This morning, we discussed in chat how the current tag seemed to be mainly aimed at American comics (read Marvel/DC, even if it's obviously not limited to that). The discussion starts here and goes on for quite a bit of time.

The thing is, the current tag, or at least its description, is quite broad and may overlook some existing genres.


The Franco-Belgian comics genre goes a bit beyond the "simple" comics as we usually understand it. It is both a matter of content and shape, and the behind-the-scenes, but the latter is probably not the most relevant part for this question.

Long-story short, Franco-Belgian comics were once defined by the author Franquin1 as "everything that is neither American or Japanese". To quote SQB, you can think of it as "halfway between US-style super-hero comics and graphic novels". Not the same stakes, broader range of characters and stories, and the most "visually striking" aspect would be the paperback format, I guess.

As per this point, I should admit that while the idea is kind of clear in my mind, I'm not that great at actually expressing it - put that on having been raised with the concept. I'll be more than happy to edit this post following questions asked in comments though, to make my point clearer.

Some reading about what is the genre, and how it actually differs from the general comics2: here, this Quora thread and this article, though the latter rather addresses the behind-the-scenes; I'd recommend to focus on the "The Format for Success" subsection.

Hence, the Franco-Belgian comics appear to be a sub-genre of comics just as much as mangas are, and there's a tag for those. (to poke at someone in chat, it's not just about the reverse-reading order, black & white coloring and exaggerations with lines :) )


With regards to what has been said here and in chat, and what will be said in the discussion comments, should we have a tag for those comics? And if so, what should its name be? (see my answer for more details on that)

1 I think it was Franquin, but I may be mistaken. I'm still looking for the source, but if anyone speaks French and is willing to look for it, I'm 99% sure I heard that in a Tac au Tac TV show from the 70's-80's.

2 This might come off as restrictive, but given that a lot of the questions in the tag refer to American works (Marvel/DC mainly), I'll just stick to saying "comics" as such.

  • What kind of numbers are we talking about in terms of editing? – Valorum Jul 24 '18 at 22:09
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    @Valorum no definite idea, since that depends on how we would define the tag use. If we look quickly at the current works (read "companion tags") that fall under that category: 2 Astérix, 3 Smurfs, 1 Spike & Suzy, 1 Sky Doll, no past story-id questions (the new ones could use it, though, at least that's how I see it). – Jenayah Jul 24 '18 at 22:27
  • "(to poke at someone in chat, it's not just about the reverse-reading order, black & white coloring and exaggerations with lines :)" Aha! You got me. @Valorum it's likely in the realm of around 30-40. One user would be able to sneak them in quite quietly over a week without anyone realising. A less subtle user might be able to them in several days my smashing out edits without going over our limits. – Edlothiad Jul 25 '18 at 5:10
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    Out of curiosity, would Tintin fall under this category? Just trying to understand the categorization here. – heather Jul 25 '18 at 7:40
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    @heather Tintin definitely falls under that category, it's one of the head figures of the genre. As for Adamant and Kevin who asked for more precision about the genre, duly noted, I'll write something ASAP, when I have more time to phrase that clearly :) – Jenayah Jul 25 '18 at 8:01
  • I recall at least one story-identification request that could've used this tag: scifi.stackexchange.com/q/108933/19561 – SQB Jul 26 '18 at 13:00

Oui Yes!

Please note that this is not a request to have a tag for all existing 150+ countries. I came across this meta question which might seem like a duplicate, but IMHO, it's not - see linked readings in the question, and the rest of this answer. I'll stick to the accepted answer with regards to what tags should be:

  • Does it describe the contents of the questions to which it is applied? and is it unambiguous?

    Yes. As a genre, obviously its content targets will be narrower, and then bring more potential info about the question/answer. (note: this phrasing has a funny ring to my ears, so tell me if I'm being completely unclear on that point)

  • Is the concept described even on-topic for the site?

    Weeell... Calling joker on that one. No, it does not, as it's a genre which includes non-SFF comics, but then again we have a tag and not every movie is SFF. Even comics aren't, technically, so I just think this bullet point is not relevant because of the nature of SFF.SE. (it's more relevant for SO for instance - see the main meta post)

  • Does the tag add any meaningful information to the post?

    Well yeah! Especially in story-ID questions, as it narrows the scope big time. Apart from story-ID, there could be some questions about why SFF are tackled differently in those comics, based on history or something.

  • Does it mean the same thing in all common contexts?

