Zigomar by Nikola Navojev
|Earliest publications||Late 19th century on|
After the breakup of Yugoslavia and the crisis in the 1990's, Serbian comics have experienced a revival.
The Golden Age (1932-1941)
Comics as an art form started developing in Serbia in the late 19th century, mostly in humor and children’s magazines. Early comics entered the Serbian newspapers also through the children's supplement. The daily newspaper Politika was the first to introduce such a section in 1930. In1932 Veseli četvrtak, an illustrated magazine for children, appeared in Belgrade; an unusually large amount of space was allotted to cartoons. The magazine featured foreign works such as The Katzenjammer Kids and Felix the Cat but also Doživljaji Mike Miša (The Adventures of Mika the Mouse), a Mickey Mouse pastiche by Serbian authors. Other weeklies and dailies such as Vreme and Pravda followed suit.
In 1934 one whole page of Politika was devoted to Secret Agent X-9. An editor named Dušan Timotijević christened the new art form "strip", after English "comic strip". In 1935, inspired by the adventures of Raymond's detective, Vlastimir Belkić created the first original character in Serbian comics named Hari Vils. Similarly, two Russian immigrants, artist Đorđe Lobačev and writer Vadim Kurganski, began working on their first comic, called Krvavo nasledstvo (Bloody Heritage), serialized in the illustrated periodical Panorama.
When we started out, nobody thought how it’d all turn out, or what it’d become. How far we’d come! Simply put, we liked the new medium, although nobody realized it was a new medium.— Đorđe Lobačev, in an interview to the Super ITD magazine, 1985
In addition to adventure comics, Walt Disney's funny animals were also popular at the time, especially Mickey Mouse, whose name was used in the titles of a number of comic publications (Mikijeve novine, Mika Miš, Mikijevo carstvo).
Later that year, the first two specialized comic magazines appeared - Strip and Crtani film. Their appearance and content were influenced by the Italian magazines Topolino, L'Audace and L'avvanturoso, as well as French magazines Le Journal de Mickey and Hop-là!. Another Russian immigrant named Nikola Navojev debuted in the pages of Strip. Although he died at the age of 27, Navojev was a prolific author who created a number of characters for Strip, of which jungle girl Tarcaneta (Tarzanetta) is best-known today.
Most of the Golden Age artists were Russian immigrants, collectively known as the Belgrade Circle and gathered at first around the Mika Miš magazine.
Soon enough it was transformed into a real comic magazine, reprinting foreign classics like Prince Valiant, Phantom and Flash Gordon, but also publishing comics by the local authors. Mika Miš lasted from 1936 to 1941, when it ended with issue 505. Its domination would not be questioned until 1939 and the emergence of Mikijevo carstvo and Politikin Zabavnik. The key figures behind all three publications were editors Aleksandar J. Ivković and Milutin Ignjačević.
The notable works included Ivan Šenšin's Hrabri vojnik Švejk (after The Good Soldier Schweik) and Zvonar Bogorodičine crkve (The Hunchback of Notre Damme), Sergej Solovjev's Carev štitonoša, Robin Hud (Robin Hood) and Ajvanho (Ivanhoe), Lobačev's Master Death, Baron Minhauzen (Baron Munchausen) and Biberče (Biberče), Konstantin Kuznjecov's Grofica Margo (Countess Margo) and Bajka o caru Saltanu (The Tale of Tsar Saltan). Unlike most of his contemporaries who were inspired by cultural classics and folklore, Sebastijan Lechner also wrote his own scripts, such as Džarto. Navojev teamed up with comics writer Branko Vidić to create Zigomar. Some of the titles were reprinted in French magazines, while Zigomar was also published in Bulgaria, Italy and Argentina. Other creators of "the first generation" included Vsevold Guljevič, Aleksije Ranhner, Đorđe Janković, Moma Marković, Marijan Ebner, Vojin Đorđević, Nikola Tiščenko, Dragan Savić and Đorđe Mali. Another young artist at the time, Živorad Mitrović would revisit this period in his 1982 film Savamala.
From 1935 to 1941 about twenty comic magazines were launched in Serbia, published weekly and bi-weekly, mostly in black-and-white. They were sold throughout Yugoslavia. In order to boost sales in the western parts of Yugoslavia (today's Croatia and Slovenia), some publications were printed not only in the Serbian Cyrillic but also Latin alphabet. Comics were distributed through convenience stores, newsstands and newsboys, with an average print run of 10,000 - 30,000 copies.
The Golden Age of Serbian comics ended with the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941. After WWII some authors were executed as collaborators by the new communist regime or forced to emigrate.
1945 - 1990
After WWII comics were considered worthless and harmful for children by the communist regime. In 1946 state-owned daily newspaper Borba criticized comics as “black market ersatz goods.” For years to come, comics were discouraged or outright banned. New magazines like Tri ugursuza (after Les Pieds nickelés) and Vrabac were short-lived, although comic strips and cartoons survived in the humor magazines Jež and Mali Jež, where Milorad Dobrić and Dejan Nastić published in the 1960's.
The outlook changed after the Tito-Stalin Split in 1948. In 1951 Walt Disney’s comics returned to Serbia’s newspapers. In 1952 Politikin Zabavnik was revived and is still published, having reached its 3000th issue in 2009. Lobačev was welcomed back to the pages of Zabavnik in 1965. However, it would publish few local comics until Lazo Sredanović’s Dikan in 1969. Zabavnik would boast a circulation of 450,000 in the 1970's.
