speak in English.

Smaller Book stores.

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Another popular place for comic books is Fichtre. Fichtre is a bookstore that specializes in Québécois and European comic books. If it’s in French, chances are you will find it there. It is a smaller store, but the staff is crazy about comics and knows their stuff.

Another place many Montrealers go to is the Valet de Coeur. The Valet de Coeur sells collectibles, statues, chest games, Dungeon and Dragon games, Mangas, PVC action figures and of course some comic books. Comic books whether in French or English is not their specialty though.

Le Marché du livre is a large bookstore in downtown Montreal with unbeatable prices. They also sell rare European comic books and often have large discounts on overstock items. They also sell second hand books too. Most of the comics are new, though, except for the rare hardcover books in their rare books’ display.
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I buy all my European comic books there. They have the best prices in town and the staff knows their comic books. They have an entire floor dedicated to comics too. It’s the best place to find older books from the 1990s. I like this store best as it’s not presumptuous, and the clerks are nice.

Finally, a good place to go is Librairie Millénium. Librairie Millénium is where I get all my North American comic books. Millénium is the one place where the staff will serve you in perfect English and know exactly what you’re talking about. They are a regular comic book stores with lots of back issues and graphic novels. Their European section is small. However, as they know North American comic books inside out, you won’t feel lost when talking to them.

Please note that I did not receive any sponsorship for this article and that all the comments and opinions are mine. European comics are great and offer another perspective on things. Now that you know where to get them, all you need to do is learn some French!

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Last Updated: May 15, 2017 - 12:13

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