Monday, December 9, 2013

Thorgal


Thorgal is another Franco-Belgian fantasy comic, but it does happen to have been translated into English by Cinebook--and it's well worth checking out. Created by Belgian writer Jean Van Hamme and Polish artist Grzegorz Rosiński in 1977, the series continues in periodic albums to this day.

The protagonist is Thorgal who was found as an infant in a small raft (resembling a miniature Mercury mission splashdown capsule a bit) by a group of Vikings. He's taken in and raised by their ruler, Leif Haraldson and given the name Thorgal Aegirsson, in reference to the two gods who perhaps brought him to the Vikings. The first English volume (Child of the Stars, not actually the originally beginning of the series, but the earliest chronologically) is a series of short stories as Thorgal comes of age. The most fantastic of these is Thorgal's quest to help a dwarf (Rosinski draws them like the common conception of gnomes) bring a "metal that doesn't exist" to the dwarfish king and save him from the serpent Nidhogg. This adventure ends in the birth of Aarica, Thorgal's soul-mate and daughter of his nemesis Gandalf the Mad. Young Thorgal later saves young Aarica from nixies, who have malicious led her to a mountain to die. This establishes the friendship between the two, which is important because the Northern folk otherwise reject Thorgal as an outsider.


Later volumes see Thorgal and Aarica marry (and eventually have kids) and leave the North. Their travels don't seem to bring them much but more danger. They tangle with 3 aged sorcerers who kidnap Aarica and set up an elaborate contest only meant to ensure their continued immortality. Later, Thorgal is falsely accused of a crime and carried off as a prisoner on the Black Galley to be punished by the tyrant of the city-state of Brek Zarith. Thorgal escapes of course, but then is told Aarica (and their unborn child) are dead. This ultimately leads to a journey back to the Second World (the realm of gods and fairies he had visited as a boy), and to a meeting with the capricious personifcation of Fate, before a descent into the Underworld.

That's all in the first 3 volumes!

Thorgal has a feel that reminds me a bit of older works like Prince Valiant as much as modern comics. This effect is probably enhanced by Rosinki's illustratorly style. Thorgal is not as violent as many American comics. Not that there's not a lot of action, but thinking seems to get him through scrapes as often as fighting. It provides an interesting mix of mythology, science fantasy, and adventure--and really great art.

6 comments:

alzrius said...

This was a great post! I love learning about new series that I likely never would have heard of otherwise; also, your review was very well constructed, and really whets the appetite to read this!

M.P. said...

Rosiński is Polish:)

Trey said...

@alzrius - Thanks.
@M.P. - He is indeed! Corrected. Thanks!

garrisonjames said...

Looks like Blogger ate my previous comment. Thanks for posting about this project--the art is wonderful and it is a great adventure. It really does have some of that Prince Valiant / Hal Foster thing going on--and does it well.

Chris C. said...

Very cool. I didn't know Thorgal. The Belgians have quite the reputation for high quality comics though (I think we sometimes overlook or forget that in the states).

Trey said...

Yeah, I think the Franco-Belgian market rivals the U.S. and Japan in terms of quality.