Comics History

Bulgarian Comics Revival

Daga 1979Daga 1992

1970s-1980s: Duga and Chuden Sviat
The most fruitful period for Bulgarian comics started in the late 1970s and lasted throughout the 1980s. During that time, Bulgarian readers enjoyed two periodical, all-comic publications - Duga ("Rainbow", 1979-1990) and Chuden Sviat, and also sporadic inserts in the newspaper Septemvriiche, the tribune of the Bulgarian Communist Youth Organization. One of the main authors in Duga magazine was the most succesful Bulgarian comic artist Rumen Petkov, creator of the heroes 'Choko and Boko' and author of the first Bulgarian full-length animated movie 'The Treasure Planet' (1982). Later Rumen Petkov built a successful career in the West and became one of the creators of such famous Cartoon Network features like 'Johnny Bravo' and 'Dexter's Laboratory'. Three other famous animators who worked for Duga were Todor Dinov, who created the independent comic strip 'Malkoto Anche', Donio Donev, who worked as editor, and Boris Dimovski, whose comics were mostly inspired by fairy tales. Nikolai Dodov created perhaps the most recognizable character in Duga: the little boy 'Darko', whose hat resembled a red-and-white mushroom. Sotir Gelev made comic strip adaptations of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Some of the other artists were Grigor Boiadjiev, Konstantin Georgiev, Evgeni Yordanov, Hristo Jablianov, Hristo Kardjilov, Ilia Sarailiev, Stoyan Shindarov, Petar Stanimirov, Dimitar Stoianov and Elena Stoilova (one of the rare female Bulgarian comics creators).

Contributors to the new Chuden Sviat were Peter Stanimirov, Ivan Stoilov, Boris Krumov and Dimitar Chaushov. The new edition of the latter magazine featured the work of artists like Anton Antonov, who adapted 'Gulliver's Travels' into a comic strip, and Hristo Jablianov, who did the same with 'Robin Hood'.

Evgeni Yordanov deserves special mention because in 1983 he choose to make a comic book as part of his graduation project at the Academy of Art. It was considered a scandal at the time.

Choko and Boko, by Rumen Petkov

During its twelve years of existence, Duga magazine provided a lot of opportunities for many talented Bulgarian artists like Venelin Varbanov (creator of series 'Hari' and 'Velikite geografski otkritia'), Evgeni Yordanov ('Dobromir', 'Tomek'), Valentin Angelov ('Parvobitni nebivalici'), Penko Gelev and Nikolaj Kirov ('V sveta na jivotnite'). The art director and godfather of Duga was Georgi Gadelev.

by Venelin Varbanov

1985-1989: Fall of communism
From 1985 on the new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev loosened the tight government control in many Eastern European countries. This gave many people more access to foreign media previously unknown due to Soviet censorship. The lack of translated publications during the Iron Curtain years and the fact that many people, like Bulgarians, were totally unfamiliar with the world's comic classics caused an overwhelming supply of new translated titles, like René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's 'Astérix'. In 1989 the Iron Curtain came down and by the fall of that same year many Eastern-European countries became democracies, including Bulgaria. Oddly enough many Bulgarian comics gradually disappeared from the bookshops and disappeared into the underground. The reasons behind this remain unexplained, just like the question whether there are any chances for their revival, otherwise the new generation of artists will inevitably be forced to seek opportunities in Western countries. For the last few years only a handful of artists published their works in Bulgaria - mainly in lifestyle magazines like Egoist, Metropolis and Kamikadze. Among the new names are: Koko Sarkisian, Yordan Brankovski and Titis.

Diaskop (1991)1990s
Diaskop, founded in 1991, is the only magazine in Bulgaria to publish articles on the history and analysis of comics. It also publishes comic stories, among others by its founder, Georgi Chepilev.

2000s and 2010s
In November 2003, comics magazine Duga was relaunched, providing a platform for a whole new generation of Bulgarian comic artists.

'Diaskop' (1991).

Some Bulgarian comic artists have tried to merge with foreign genres. Daniel Atanasov created manga-inspired series like 'Virkonium', 'Bion', 'Bonzai' (which he adapted into a short film in 2013), 'Shaman', 'Element' and 'Dragonlast'. Other artists made a career abroad altogether, like Rumen Petkov who became an animator for many animated series on Nickelodeon in the 1990s and 2000s. Alex Maleev, who started out creating comics in his home country, moved to the United States in the 1990s where he became an artist for Marvel Comics, working on the series 'Daredevil' (an original creation by Stan Lee and Bill Everett). 

In the 21st century webcomics emerge as a new genre and Bulgaria has joined the new movement too, with Daniel Atanasov ('Chisuji'). Other artists who keep the Bulgarian comics tradition alive are Vladimir Nedialkov and the brothers Emiliyan and Stanimir Valev. The Valev brothers created 'Star Bable' (2009) and 'Under My Skin' (2011), the first Bulgarian digital graphic novella.

Bulgarian comic artists in the Comiclopedia

External links:
The Daga website
Daga cover collection

(Overview courtesy of Vladimir Nedialkov, with additions by Stiliana Thepileva. Edited by Kjell Knudde.)