The Adventures of Asterix

7 Popular French Comic Books

When we were kids, comic books (bande dessinée) brought some of our favorite characters and stories to life with vivid imagery. Who would have guessed that, as grown-ups, we could use them for super-powered French language learning?

Comic books don’t only contain good memories, they can help you learn a new language: The combination of a good story and illustrations are a fantastic way to connect new words with familiar pictures. Plus, it’s fun!


1. Astérix Asterix

Level: A2 (pre-intermediate) and above

Asterix is arguably the most popular series in France—it even has an entire theme park dedicated to it. It first appeared in 1959 in the magazine Pilote and is currently published by Hachette. Today, over 35 volumes have been released.

The comics follow the story of a village of Gauls, who are attempting to avoid Roman occupation. Astérix, of course, is a Gaul, as is his partner in crime, Obelix. They avoid Roman occupation in a very unconventional way—through a magic potion boiled by their druid, Panoramix, that gives them superhuman strength. Their adventures lead them all around the world.

The series has become so popular that it’s been translated into over 100 different languages. You can find this comic in any French bookstore or order it from the official website or Amazon.

2. Les Aventures de Tintin Tintin and Snowy

Level: A2 (pre-intermediate) and above

In France and Belgium, “The Adventures of Tintin” is a comic series that’s been around since 1929, first appearing in Le Petit Vingtième, the version of Le Vingtième Siècle for young readers.

After it gained great notoriety, the Belgian cartoonist, Hergé, the pen name of Georges Remi, created a studio in 1950 where he began to produce the series of Les Aventures de Tintin that’s so well-known today.

Tintin is a young reporter who, with the help of his trusty dog Snowy, goes on grand adventures to solve crimes and get stories. It’s known for its wonderful drawings, slapstick humor and social and political commentary. Other main characters include Captain Haddock, a Merchant Marine sea captain who’s Tintin’s best friend, and Professor Calculus, an absent-minded physicist.

Tintin albums and comics are quite accessible, just like Astérix, and can be purchased on the series’ website, in any French bookstore or Amazon. 

3. Gaston Gaston Lagaffe

Level: A1 (beginner) and above

As many major comic series have begun, Gaston started in 1957 by Belgian cartoonist André Franquin in the famous magazine Spirou. Though wildly popular in France and Belgium, there’s no English translation save for a few stories called “Gomer Goof.” This means you won’t feel tempted to pick up an English version!

The story is one of Gaston Lagaffe, an office junior working at Spirou, the magazine in which the comic was originally published. Normally, Gaston is skirting his responsibilities, avoiding work, losing mail and missing deadlines.

Instead, he indulges in hobbies like cooking, rocket science, music, decorating and often catastrophically fails. He has two pets, a seagull and a cat, and co-stars with other workers in the office including Fantasio, Gaston’s boss, and Spirou, the mediator between Fantasio and Gaston.

Their website has a comprehensive list of all the albums of Gaston, and they can be found on Amazon.

4. Blake and MortimerBlake and Mortimer

Level: B1 (intermediate) and above

Edgar P. Jacobs, the Belgian creator of Blake and Mortimer, was actually a collaborator with Hergé, the author of Tintin. Blake and Mortimer began in the magazine Tintin in 1946, and was soon published into book form by Les Editions du Lombard

The main characters of Blake and Mortimer are Philip Mortimer, a leading British scientist, and his friend Captain Francis Blake of MI5. They fight against their biggest enemy, Colonel Olrik, who appears in almost every book. Their adventures with this enemy lead them into grand adventures involving detective work, science-fiction, time travel, Atlantis and espionage.

Their most famous comic book album, “La Marque Jaune” (“The Yellow ‘M'”), is arguably one of the most iconic comic book album covers in the entire history of comic books.

The official website is a great resource and provides ways to read about Blake and Mortimer as well as purchase the albums through the website. You can also find them on Amazon. 

5. Boule et Bill Boule et Bill

Level: A1 (beginner) and above

Boule et Bill (Billy and Buddy in English) is a comic that first appeared in Spirou in 1959. It was created by Belgian cartoonists Jean Roba and Maurice Rosy. It actually was a staple in the magazine for 25 years before the publisher Dupuis edited and put out 21 albums in 1985.

The comic follows the adventures of seven-year-old Boule and his dog Bill. Boule’s parents and the family’s pet turtle, Caroline, are the other characters that are part of the story. It’s a rather wholesome comic and shows the rather regular life of the characters. This is not surprising as one of the intentions was to make a sort of French-version of Peanuts

It was also made into a television series over the span of several decades and into a video game. Boule et Bill appears on the Dupuis website and many of the comic albums are available on Amazon

6. Les Schtroumpfs Les Schtroumpfs (The Smurfs)

Level: A1 (beginner) and above

Now this is one that you’re bound to know! What you might not have known is that The Smurfs, or Les Schtroumpfs, was originally a comic from Belgium, created by cartoonist Peyo, the pen name of Pierre Culliford, in 1958. 

Smurfs made an appearance in another comic story called La flûte à six trous” (“The Flute with Six Holes”) and proved to be a huge hit. After being side characters, they eventually got their own comic strip in the Spirou in 1959. As you know, it eventually became an international sensation. 

There are Smurf toys, several movies, dozens of video games and anything else you can think of. It’s also been translated into over 20 languages. Just make sure that for practice you stick with the original French versions! You can find the volumes on Amazon.


Level: B1 (intermediate) and above

This is a Belgian graphic novel series by writer Jean Van Hamme and artist William Vance. It follows a man who wakes up washed ashore and doesn’t remember who he is. His only clues are the Roman numerals XIII tattooed above his collarbone, a photo of a woman and his exceptional combat skills.

Does it sound a bit like “The Bourne Identity”? It turns out that the creator was inspired by the Bourne books and never hid the fact. Like many on this list, this comic also got its start in the Spirou magazine and was first published in 1984 (the first Bourne Identity book was published in 1980). 

XIII has also been adapted into a video game and a television show. There have been more than 20 volumes published, and like many other classic comics, it has undergone several iterations over the decades. You can find the originals as well as newer volumes on Amazon. 

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So there you have it. Why not improve your French by diving into these classic French-language comics?

You’ll enjoy yourself and improve your language skills at the same time!

And one more thing...

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