They say that, you cannot grow out of reading comic books. It is also not necessary, as this artistic creation is dedicated to both young and adult readers. A multigenerational adventure awaits dedicated readers.

Comic strip is a sequence of adjacent drawings arranged in a horizontal strip that are read in chronological sequence. Apart from the popular abbreviation such as “comic”, another name that took on in Polish language is the word “historyjka obrazkowa” (“funnies”). The National Museum in Kraków has organized an exhibition called “Comic Book Now!” which presents how Polish comic books have change over the years.

Educating by playing – not only for the young

The origins of comic books in Poland date back to the 19th century. Short funnies were printed in “Mucha” magazine that was published in Warsaw between 1868-1939 and 1946-1952. “Ogniem i Mieczem, czyli przygody szalonego Grzesia” (“With Fire and Sword, the adventures of looney Grześ”) is considered the first comic strip series, which is a satirical take on the novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz.
The comic book is aimed primarily at older readers, same like “Przygody bezrobotnego Froncka” (“Adventures of unemployed Froncek”) by Franciszek Struzik, who is an amateur artist, and… a miner by trade. One of the ideas behind this publication was to popularize reading among poorly educated people.

The famous goat, monkey and Captain Żbik

The interwar period brought to live one of the most famous Polish cartoon characters. The creators of Matołek the Billy-Goat, i.e. Kornel Makuszyński and Marian Walentynowicz, are also the authors of a different comic book called The Rows and Pranks of the Little Monkey Fiki-Miki”. A few years after the war, i.e. in 1948, the readers of the Cracovian “Przekrój” were introduced to professor Filutek and his dog Fiulś, created by Zbigniew Lengren. The end of the 1950s and the next decades were times when many popular comic book characters came to life. In 1957, the ape Tytus de Zoo appeared in “Świat Młodych”.
The “Father” of Tytus, Romek and A’Tomek is the graphic designer and cartoonist Henryk Jerzy Chmielewski, commonly known as Papcio Chmiel. It is also worth mentioning that this is the longest-running Polish comic book series. The growing popularity of comic books created the chance to pass positive examples to Polish youth, and so “Captain Żbik” entered the stage. The author of this brave Captain of Citizens’ Militia was Władysław Krupka, whereas the script to “speech bubbles” was created by female journalists of “Polityka”. The 1970s brought such comic books as “Kajko i Kokosz” by Janusz Christy, or the “Jonka, Jonek i Kleks” series by Szarlota Pawel.

Hero or anti-hero?

Meanwhile, in the 80s, Polish comic books started taking on a new style. Underground publishing houses and the so-called “zines”, which were independent publications created by comic book enthusiasts, started appearing on the market. Furthermore, in 1982 Prószyński Media started publishing “Fantastyka”, leading the way for other separate comics publishing houses, one of them being “Kultura Gniewu” created in 2000. Moreover, the subject of comic books underwent some changes with new generation of artists, who entered the stage and retreated from portraying ideal heroes of unimpeachable character.
A perfect example of such anti-hero can be found in “Wilq Superbohater” by Bartosz and Tomasz Minkiewicz. The titular character – Wilq, lives in Opole where he performs repetitive work at an advertising agency and carries out his superhero duties with undisguised reluctance.  If you are not convinced by anti-heroes, you can try reading other new publications like “Totalnie nie nostalgia” album by Jacek Frąś and Wanda Hagedorn. Polish comic books have many faces, and in order to discover them it is worth visiting the exhibition at The National Museum in Kraków.