It’s been a while since I have gone down the comic business, mostly because I have been caught up with other stuff that was non-comic related. I have been playing lots of board games lately, I guess that has been more on my mind. But, as you all know, comics and I are like bread and butter. I have noticed that there was one thing that I had not done yet, which perhaps some of you may find interesting, and that relates to my studies directly. So as I have been revising my sources for a paper I am currently writing, I thought, “Hey, why not share some of these bad boys to the rest of our friends?”. Therefore, here I present you with my list of, badass, cool (and in most cases historically accurate) comics and graphic novels regarding the Vikings :3
You will find the big boys, aka Marvel and DC, do not publish much on the subject of historically related subjects in their mainstream stuff, which SUCKS. You gotta go to Image and independent publishers to get this sort of things. So if you haven’t heard of a lot of these people, don’t panic.
This is really your starting point if you are into Vikings and comics, or in general good story telling. This is a series by Vertigo made up of 7 volumes, each of which is a different story arch, with different characters. A few volumes compile shorter stories. I think Northlanders is my favourite out of all the comics about the Vikings I have simply because of the variety. You want your classic Viking pillaging stuff? You got it. Strong relatable and appropriate female characters, done. Big badasses with awesome swords – I’m in. But more importantly, Northlanders delivers plot stories that inform you of inheritance issues in the Viking Age, or family relationships, blood feuds, the economy, invasions, how the Vikings were seeing by their contemporaries and how different Viking colonies developed depending on their geographical and sociocultural context. You have identity, nationalism and religious issues. It is so bloody current, what else you want? As real for the Middle Ages as it is for us. The art work changes from volume to volume, but there is not a single complaint in this regards from me. All the styles are suited to what they are trying to represent. You have realistic drawings to more minimalistic styles depending as to what drives the story. Northlanders is really about people: all the characters are just Johns and Janes trying to do their best to survive, sometimes even thrive, must mostly evolve and become different ideas of the Viking Age which collide with our modern-day tensions and fears. If you are a comic book fan – get this because it is one of the coolest things Vertigo has done in the last decade. If you like the Vikings this will certainly not disappoint. And if you just want well fleshed narrative, well, I’ll tell you some of these stories have marked me and grasped my attention more than some books I have read in my life.
Siegfried: the trilogy
This is a French BD which is available in English (although for some reason 3 times more expensive). In the UK it’s published by Archaia. This is a three-volume series that narrates the story of the Siegfried from the Ring of the Nibelungs but for a modern-day audience. I am really lucky, because my first two volumes are actually a special edition that includes an interview with the author where he explains where he has drawn a lot of his influence from, and how closely his comic actually follows Wagner’s Ring cycle. The art work is to die for, following the long tradition of incredibly talented artists that the French market is able to enjoy with such clean and neat look and such wonderful colours. So, if you are into the more legendary type of Vikings and you want to start with something recognisable and easy to follow, this is probably your best bet. With that I do not want to say that Siegfried is not as worthy as Northlanders – on the contrary. But the topics the touch upon are different. Here we are dealing with the older Germanic tales, the very mythology that inspires the Vikings of the epic heroes we see in the sagas. And I must say that as an adaptation – if we can call it that; or want to call it that – is remarkable. The language use is great. And from what I can see, the transition from French to English, is actually rather smooth and not a context and content killer like it happens with other materials.
Are you an anime/manga sort of person? Well do not worry because there is a bit here for everyone! Vinland Saga ROCKS. It is similar to Northlanders in the sense that the plot stories are revealing of everyday issues that apply to the Viking Age people. The subject of slavery is very much commented upon, as well as warfare and the bellicose nature of a society driven by socio-economic issues. But, of course, all of this is done through the lens of Japanese culture. Now, many of you may think this probably ruins it – NOPE! I would say it is incredibly refreshing seeing some Vikings that look so medieval yet somewhat foreign to us. I think it has really helped to demystify them and just acknowledge them as people and not just bloody barbarians (and those horned helmets…JIKES!). Of course, there are aesthetic differences here and the manga style is obvious and not something on can ignore. But some manga features help you getting through the gritty stories that Vinland Saga present us with, which is the well-used sense of comedic, silly but sweet Japanese humour that makes the ride worthwhile. One problem you will find is actually getting printed and translated copies of Vinland Saga to English. Translations are always an issue, and this series has a ridiculous amount of volumes now, as it has been running since like 2005. But the omnibus publications are perhaps the best to look out for. Otherwise, the internet and its quirks will most likely allow you to find every single volume online…for free.