12 French Comics to love learning French

There is no better way to learn French than reading a few French comics. Here are the top recommendations from parents and teachers in France.
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Books are great and all, but a picture is worth a thousand words. If you are looking to improve your French, there is no better way than reading a few French comics.

And luckily for us, the comic industry in France is quite big. There are many famous French comic book series that have hit international status and been translated and exported the world over.

Now, I must admit a lot of the French comics in this article, are actually from Belgium, and not France. With French being one of Belgium’s official languages, many of comics were written and created by Belge writers and were very quickly adopted in France. (The French part of Belgium has a population of around 4.5 million people, so France with its 66 million people next door an ideal target market for Belge comics.)

Many of these comics originated in magazine publications, before spinning out on their own. The competition between magazines Spirou, Tintin, Pilote in the 1950s led to a golden era of comics, with the titles continuing on to this day.

So with that, here are the top French comics that make for great reading and a bit of fun, whether or not you are trying to learn French.

☞ READ MORE: French Culture: 50+ facts and tidbits from France

1. Asterix and Obelix

Difficulty: Intermediate

Age group: Children and Adults

The grandaddy of all French comics will always be Asterix and Obelix. Written by Frenchman René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo for the magazine Pilote, the comic is set in the era of Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire. Each comic book starts off with the quote:

The year is 50 BC. Gaul is entirely occupied by the Romans. Well, not entirely… One small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against the invaders. And life is not easy for the Roman legionaries who garrison the fortified camps of Totorum, Aquarium, Laudanum and Compendium…

Asterix & Obelix

Gaul is the name of old France and in the era before Christianity, our héros Asterix and Obelix belong to one of the Celtic tribes who are fighting the dastardly Romans. With the help of a few magical druid potions, of course.

The story goes to the heart of France, or at least what French people would like to imagine it to be. There is a reason that the large theme park Parc Asterix is one of the largest attractions in France. (For info, Brittany in France today still has a strong Celtic tradition. And if you are wondering where Halloween started off, wonder no more.)

With plenty of laughs and silly Romans hanging about, our heroes meet everyone from Cleopatra to a magic carpet in India. The comic books have gone on to sell millions of copies of their comics and make several full-length movies.

Buy Asterix and Obelix here.

2. Tintin

Difficulty: Intermediate

Age group: Teens and Adults

Another French comic book classic has to be Les Aventures de Tintin (the Adventures of Tintin). Created by Belge author Hergé in 1929, Tintin is a young reporter who travels the world with his faithful dog Milou, exposing wrongdoings and scandals everywhere.

Tintin is the epitome of what every young adventurer years to be. A quick thinker, a brilliant engineer, a superhuman athlete with a crack shot to defend himself when necessary, there is nothing he can’t do. Without the swagger of James Bond, Tintin is an intrepid young man of high moral standing.

Tintin Comic cover
Shop Now: Tintin

The weakness in the Tintin repertoire, however, has to be that there are quite a few political overtones in the Tintin comics. With the character traveling everywhere from Congo to Imperial Japan, there is an overuse of negative stereotypes and some of the storylines have not aged well.

Other stories, however, such as where he flies to the moon or meets a unicorn, will let you enjoy his plucky spirit that always seems to find a way to succeed.

Buy Tintin here.

3. Babar

Difficulty: Beginner

Age group: Children

First issued in 1931 in the French comic Histoire de Babar by Jean de Brunhoff, is about an elephant dressed in a bright green suit.

It tells of a young elephant, named Babar, whose mother is shot by a hunter. Babar escapes, and in the process leaves the jungle, visits a big city. A kind old lady takes him in, clothes him, and hires him a tutor.  After learning the human way of life, he returns to the jungle to teach his fellow elephants how to be “civilized”.

Babar comic
Shop Now: Babar

Just as he returns to his community of elephants, their king dies from eating a bad mushroom. Because of his travels, Babar is appointed king of the elephant kingdom. He gets married and has children, going on to teach them small lessons in each story.

Buy Babar in Paris and Babar comics here.

4. Lou !

Difficulty: Intermediate

Age group: Tweens up to Young Adults

One of the newer kids on the block is the French comic book Lou! Written by Julien Neel, the first edition was published in 2004. Lou features a 12-year-old girl named Loulette and her single mom Emma. She is a typical tween, funny and independent, and sometimes more mature than her mom.

Lou! comic book
Shop Now: Lou !

The comics also feature the next-door neighbor she has a crush on, her best friend Mina, a nameless cat, and a grumpy grandmother. Part romantic comedy and part tween-drama, this popular comic book has been turned into an animated television series, as well as a movie in 2014.

(P.S. the space between Lou and ! is not an accident. You can have a look at my article on French punctuation here, for an explanation.

Buy Lou ! here.

5. Boule et Bill

Difficulty: Beginner

Age group: Children and adults

For a comic that will appeal to all ages, try Boule et Bill.  Created in 1959 by Belgian writers and artist Jean Roba and Maurice Rosy for Spirou magazine, the story is about a typical family.

Boule, a 7-year-old boy is the main character with Bill his cocker spaniel, somewhat similar to the Peanuts comics. The stories revolve around typical family life, with Boule hanging out with his friends and dog. Bill the dog is quite intelligent, being quite able to fend for himself and get himself and Boule out of trouble.

Boule et Bill Comic Book
Shop Now: Boule et Bill

There are several gags with the parents and other adults in the comics, with the mom stereotypically trying to keep the house clean despite the kids’ antics, and the dad trying to impart knowledge to young Boule and Bill.

