by Vladimir Nedialkov (vova1974@yahoo.com)

As Bulgarian contemporary art is well on its way to being integrated into the “world culture”, Bulgarian comics should also take their rightful place in our own cultural life and libraries. 

Regretfully, due to different reasons, comics have been regarded as a “cursed” art in Bulgaria for many years now. After a period of very fruitful development during the 1980s, Bulgarian comics plunged into deep underground and virtually disappeared from the kiosks and the bookshops. Right now, if you dig for an explanation of “comics” or whatever Bulgarian word equivalent for it, you won’t be able to find one in any Bulgarian dictionary, not even the specialized ones. Only the “Dictionary of Foreign Words in Bulgarian Language” gives a vague explanation of what comics art is, but the definition is so ignorant and ridiculous that it’s worthless to quote. 

Nevertheless, he history of comics’ art in Bulgaria is very interesting.

Prior to World War II the Bulgarian scene had several monthly magazines for kids and a specialized newspaper “Vessela Drujina”, which sporadically featured comics.
On 6th of June 1940 the first issue of “Chuden Sviat” was published in Sofia, an all-comics color newspaper edited by Nikola Kotov, who was greatly influenced by the Walt Disney comics. The contributors were some of the best Bulgarian writers of children literature at that time: Orlin Vasilev, St. C. Daskalov, Angel Karaliichev, Georgi Raichev and some more. The main influences that were visible in the Bulgarian comics from that period came from the West, especially from heroes very popular at the time like Tarzan, Gangsters and Pirates.  Another serious influence was the Italian newspaper “Topolino”. The most successful comics though, were the ones featuring scenes and fairy-tales from the Bulgarian folklore or well-known stories and novels like “Treasure Island’ by R. L. Stevenson, adapted for comics by L. Zidarov. 

The most fruitful period for Bulgarian comics’ art started in late 1970s and lasted throughout the 1980s. During that time, Bulgarian readers enjoyed two periodical, all-comics publications - “Duga”("Rainbow") 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 successful Bulgarian comics artist Rumen Petkov, creator of the Choko and Boko heroes and author of the first Bulgarian full-length animated movie “The Treasure Planet”. Later Rumen Petkov built a successful career in the West and became one of the creators of such famous characters like Johnny Bravo and Dexter’s Laboratory. During its 12 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") and Nikolaj Kirov ("V sveta na jivotnite"). The art director and godfather of “Duga” was Georgi Gadelev.

When the democratic changes in Bulgaria began in early 1990s, Bulgarian comics disappeared from the bookshops and plunged into the underground. The lack of translated publications during the Iron curtain years and the fact that the Bulgarian audience was totally unfamiliar with the world comics’ classics caused an overwhelming supply of translated comics like those featuring Mickey Mouse and Asterix. What remains unexplainable is why the Bulgarian comics disappeared so quickly and whether there are any chances for their revival, otherwise the new generation of artists will inevitably be forced to seek professional realization 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.

My deep hope is that in the near future all comics’ fans in Bulgaria will be able to enjoy once again a specialized publication and we will be done, once and for all, with the sporadic events from the underground scene, still unorganized and even lacking a proper website.