On March 22nd, 1977, after several months of preparation by its authors, the first pages of the series Thorgal were introduced to the public in the Belgian edition of the comics magazine Tintin. Unbelievably, it’s been forty years now since the saga’s launch, with two young unknown authors at the helm: a Polish illustrator passionate about comics and a Belgian salesman drawn to writing.
Grzegorz Rosinski and Jean Van Hamme decided to create together a new character and universe for Tintin magazine (published by Le Lombard), according to several key guidelines. First of all, the story and theme had to be something the magazine’s readers hadn’t already seen before. Secondly, the content of the series had to be in line with the strict censorship in place at the time in Poland. And finally, whatever they created had to be something Rosinski liked to draw! The young illustrator wanted as much as possible to avoid working on a present-day story, because of the difficulty of gathering all of the necessary documentation.
Given these guidelines, Van Hamme came up with a Scandinavian hero with some loose cultural ties to the Polish Rosinski. He then placed him in the Middle Ages, and built around him a world of science-fiction, romanticism, and mythology. Thorgal was born!
Thorgal’s first set of adventures was above all a test for the fledgling series. Titled La magicienne trahie (‘The Sorceress Betrayed,’ currently out of print in English), the short 30-page story was published across five issues of Tintin in 1977.
The very first appearance of Thorgal was, as mentioned above, in the Belgian edition of Tintin, in the March 15th, 1977 issue. But it was just a teaser announcing the imminent arrival of a new hero. The next issue featured the first six pages of La magicienne trahie, under the title Le fils des orages (‘The Son of the Storms’). The same pages would later be published in the French edition of Tintin six months later, on September 20th, 1977. Which makes Thorgal 40 years old this year!
Those looking to find out more about the series’ origins are in luck – provided French isn’t an obstacle – thanks to the official Thorgal website, full of tremendously insightful information about the history and background of the series. For our anglophone readers, we can only suggest that you do yourself the favor of diving into the albums themselves, over 20 of which are currently available through Cinebook.
Even better, the series is continuing to break new ground today thanks to Les Mondes de Thorgal (‘The World of Thorgal’), a broad collection of stories that further explore and deepen the Thorgal universe. The month of September marks the release of the first volume of Thorgal – The Early Years by Europe Comics, with more to follow in the coming months! So be sure to stay tuned.
In the meantime, we invite you to take a moment to sit back and appreciate everything that the series has represented and accomplished thus far, pulling us into a universe of endless adventure, dreams, and passions. Happy 40th birthday, Thorgal!