If you are interested in reading about a typical French/Belge family, living in the burbs, this is comic book for you. Most of the storylines and laughs happen around their home and neighborhood, but also include holidays such as the beach, etc. (French people do have a decent amount of holidays you know 😉 ).

Buy Boule et Bill here.

6. Gaston LaGaffe

Difficulty: Beginner

Age group: Children and adults

With tongue firmly in cheek, Gaston LaGaffe’s last name means “the blunder” in French. First written by Belgian cartoonist André Franquin in 1957, the comic book follows the daily life of a lazy and accident-prone officeworker.

Gaston LaGaffe comic book
Shop Now: Gaston Lagaffe

Gaston works at Spirou magazine, the same magazine in which the comic was originally published. Instead of working, Gaston spends his days playing music and conducting scientific experiments that usually up in a giant gaffe. Gaston is a frustrated engineer building random contraptions that never quite work as expected.

There have been several comics released in the series over the decades, including a movie in 2018.

Buy Gaston LaGaffe here.

7. Les Schtroumpfs

Difficulty: Beginner

Age group: Children

The French version of the Smurfs is called the Schtroumpfs (pronounced sch-troum-phfs). It is another legendary title in Spirou magazine, created by Peyo (the pen name of Pierre Culliford) in 1958.

Schroumpfs comic book in french
Shop Now: The Schtroumpfs

With over 100 blue characters in their little village, the Schtroumpfs quickly took on a life of their own. If you are already familiar with the smurfs but hadn’t realized they were French, a hidden clue is in their hats.

The Schtroumpfs wear Phrygian caps, which came to represent freedom after the French revolution, and is the same hat that the French symbol Marianne wears.

Buy Les Schtroumpfs here.

8. Pico Bogue

Difficulty: Intermediate

Age group: Tweens and Adults

Pico Bogue is a series of comics created by a mother-son duo, screenwriter Dominique Roques and her son artist Alexis Dormal.

Pico, real name is Picolino Bogue, is a 10-year-old boy with messy red hair. Usually dressed in a red t-shirt and green pants, Pico is curious and intelligent, his reflections give the comics subtle humor as he ponders the world around him. 

Pico Bogue comic
Shop Now: Pico Bogue

Pico asks a million questions, entertaining and exasperating everyone around him. His questions will make you think though, with a maturity that belies his age.

Buy Pico Bogue here.

9. Ana Ana

Difficulty: Beginner

Age group: Children

Pico has a little sister named Ana Ana. Compared to red-haired Pico, Ana Ana is a little blonde dressed in red and white stripes and blue jeans, and is just as lively herself.

Ana Ana comic book
Shop Now: Ana Ana

With her doudous (favorite toys) in tow, Ana Ana also explores the world around her, but with the innocence and naivity of the very young. This comic series is clearly aimed at young children, with easier French vocabulary to follow along.

Buy Ana Ana here.

10. Bécassine

Difficulty: Beginner/Intermediate

Age group: Teens and Adults

First published in 1905, Bécassine is considered one of the first modern bande dessinée, and female protagonist in history.

She didn’t start off as a traditional heroine, however. At first, Bécassine is portrayed as rather naive and provincial, stumbling around for laughs by the haughty Parisian. A young Breton housemaid, she is usually depicted wearing a green traditional Breton peasant costume, with lace coiffe and clogs.

Becassine
Shop Now: Bécassine

As the comic became more popular, Bécassine grows by undertaking various exploits and becoming a plucky young adventurer. From capers on a cruise ship to helping the Allies in a couple of World Wars, Bécassine comes into her own.

Buy Bécassine here.

11. Blake et Mortimer

Difficulty: Intermediate

Age group: Teens and Adults

If you love spy series and suspense, you will enjoy Blake and Mortimer. Created by Belge writer Edgar P. Jacobs in 1946, the comic book features Philip Mortimer, a British scientist, and his friend Captain Francis Blake of MI5 go on various adventures as they try to stop their archnemesis, Colonel Olrik.

With a bit of sci-fi thrown in, there is everything from espionage to time travel. Even though the original author has since passed, new editions are regularly put out, with the Call of the Moloch published in 2020, and another new release scheduled for 2022.

Buy Blake et Mortimer here.

12. Mélusine

Difficulty: Beginner/Intermediate

Age group: Children and Young Adults

Created by Belge duo François Gilson and artist Clark, red-haired Mélusine is a witch. She is a spritely 119 years old (which translates to 19 in human terms), and works as an au pair (nanny) in an old haunted castle.

Melusine Comic books
Shop Now: Mélusine

Beyond the drudgery of being a servant, she also goes to witches’ school where she excels at somehow having her spells and potions take unexpected turns.

With a variety of supernatural characters at the castle, her school, and members of her family, there is always some strange and magical event to amuse and laugh at

Buy Mélusine here.

Frequently asked questions

What are comics called in French?

Comics are called “Bande dessinées” in French, which literally translate to “drawn strips”). The abbreviation BDs is also used regularly. So if you are looking online for comics in French, this is the phrase you should be looking for.

Are comics a good way to learn French?

Yes, comics are a great way to learn French, since they are usually aimed at kids and young adults and the characters will use simple words. The pictures also make the context easier to understand, even if you don’t understand every word you are reading.

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Any other famous French comics that you have preferred? If you enjoyed that article, check out our list of the best French children’s books, books for beginners, and other resources to learn French.

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12 French Comics to love learning French

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