    I'm going to say yes by assuming that a "common context" in a SE site equals "having done some really basic homework" such as Googling the thing and seeing that Franco-Belgian comics aren't strictly restricted to French and Belgian comics. Theoretically speaking, you could very well have a [insert random nationality here] author doing Franco-Belgian comics. But that brings me to my second point...

What about the name?

"Franco-Belgian comics" is the official translation. It's a lazy one based on the fact that the genre originated there, but it points out to named countries and IMO, that sucks. (at least for Asian works for instance, the name is partially hidden behind the actual word - manga, manwha etc)

The French word for that would be "bandes dessinées" - which of course translates to "comic strips", because translation never helps in our current matter. However, I agree with TLC and Edlothiad that the policy is to leave everything in English... which loops back to Franco-Belgian comics, which seemingly exclude other countries while it's not the case, etc, etc.

Just my thought on the naming.

Additional arguments thrown at random when I think of them

  • I've talked about the story-ID benefits already.
  • Such a tag could bring attention to this genre and enable people to discover new works, that they wouldn't have heard about otherwise - enjoying new stuff is fun :)
  • In the long run, will likely be overridden by Marvel/DC stuff (hat-statistically speaking), so having this genre lost in the mass feels kinda sad... Why not organize it a bit, looking forward to the future?
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    A wonderfully written argument. A terrible idea, but you've explained it expertly. – Valorum Jul 24 '18 at 21:56
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    @Valorum ahah! :) may I ask why you think this is terrible? Or maybe (likely) you're already writing up an answer tackling that, and I'll wait and read it! – Jenayah Jul 24 '18 at 21:58
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    Per my usual objection to fun-with-taggery, are you simply playing with tags for the sheer joy of embracing your inner OCD or are you expecting there to be an sudden renaissance of franco-belgian comic experts joining the site now that these question are easier to find? – Valorum Jul 24 '18 at 22:07
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    @Valorum if you look at the very beginning of the chat discussion you'll see that I was indeed jump-started by learning that the sole publishers mentioned in the comics tag info were Marvel and DC, but in the ensuing discussion we did discuss the pros and cons, leading up to the more thoroughly thought argument above. – Jenayah Jul 24 '18 at 22:19
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    As for the renaissance, I'm no oracle and well, there probably won't be a rush of those (save for a handful of regular users, who actually get noticed of this kind of change in policy?). Admittedly the goal is more to narrow the scope, organisation matters and bring the thing on the same level of recognition than mangas for instance. Genuine (and broad) question, that we may have to move to chat: should tag matters only be tackled to attract experts? – Jenayah Jul 24 '18 at 22:19
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    So your objection, if I can sum it up, is that the only comics mentioned in the tag wiki are American comics? Wouldn't it be easier to just edit it? – Valorum Jul 24 '18 at 22:19
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    @Valorum phrased like that, that makes me sounds childish at best :) I guess you can see it that way for the current situation, but I do believe in what I said for the future of the site. Agreed, presently we're faced with like 15 of those questions, tops, so it doesn't seem like the most urgent matter, but it is a genre. I guess my question sums up to "apart from number reasons, why would we have a mangas tag but not a Franco-Belgian ones?" (let me quote doppelgreener for that matter) – Jenayah Jul 24 '18 at 22:33
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    I'm a bit believer that re-tagging should occur on those rare occasions it becomes obvious that we're not tagging things consistently. In this case it appears that we're consistently tagging comics as comics. What I'm not seeing is the pressing need to to add an another tag hierarchy underneath, even taking into account that 99% of "Franco-Belgian comics" aren't on-topic anyway – Valorum Jul 24 '18 at 22:45
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    @Valorum oh, I wouldn't say it's a pressing need :) I think you might be contradicting yourself though (no offense, of course): we're consistently tagging comics as comics then why wouldn't mangas be tagged as comics? They're comics as well, just Japanese ones. Sorry if I seem obsessed with the mangas tag - just that I don't have another handy example right now, but if you do, I'm more than happy to hear it! :) – Jenayah Jul 24 '18 at 22:51
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    So, how should we go about defining the genre? I don't think "everything but US and Japan comics" would work. Are there certain stylistic traits that could be used to make a relatively firm definition? – Adamant Jul 25 '18 at 0:17
  • Given that the only comic I'm at all familiar with is Astérix, I'd like it. (Well, Girl Genius and a couple of other online ones, I suppose.) – TRiG Jul 29 '18 at 14:36

Let's back up a moment.

