Comics History

History of Bulgarian Comics

Page from Iliustrovano Chetivo (1941)Page from Iliustrovano Chetivo (1941)

Now that Bulgarian contemporary art is well on its way to being integrated into world culture, Bulgarian comics should be granted their rightful place among Bulgarian art, culture and library collections.

Regretfully, due to a variety of reasons, comics have been cursed as an artform in Bulgaria for many years now. After a period of very fruitful development during the 1980s, Bulgarian comics plunged deep into the underground and virtually disappeared from kiosks and bookshops. Right now, if you look for an definition of "comics" in any Bulgarian dictionary (or any Bulgarian equivalent of the word), you won't be able to find one, not even in specialized references. Only the "Dictionary of Foreign Words in Bulgarian Language" gives a vague explanation of what comic art is, but the definition is so ignorant and ridiculous that it's not worth quoting. Nevertheless, the history of comics in Bulgaria is very interesting.

by Hristo KardjilovThe history of Bulgarian comics can be divided in the following periods:

-classic (pre-World War II)
-classic (1940s onwards)
-revival (1980s)
-post-industrial

The very first samples of Bulgarian comic art appeared in papers like Slaveiche. It were sequentially illustrated text poems, illustrated by caricaturists like Slavov and Aleksandar Dobrinov. Prior to World War II the Bulgarian scene had several monthly magazines for kids and also a specialized newspaper, Vessela Drujina, which occasionally featured comics.

Chuden sviatChuden Sviat

On 6th of June 1940 the first issue of Chuden Sviat ("Wonderland") was published in Sofia, an all-comics color newspaper edited by Nikola Kotov, who was greatly influenced by Walt Disney comics. The contributors were some of the best Bulgarian writers of children's literature at that time: Orlin Vasilev, St. C. Daskalov, Angel Karaliichev, Georgi Raichev and others. Artists were Nikola Kotov, Iurdan Stubel and Dochko Atanasov.

Chuden SviatChuden Sviat ('Hrabriat eskimos' by Aleksandar Denkov)

The main influences that were visible in the Bulgarian comics from that period came from the West, especially from heroes very popular at the time like Tarzan, Gangsters and Pirates. Another serious influence was the Italian newspaper Topolino.

page from the final issue of Chuden Sviat (1986) Page from the final issue of Chuden Sviat (1986)

The most successful comics were the ones featuring scenes and fairy tales from Bulgarian folklore, or well-known classic novels and stories like 'Treasure Island' by Robert Louis Stevenson, which was adapted for comics by L. Zidarov.

Iliustrovano chetivo Iliustrovano chetivo

Kartinen sviatMany comic magazines appeared in Bulgaria during the first half of the 1940s. Iliustrovano Chetivo ("Illustrated Book") appeared every Wednesday. Contributors were Zmei Gorianin, Atanas Dushkov, Ivan Dafinkov, V. Kovalevski, and L. Zidarov.

Kartinen Sviat ("Pictoral World") appeared on Wednesdays and was the first magazine to publish Bulgarian material, among others by Zvezdelin Conev, G. Georgiev and V. Milev.

Kartinen sviat

Vesela Drujina ('Cheerful Band'), featuring Martin Branner's 'Perry Winkle' Vesela Drujina ("Cheerful Band"), featuring Martin Branner's 'Perry Winkle'

Sedmichna Zabava ('Weekly Amusement') Sedmichna zabava ("Weekly Amusement") appeared on Tuesdays, edited by D. Mutafchiev. Other magazines that published comics during this period were Papagal and Pataran.

All of these magazines were cancelled in 1944. They were followed by Duga, Diaskop and the new edition of Chuden Sviat.

Romani v Kartini

Romani v Kartini was a series of about 16 comic books published by the printing house Doverie in Sofia. There are different stories by different artists.

Romani v Kartini

Based on a series of articles by Georgi Chepilev in the 1980s, Bulgarian comics can be divided in the following genres:
1) historical - patriotic
2) textbook
3) adventure (that later evolved into 'fiction'')
4) adventurous
5) curious
6) satiric (menipov)
7) sentimental - touching
8) instructive for kids

(Overview courtesy of Vladimir Nedialkov, with additions by Stiliana Thepileva)