Rainbow – The Lost Bulgarian Comics
By Hervé St-Louis
May 15, 2014 - 8:56
Comics readers probably don’t know Bulgaria’s comic book heritage. Still, like many other parts of the world, it has its own story to tell. Bulgaria was part of the Communist bloc during the second half of the 20th century. During this period, there was only one comic book that the ruling Communist Party approved. Of course, it was a children-friendly publication with nothing subversive. Whether underground cartoonists operated in Bulgaria during Communism is another story. Duga (Rainbow) is the name of this unique Bulgarian comic book series. According to University of Toronto PhD student Asen Ivanov, Duga published comic book adaptations of the October Revolution and other classic novels like Treasure Island and The Hobbit.
Duga was an anthology series. Fans of the series have collected several of the issues and offered them to the public as scanned digital comics. The first issue of Duga from 1979 is available as well as some of the more recent ones from 1992. Latter issues are of significant interest to comic book scholars. They can help them understand how the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and Russia affected Bulgarian comics. How did world events affect the contents of latter issues? Was Duga just continuing on as if Fukuyama’s end of history never happened?
Duga featured tenured drafters with solid compositions and effective inking. The style of stories ranged from realist to cartoony depending on the subject matter. This means that there was a stable of competent comic book creators in Bulgaria and that Duga was the only local public outlet for them. Did any of Duga’s creators found work in the Western-based European comic book industry or even in North America? What's missing is more analysis, historical research, and language interpretation.
From the sample I observed, the material had more boy-friendly contents. Most of the stories featured adventurers. It was easy for me to recognize the work of several illustrators over several issues. The early issues seem to cover more historical material and retelling of cultural myths. Newer issues featured more regular features with recurring characters. Notice how this Communist comic book had no super hero stories. Did Communist Bulgaria associated super heroes with capitalism?
The colouring was rudimentary but like what one would have observed in any comic book during the 1980s. In the samples I reviewed, the blue hues have faded over time. This is normal for older comics not preserved carefully. To view the scanned comics online visit http://issuu.com/razkazivkartinki
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