This paper focuses on how Japan was represented in the most popular Belgian comics at a particular period in time, right after the Second World War and just before the image of Japan as an economic superpower (that exported many commodities to Europe or the USA) became widespread from the 1960s on.
Within the field of European comics, Belgian comics played a crucial role in the decades after the war with major artists such as Hergé, Franquin, Jacobs, Vandersteen and many others. Moreover, the Belgian comics industry attracted many artists from other countries and exported her products to various countries (especially France). The comics published in dailies, journals and albums formed at that time an important means of entertainment for the youngsters (television started only in the 1950s in Belgium). Furthermore, the Belgian comics culture is interesting since it involves two different traditions: a French language one and a Dutch language one.
In various stories, published between 1945 and 1960, we find representations of Japan. On the whole, two basic approaches of the Japanese Otherness stand out:
- the “Yellow Peril”, strongly referring to the last World War (for instance Jacobs Blake et Mortimer, Le Secret de l’espadon, Hubinon & Troisfontaines, Charlier Buck Danny, Les Japs attaquent). Usually these comics were drawn in a more realistic style.
- the “touristic ancient or exotic Japan” without any reference to WWII (for instance Vandersteen Suske en Wiske, De Stemmenrover, Will & Rosy Tif et Tondu, Le Fantôme du samouraï). Usually comics of this approach combine adventure and humour.
The first kind of comics is typically for the comics produced in the first years after war, while the second kind is rather typical for the late 1950s. So, even in this brief period of 15 years already an important shift of the image of Japan is noticeable, from a belligerent enemy to an exotic and touristically interesting culture. The paper will offer a more detailed analysis of some examples and formulates some possible explanations for this shift.
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