Ukrainian comics have progressively found their niche. Today they become more popular and what is more important – people pay for it. If a few years ago the question of the existence of such phenomenon as “Ukrainian comic” and its target audience was even the subject of round-table discussions and forums, currently this genre becomes more popular. And some feature films are based on those comics – in quite Hollywood traditions of filmmaking (“Maksym Osa”, “Daogopak”, “The Will” etc.)

During the last years comics are discussed at all book forums without any exception, and the festival of pop culture Kyiv Comic Con collects thousands of people in May every year, who can stand in line under the rain (as the writer of these words) to attend the event. According to the fact the festival takes place in the huge “Ukrainian house”. The rich program contains presentations of new movies, computer and board games, comics and other interesting stuff. Also organizers invite to join leading experts’ master classes in different spheres (from literature and films to IT) and to look at extensive cosplay show.

Plus, popular publications write about comics profound and critical articles, which become the subject-matter of famous YouTube-bloggers.

So what is the phenomenon Ukrainian comic? Eventually, how does he look like – Ukrainian superhero?

Step by step.

Why comics are cool?

First of all, they have a super important social role, it is possible to say even – mission. If we analyze the history, we can notice comics have developed actively at the time of social shocks. Comics have shown that good always overcomes the evil and there are enough heroes in the world and they are courageous, brave, ready to protect the peace and quiet of Gotham City with their life, and the planet as well. For instance, when the USA entered the Second world war, Wonder Woman and Superman enrolled for military service and even challenged Hitler. Later, at the time of economic downturn, rich and fair Batman with all his ultra modern technical arsenal and being an multimillionaire was overshadowed by unknown and poor student Spiderman, who had shown everyone could fight with evil, by his example.

Quite symbolically Ukrainian comics have become to prosper actively after the Revolution of Dignity. Yes, there were pretty successful attempts before, first of all, we can call to mind the trilogy “Daogopak” (was started to publish in 2012. For 2017 were published three volumes, the work on the next one is going, it will be finished not till autumn next year) – about feats of our cossacks. However there are comics with true modern superheroes, who rebelled against dark side and fight for Ukraine, this is a tendency of the last years after Euromaydan and the beginning of the war in eastern part of the country. It is not a surprise, the country is going through a difficult time, and literature tries to help to handle it.

How do Ukrainian superheroes look like?

Ukrainian superhero has inherited the best personality traits from world’s classic-brothers – DC’s and Marvel’s characters. They will never ever cheat on Ukraine, they are ready to fight with the enemy to the death and have non-human skills: some of them have brilliant mind and the ability to foresee the future, others –  marksmanship and physical strength. Naturally, there are bulletproof costumes and, in the best traditions, a mask for covering the face and the name, as appropriate. Doesn’t matter who exactly confronts the evil – anyone can (read as have to) demonstrate heroic behavior.

Above all, it is worth recalling “The Will” (2017) – this is graphic Ukrainian fantastic narrative series in the genre of alternative history. Although things are moving against a background of flourishing Ukrainian state in 1918, conception of proper approach to describe a certain historic event, of course, appeals to recent battle for Ukrainians integrity and sovereignty. And events of Ukrainian revolution of 1917-1921 – most likely as factor of historic analogy.

If “The Will” is historic analogy to recent history, “Hunting grounds” (the series of 10 comics, set down in 2017) appeals to modern events in the east and also brings Crimea question up. Main characters are named by founders of Kyiv. Every hero has a real prototype: Kyi is demilitarized scout Yuri Kislyak, Commander of the Armored Batteries of the 25th airforce brigade, Khoryv looks like soldier with call sign “Filin” from the battalion “Donbass-Ukraine”. Shchek and young woman Lybid are IT specialists and help them. Lybid is the only one who has an unusual weapon – double-sided scythe. The interesting thing comics “Hunting grounds” had presented at one of the news agencies at a special press conference and even the first deputy of the Minister of Information Policy of Ukraine, Emine Jaaparova was invited.

The work “Zvytyaga. Savur Mohyla” (2015) significantly appeared within media space, was called the first Ukrainian-language comic about ATO-zone and war in the East. Savur Mohyla is sacred place of the endless Ukrainian steppe. There is conditional border, which separates the world of free people from the land for centuries. In the comic book, reader gets to know with a main plot also a modern history, when Savur Mohyla used to be a border between free world and slave lands.

And comics “Ukrman. The beginning” is a kind of culmination point in glorification of modern defenders of Ukraine and it will be presented on May 20th at Kyiv Comic Con Festival. This is originally Ukrainian analogue of the collected image of a courageous hero. In the story, an accident made from the talented scientist the evil genius and created a horrible plan in his imagination. Right now one of his controlled mutant is destroying Kyiv. Policy and army, as usual, are powerless. When it seems like there is no hope for salvation, when confrontation means death… Ukrman appears. Creators assure: the world never becomes the same place. And changes are going to start from the Ukrainian capital. Well, maybe the capital will interest Hollywood companies.

However, not only super humans are heroes of Ukrainian comics. Cossacks are main protagonists pretty often as well – extremely rich character for the artist. The example of it is the above-mentioned “Daogopak” and “Maksym Osa” (reprinting in 2016 – there is 1636 by the plot. Most lands of Ukraine is the part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Zaporozhian Sich is powerful strength which is honored in the world. Maksym is khorunzhyi of Korsunsky regiment, well-known master of weapon, comes back home after proceed on Crimea and finds out that he had been buried for a long time ago).

Creators of Ukrainian comics became interested in fantasy (“Sarcophagus”, 2016; “Among sheep”, 2017; “Pathologic”, 2018); patriotism and love for homeland “Patriot. Clone Attack” (2017). Eventually, comics got the privilege of having periodic journal. “Black Lion” has been publishing for two years, there are reviews of already published and announcements of new graphic works.

Comic book becomes more popular as a genre. And more people understand that to buy, read and analyze is not embarrassing at any age. Unfortunately, there is still a stereotype in Ukraine this literature is only for children. But this, to put it mildly, is not so. Everyone can change the mind, who attends thematic festivals or books’ presentation, where most participants are adults. By the way, the price of one quality edition is from 200 ₴ to 600 ₴. You must agree, the price is not childish.

Ukrainian comics entered the phase of active progress, when the quantity of published books becomes quality. Nowadays, we can rarely see non-quality pictures, stupid and boring plots with grammatical mistakes in replicas of heroes, trivial design in general. Every edition is like event, which finds its audience. New editions which are able to charm people beyond Ukraine and maybe will be the heavily rotated movie around the corner. Finally, only domestic competition pushes authors and publishers forward, there is always dimension of classics: the publishing house “Ridna Mova” is the first where DC had been translated into Ukrainian. So, the way is only forward, everyone is up to fight with the evil. Calm life in our Gotham City is dream-like.

Vadym Lubchak

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