french-graphic-novels

7 French Graphic Novels for Learners of All Levels

Comic books are a great way to learn French in a fun, engaging way.

But sometimes you want a deeper, more complete French reading experience.

That’s where graphic novels really shine, as they’re sort of like the sophisticated, classier, grown-up cousin of comic books.

In this post, we’ll share 7 French graphic novels for you to really get into while improving your language skills at the same time!

Contents

1. “Spirou et Fantasio” by FranquinQuatre aventures de Spirou et Fantasio book cover

The first graphic novel on our list is part of a series. “Spirou et Fantasio” (“Spirou and Fantasio”) by Franquin are some of the most popular graphic novels on Earth, and there are nearly 100 albums of their stories published to date.

The stories follow Spirou and Fantasio, two journalists who go on humorous adventures not unlike those of Tintin, a fellow Franco-Belgian graphic novel series (see below!). In addition to the main characters, we’re also joined by their friends such as the inventive Count of Champignac and Spirou’s pet squirrel.

“Spirou et Fantasio” books are perhaps best suited for beginners (A1 to A2 level) due to their often lighthearted nature and uncomplicated subject matter. For example, in the tome (edition) mentioned above, the very first stories in the series, we encounter Spirou and Fantasio at un ring de boxe (a boxing ring) and in une chasse au robot (a robot chase) where they must save the world from a robot with plans to conquer the world.

2. “Valérian et Laureline” by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Valérian and Laureline (Tome 1) La Cité des eaux mouvantes book cover

Our next recommendation is also part of a series of popular graphic novels. You may have heard of these graphic novels “Valérian et Laureline” (“Valerian and Laureline”) by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières before because they were made into an English-language movie.

The series revolves around a space pilot named Valérian and his sidekick Laureline. As you can imagine, they travel around Earth and outer space, fighting enemies and doing good where they can. 

The plot of the particular tome I’ve linked to in the heading, “La Cité des eaux mouvantes” (“The City of Moving Waters”), centers on their adventure in a flooded, post-global-warming New York City, where they must fight many robots and villains.

This is a great intro to the “Valérian et Laureline” series, and you’ll pick up some French lingo for fantasy and science fiction. It’s suited for pre-intermediate learners (A2) and above. Additionally, at the end of this tome there’s an encyclopédie loufoque (crazy encyclopedia) that lists all the creatures that Valerian and Laureline encounter during the first ten editions of the series.

3. “Thorgal” by Jean Van Hamme and Grzegorz RosinskiThorgal (Tome 1) La magicienne trahie book cover

While it’s tempting to believe that Thorgal” is a graphic novel based on traditional Norse mythology, it actually incorporates many genres including science fiction, horror and adventure.

The stories follow Thorgal, a man who was born in space but now lives among Vikings since his spaceship has crashed on Earth. While the story focuses on Thorgal, it also features the rest of Thorgal’s family: his wife Aaricia, his son Jolan and his daughter Louve, who can communicate with animals.

Due to the relatively intense nature of the stories, this graphic novel is probably best suited for French learners at the intermediate level (B1/B2). “Thorgal” includes vocabulary from multiple genres. For example, early on in the series, Thorgal becomes un scalde (a skald), a type of Scandinavian poet. Learners can aim for such specialized vocabulary once they’ve mastered the basics of the French language.

4. “Le bleu est une couleur chaude” by Julie Maroh Le bleu est une couleur chaude (French Edition) (Hors Collection) book cover

Unlike the other graphic novels in this list, this book is stand-alone, meaning it’s not part of a series. The popular book, “Le bleu est une couleur chaude” (“Blue Is the Warmest Color”) tells the love story between two women in France during the 1990s.

I do, however, need to make a disclaimer. This graphic novel is very risque in terms of sexuality, and so is its movie adaptation. But don’t let that deter you.

Due to its fairly contemporary nature, it’s fantastic for learning current French and French slang. Because of this, it’s best suited for French learners who have reached an intermediate (B1/B2) level. Lastly, once you finish reading, you can watch the Cannes-winning film adaptation in French!

5. “La foire aux immortels” by Enki Bilal La Trilogie Nikopol (French Edition) book cover

Also futuristic science fiction, “La foire aux immortels” (“The Carnival of Immortals”) is set in 2023 and follows a man who has been frozen for 30 years. When he awakes, he finds himself in a scary, brutal world. Aliens have taken over, so he takes it upon himself to save the world from them.

This is a great entry for those wanting to read French science fiction or fantasy, and I recommend it for pre-intermediate and intermediate learners (A2 to B2 levels).

Because it’s set in the not-so-distant future, it’s not super dense on the science fiction elements (aside from les extraterrestres—the aliens—of course). This makes it pretty easy for learners to understand as there’s not a huge amount of science fiction jargon used. Better yet, La foire aux immortels” is part of a trilogy, so there are three graphic novels to learn from!

6. “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi Persepolis (New French edition) book cover

“Persepolis” is an autobiographical two-part series based on the life of Marjane Satrapi during and after the Iranian Revolution in 1978. The title for the graphic memoir comes from the ancient capital of the Persian Empire. This newer edition has both Part 1 and Part 2 in it.

Part 1 starts with Marjane’s life in Iran when she is ten years old in 1980. It describes the Iran-Iraq war, growing religious extremism, limitations on women’s rights and her eventual departure to Europe. Part 2 is about Marjane’s life as a young adult in Austria and her return to Iran four years later. 

Since it describes the political situation at the time, it would be most suitable for pre-intermediate (A2) students and above. It’s been translated into several languages and was also made into a film in 2007. The movie is also originally in French, so it is also worth watching if you’re ready to dive into French movies

7. Les Aventures de Tintin” by Hergé Tintin au Tibet (French Edition) book cover

This one is so popular that you might know it already. Just like the first series in our list,Les Aventures de Tintin” (“The Adventures of Tintin”) follows a journalist and was created by a Belgian cartoonist.

Hergé, the pen name of Georges Prosper Remi, published 24 books following Tintin, ranging from 1929 to 1976. Tintin often gets involved in adventures and dangerous situations, accompanied by his dog, Snowy, friend, Captain Haddock and several other recurring characters.  It’s not the first book in the series, but a good one to start with is “Tintin au Tibet” (“Tintin in Tibet”).

Since the stories are often told with realistic social and political commentary, it might be better to have a bit of a grasp on French already, meaning this is a good book for the pre-intermediate level (A2) and above.

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Alright, French learner, pick up your favorite French graphic novel and start learning today!

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