Right now:

  • exists and is widely used (900+ questions). Of these, nearly 400 are tagged with neither nor .
  • exists and is somewhat used (90+ questions), but far less than and (several thousand Q's between the two of them).
  • exists and is lightly used (30 questions at time of writing). There is exactly one question tagged both and , and it's a reasonable one in my opinion (story ID of uncertain genre).
  • does not exist, and I couldn't find any similarly-named tags.

From the above, I conclude that:

  • and are (mostly) disjoint sets; keeping them the way they are makes sense.
  • is not consistently used to identify questions about superheroes. A lot of its questions are about the genre or story ID, and there are a few questions about individual superheroes who aren't important enough to have their own tags. This tag might need some care and feeding, maybe we should just shoot it, or maybe I'm overreacting and everything is fine, but that's a separate question.
  • The lack of , combined with the previous bullet, means that there is no good way to find or categorize questions about non-superhero non-manga comics. This search is (probably) the closest thing we have, and many of the top results are obviously superhero-esque.

Compare that to the genre which OP describes:

Long-story short, Franco-Belgian comics were once defined by the author Franquin1 as "everything that is neither American or Japanese". To quote SQB, you can think of it as "halfway between US-style super-hero comics and graphic novels". Not the same stakes, broader range of characters and stories, and the most "visually striking" aspect would be the paperback format, I guess.

The problem is that we already don't have a good tag even for "regular" graphic novels. We should start there, if we're going down this road at all. Then we can come back and take a look at further subgenres like this one.

  • 1) nearly 400 are tagged with neither... There may be several false positives in there, just to let you know. 2) [super-hero] being only used when specifically discussing super-heroes as opposed to any mention of a super-hero would narrow that number count severely. 3) [manga] has struggled given that Anime & Manga exists. 4) Graphic novel does not exist. We've looked at '"regular" graphic novels' and decided they're not really a thing based on the words of a comics artist. So this tag should be discussed. – Edlothiad Jul 25 '18 at 5:12
  • @Edlothiad: 1) I don't doubt it. These are necessarily inaccurate statistics because the most we have are the self-reported tags. What's your point? 2) I already discussed this in my answer... not sure what you're getting at (besides, I am not recommending we do anything with that tag anyway). 3) So? 4) Well, if we're not going to distinguish graphic novels from "regular comics," I hardly see how OP's special subgenre of graphic novels is going to fare any better. I never said we should create graphic-novels, just that it comes first. – Kevin Jul 25 '18 at 5:14
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    Just to be clear, my first 4 points were merely informative points, to ensure the information exists if someone is reading your answer, they neither compliment or critique your answer in any way. Only the last sentence is really my critique of your answer. You say that "it comes first", but it has come, and is now gone. The relevant point is that [graphic-novels] was deemed to not be a sub-genre of comics based on a quote by the "best graphic novel writer in history". Bandes dessinees are however very distinct style of comics, akin to the term manga. – Edlothiad Jul 25 '18 at 5:20
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    @Edlothiad: That's fair enough. Maybe these comics are very distinctive, but OP's description of the genre certainly doesn't make it sound that way. I recommend you edit the question (more aggressively than you already have), if you want this proposal to have legs. – Kevin Jul 25 '18 at 5:25
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    I've not expressed my opinion for or against this proposal (as can be seen if one follows the chat link), and one reason I haven't answered is because I'm not very well versed in this genre. I feel it is the role of the answerer to show why the specific case is not viable for our tagging system or site. – Edlothiad Jul 25 '18 at 5:44
  • That's fine. I feel it's the role of the proposer to explain why something is necessary. – Kevin Jul 25 '18 at 6:09
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    @Kevin - In most cases the term "graphic novel" is abused by the publishers to attempt to sell comic TPBs to an older audience. The number of actual novels in graphic form is miniscule – Valorum Jul 25 '18 at 6:19
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    So your answer to "Should we have this tag?" is "I dunno lets discuss these tags first". That's not really helpful at all. – TheLethalCarrot Jul 25 '18 at 8:42
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    I feel like if we need more tags in this area, then taking those tags that come up seems like a better idea. We can refine on them later—even absorb them into an actual [graphic-novels] tag should we pick one up—when it looks like that needs to happen. It doesn't look like we'd need to step back and use other tags instead, especially when we just haven't used those tags yet. So let's see where this goes? – doppelgreener Jul 25 '18 at 10:21
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    @doppelgreener There's a meta about [graphic-novels] that says nope don't create that tag. I believe it is the one Ed linked above. – TheLethalCarrot Jul 25 '18 at 10:37

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