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Ukrainian Graphic Novels

28. November 2012 by Lorena 0 Comments

In a country with a rich literary history, a strong visual arts tradition and plenty of strife to feed artists’ vision, it’s inevitable that a comic book culture would eventually bloom. While Ukraine’s comics are mostly an underground phenomenon, Ukrainian comic artists are beginning to get more mainstream attention.


In early November, Kiev held its first comic book convention, the ComART Fest. At the festival, works from Ukrainian and Russian artists were featured, along with comic book art from other parts of the world that depict Ukrainian and Russian life. Booths included underground comic artists, as well as the editors of Ukraine’s first Manga and anime magazine, Hakken Seimei.


Ukrainian painter Oleksiy Chebykin says that, in his opinion, comic books can be traced all the way back to cave paintings. These paintings depicted a story, such as a hunt for an animal to eat. The form we4’re familiar with now became popular in the US in the 1940s. It is only recently that Ukrainian comics have gained traction.


Ukrainian Cosplayer


Most Ukraine publishing houses were not interested in them, and Ukrainian artists were forced to bring their work to Russian publishers. As a result, mass published comics would be written in Russian, since Ukrainian was not a popular choice for mass printers. However, in the Ukrainian underground comic scene, Ukrainian language comics are, by far, the more popular choice. Artists say that Ukrainian publishing houses are not yet willing to pay royalties that would make the many hours of work that graphic novels require sustainable. So, instead, Ukrainian comics and graphic novels are photocopied and circulated by friends and small shops. Chebykin, for instance, created a 300 page comic book about the comical exploits of his friends. 


Most comic book artists in Ukraine say that there is not yet a specifically Ukrainian school of thought in the graphic novel world. But, artists like Chebykin say that one is emerging, influenced by Russian education, proximity to Poland and historical stories of Cossacks and Ukrainian riflemen. As interest in big blockbuster comic book movies from the west and manga and anime from the east increases, Ukraine will emerge as a source of a graphic novel culture that is uniquely theirs.


Photos: Hakkenseimei