Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures

Word Mystery: comic book / bande dessinée / tebeo


Every Wednesday, I explore the linguistic origins of one word in different languages I speak.

I didn’t read a comic book until well after college which is really weird because I read tebeos all the time growing up. Weirder still, comics and tebeos are the same thing but I never thought it was odd to have different reading material in different countries. See, I had two childhoods which existed independently of one another, something I didn’t realize until this past year.

In the US, I was a kid who rode bikes and went to movies and got hot lunch on pizza day. In Spain, I knew no children my own age, ate chocolate sandwiches for breakfast and spent long days talking to animals without another human in sight. In the former, I read books and MAD Magazine. In the latter, I read books and Zipi y Zape and Superlópez.

This is by far my favorite issue. I didn't realize until 2000 that it was a parody of The Fantastic Four and the Justice League because I had never heard of either of those things.

This is by far my favorite issue. I didn’t realize until 2005 that it was a parody of The Fantastic Four and the Justice League because I had never heard of either of those things.

EN → comic book — comics art in the form of sequential juxtaposed panels that represent individual scenes. ORIGIN late 16th cent. Greek kōmikos, from kōmos [revel].

ES → tebeoRevista infantil de historietas cuyo asunto se desarrolla en series de dibujos. [Children’s magazine wherein the stories are told through illustrations.] ORIGIN TBO, the name of a Spanish magazine founded in 1917.

FR → bande dessinéehistoire racontée par une série de dessins généralement accompagnés de textes. [A story told through a series of drawings, generally accompanied by text.] ORIGIN basic compound construction, drawn + strip.

→ Spanish wins today for being the most bonkers.

→ It’s interesting to me that bandes dessinées in France have always been culturally relevant and weren’t second class literary citizens like they were in the US for a long time. I think Watchmen (1987) ushered in the era of people talking about “graphic novels” which are things that grownups can read without shame. Here in France, that has never been the case and there is a lot of respect and demand for quality stories that are told in pictures.


Author: le cul en rows

I'm an American Spaniard, living in France. I like to tell stories.

2 thoughts on “Word Mystery: comic book / bande dessinée / tebeo

  1. I definitely think the influx of anime also helped in legitimizing graphic novels in the US, but I think what keeps the traditional superhero comic in its second-class citizenship aren’t’ the comics themselves, but the culture around them with the toys and all of the various collectibles that you see in the stores alongside them–it does make it all seem a little bit childish. (See Steve Carrel’s character in The 40-Year-Old Virgin to see what I mean.)

    Personally, being introduced to Guido Crepax in college opened my eyes to the possibilities of what graphic novels can offer, and I find it kind of hilarious that you can find his work alongside translated Peanuts cartoons in vintage copies of Linus magazine in Italy.

  2. Pingback: Word Mystery: comic book / bande dessiné...

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