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Free European Comics Reading Suggestion: Bamboo Mag

Bamboo Mag – The Free French Anthology

My mission in 2017 is to introduce the American comics reading public to Franco-Belgian comics in a way that they can read them, enjoy them, and perhaps even recommend them to others. I’ve already answered all of your objections, so you have no more excuses.

This particular suggestion is a bit off that path, but it’s worth recommending because you have nothing to lose: it’s FREE.

I want to recommend Bamboo Mag.

How to Download the Whole Series

First, you need an account at Izneo.com, the French competition to comiXology.  Accounts are free and you don’t even need to provide a credit card number.  The site is available in English.  It’s as easy as can be, with no strings attached.  (For more details, I wrote a complete breakdown of the websites.)

Then, look up Bamboo Mag, or just click on this link.

Bamboo Mag on Izneo.com

 

The first batch of results you’ll see are individual issues of “Bamboo Mag”.  Scroll down past that and you’ll find two different series named “Bamboo Mag.”  I don’t know what happened here, exactly, but they’re the same thing.  The second listing starts with issue #31 and goes to the end, while the first one handles all available issues before then.

While they produced something like 40 issues of the magazine, only 31 are available today, as I write this. Again, I don’t know why this is, but I’ll take what I can get.  (See the end of this article for an update on how to get more issues!)

They’re all free, so it costs you nothing to add them all to your personal library. Click each series, and then scroll down below the list of available issues and click on the sign that says, “Buy the whole series for $0.”

After you’ve done that for both series, go to your basket and check yourself out.

 

What Is “Bamboo Mag”?

"Triple Galop" - the comic for horse riders.

“Triple Galop” – the comic for horse riders.

“Bamboo Mag” is an anthology series.  It’s all-ages friendly, funny, and packed with lots of single page gag strips.

It’s like the comic strip page of your local newspaper, if you still have such a thing.

Each page is basically a new gag, from one of several different series.  They rotate over time, but they include series about rugby players, bicyclists, cavemen, firefighters, dancers, insects, horse riders, wine connoisseurs, and so much more.

It’s an interesting way to try out new concepts for the publisher at little risk, and then build them up into something bigger.  “Bamboo Mag” serializes the gag pages, which are then collected into books as soon as they have enough pages. Then, the rights sell to the movie producers or tv show makers and the series climbs into cultural conscience.

From what I understand, that would be a similar process to what the manga worlds does.

You also get the ads for collected editions and random outside ads.  One sports talk radio station seems to have been a big supporter of the magazine for a time…

 

Niche Down

Boulard is the French equivalent of the comic strip "Zits"

The thing that makes it most fascinating to me is that they’re doing this with such niche topics.  It’s not just a generic police show or hospital series or nondescript neighbors who get along weirdly.  These series niche down to things as specific as wine lovers or poker players or horse riders.

The trick is then to use those topics in unique ways, and not just repeat the same old gags with slightly different set dressing.  They usually do accomplish this.

Les Fondus Du Vin -- even wine lovers deserve a comic

Les Fondus Du Vin — even wine lovers deserve a comic.

In the meantime, new series can be introduced in, get loads of free publicity for being in this magazine with other already established strips, and maybe capture an audience.

Few of these series have been translated into English already.  The only one I can think of comes from PaperCutz, who has  taken “Dance Class” (teenagers in dance class together) to nine volumes now.

A few of the series have even made it to live action movies.  “Les Profs” — centered on a group of bad teachers in a high school — was the biggest movie in France that year, spawning a sequel.

"Velomaniacs" is a long-lasting comic about cyclists.

“Velomaniacs” is a long-lasting comic about cyclists.

Yes, It’s In French

So, there’s the rub.  It’s free, but it’s also not in English. No, these are not silent gag strips . Those show up occasionally, but more as the exception than the rule.

I’m recommending this series because it can give you an idea of what’s happening in one corner of Franco-Belgian comics.  They are mostly in a very cartoony style, more Franquin-esque than anything else, but there’s more than just that.  The impressive thing is how they milk so much material out of seemingly narrow topics.

Otherwise, this is just some nice cartooning to look at.  I don’t know what speed the artists work at,  but each page is filled with backgrounds, full figure drawings, storytelling, and more than six panels.

And, occasionally, I can make out enough of the story to get a good laugh out of it, too.

Did I mention it’s all free?

Give it a shot.  Just take a look to get an idea of the landscape of humorous comics.

"Les Petits Mythos" for all the little myths out there.

“Les Petits Mythos” for all the little myths out there.

 

Bamboo Lives

Good news: While Bamboo Mag is no longer available through Izneo, you can still download PDFs.

It’s published bi-monthly and is downloadable from the Bamboo web site.

4 Comments

  • JC Lebourdais May 5, 2017 at 10:41 am

    My guess is that the missing issues might be ‘theme’ issues or have rights issues holding them up in limbo.
    But you are correct, since this is all free, PDF and torrents are an option.
    There are other similar magazines out there, operating on the same business model.

    Reply
  • A Quick Guide to Franco-Belgian Comics Publishers - Pipeline Comics May 16, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    […] This is the publisher that produces “Bamboo Mag.” […]

    Reply
  • Sisters, v8: "Anything to Make Her Happy!" - Pipeline Comics October 18, 2017 at 10:02 am

    […] Sisters” is a fairly long-running series in France that sees its life first in the pages Bamboo Magazine.  Bamboo has published 11 volumes so far. The series has sold over a million copies and has been […]

    Reply
  • 8 Most Wanted Bamboo Translations - Pipeline Comics October 25, 2017 at 11:01 am

    […] you want to see more of the kinds of titles Bamboo publishes, check out their Bamboo Mag anthology, which publishes a whole lot of one page gags every month. You might want to see one of their other […]

    Reply

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