Nevertheless, back in the 1950's comic magazines like Robinzon and Veseli zabavnik were still censored, but even the Yugoslav Army started publishing some. Zdravko Sulić began his career in such a publication, although the majority of his work would be printed in a new magazine called Kekec.
It was launched by Borba in 1957, featuring French comics such as Lucky Luke, Smurfs and Chlorophylle, but also domestic titles, including the works of "the second generation" of creators, like Aleksandar Hecl of Winnetou fame. The first four-color comic publication reached the print run of 300,000 copies. Kekec lasted for 1532 issues and ended in 1990.
1957 also saw teachers from the small town of Gornji Milanovac launch student newspaper Dečje novine, which grew into a major publisher. Their most successful characters were Mirko and Slavko, heroes of the eponymous comic book. In the 1960's the adventures of the two Partisans peaked at 200,000 copies per issue. To date, it is the only Yugoslav comic adapted into a live action movie. The title was serialized in the Nikad robom comic book series, which also printed works by Petar Radičević (Mystery Knight), Radivoj Bogičević (Akant), Božidar Veselinović (Dabiša) and Živorad Atanacković (Hajduk Veljko), all inspired by the history of the South Slavs. The same publisher launched a number of other magazines, including Biblioteka Lale (which first reprinted Marvel comics in Yugoslavia) and Eks almanah (which introduced DC superheroes, among others).
Starting as an Eks spin-off in 1977, the YU strip magazine turned to be the seminal publication for Serbian authors. Teamed up with writer Svetozar Obradović, Branislav Kerac had already debuted with Lieutenant Tara in the Zlatni kliker magazine. The duo went on to create Kobra, the most popular Yugoslav comic of the 1980's. Kerac’s super-heroine Cat Claw reached even greater success abroad. A number of local creators (Zoran Janjetov, R.M. Guera, Darko Perović, Zoran Tucić, Vujadin Radovanović, Željko Pahek, Dejan Nenadov, Vladimir Krstić and many others) published their early stories in YU strip before they went on to work for foreign publishers. The magazine lasted for 85 issues and ended in 1987.
By the late 1970s, the scene rebounded after the blow it suffered from the 1972 tax law, which targeted not only the yellow press but also comics. From 1971 to 1981, 11,611 issues of comics and pulp novels were printed in Yugoslavia, a total of 717 million copies in the country of 22 million people.
Meanwhile, the student press welcomed comics studies and alternative comics of "the third generation", inspired by Métal hurlant. The Pegaz magazine was another publication that nurtured comics theory; it was also where the award-winning Svemirioni strip by Lazar Stanojević premiered in 1975.
Another new trend in the 1960’s was the emergence of more comic magazines outside of Belgrade. Published by Forum in Novi Sad, Panorama was eventually transformed into Stripoteka, which reached issue 1000 in 2004 and still comes out today. Dnevnik launched Zlatna serija and Lunov magnus strip, featuring Italian comic books like Tex and Zagor. In the 1980's Kerac collaborated with teams of writers and artists while working on licensed Tarzan and Blek comics for these two publishers. The list included artists Branko Plavšić, Goran Đukić, Miodrag Ivanović, Pavel Koza, Marinko Lebović, Petar Meseldžija, Milan Miletić, Sibin Slavković and Dragan Stokić Rajački. The Ninja and Lun kralj ponoći comics were similarly manufactured, but were based on the Yugoslav pulp novels of the same names.
Until 1991 Serbian comics were part of Yugoslav comics. Distributed via newsstands, most comics were sold throughout Yugoslavia, written by and large in the common Shtokavian dialect and printed in the Latin alphabet more often than not. Publications from other republics, especially Croatia, from Plavi Vjesnik to Alan Ford, had a great influence on creators and readers in Serbia. Authors worked for publishers outside Serbia (e.g. artists Dušan Reljić, Bojan Đukić, Ratomir Petrović, Zdravko Zupan and Zoran Kovačević, as well as writer Lazar Odanović collaborated on the licensed Tom and Jerry comics for Vjesnik) and exhibited at the Yugoslav Comics Festival in Vinkovci (Salon jugoslovenskog stripa).
The local comic book industry collapsed with the breakup of Yugoslavia.
1991 - present
After the crisis in the 1990's, Serbian comics have experienced a revival.
List of Serbian comics
- La Bête Noire
- Cat Claw
- Generation Tesla
- Master Death
- Mirko and Slavko
- Tarzan (Yugoslavian Version)
List of Serbian comic artists
- Aleksa Gajić
- Borivoje Grbić
- Zoran Janjetov
- Branislav Kerac
- Dražen Kovačević
- Đorđe Lobačev
- Petar Meseldžija
- Rajko Milošević a.k.a. Gera and R.M. Guéra
- Jovan Nikolić
- Darko Perović
- Vujadin Radovanović
- Gradimir Smudja
- Rade Tovladijac
- Zoran Tucić
- Aleksandar Zograf
- Zdravko Zupan
List of films based on Serbian comics
- Mirko and Slavko (1973)
- City Cat (1991), TV short based on Cat Claw
- Technotise Edit & I (2008), animated, based on Technotise
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