By Slobodan Ivkov
Discounting some proto-comics published in the 1800s, the first comic came out in Serbia in October 1934,. It was Secret Agent X-9, done by Dashiel Hammett and Alex Raymond. The first comic published in Serbia done by artists living in the country was Stojadin, by Lola Dimitrijevic and Moma Markovic. It was a historically accurate yet humoristic account of political struggles in Serbia, and it came out in January 1935. What follows from this fact is a conclusion that the history of comics in Serbia is long, with the history of historical themed comics only lagging behind by just a few months.
The work offers a wide and deep view of Balkans history, with special attention paid to the international relations and political situation, and ties it closely to the development of comics in general and historical themed comics in particular.
The writer further offers a bold yet reasonable theory that socialist Yugoslavia after the 1940s was in part a West funded showcase for the neighboring communist countries of the East. With Yugoslavia not being controlled by the Soviets like its neighbors, it received an influx from the West to demonstrate what the neighboring countries were missing by staying behind the iron curtain – not the least part of it being cultural influx. In the period from 1950 to almost 1990, Yugoslavia received a steady flow of movies, music, books, and yes, comics, from the West, which were unimaginable to its neighbors. This helped the rise of domestic comic book production immensely.
Of course, Yugoslavia was still under communist rule, and with censorship in place, but noticeably softer than in the rest of the communist controlled part of Europe. Historical comics, especially about the national history in the context of fighting the oppressors – who could more or less directly be linked to the partisan fight against the German forces – were not only allowed but also encouraged. During communist reign which happened from 1945 to 1990, thousands of pages of historical comics were created. Most of those were dedicated to partisan fight against the Nazi invaders, but the tendency to show history in other historic periods, both national and international, also developed.
In the nearly a century old tradition of historical comics in Serbia a particular resurgence of historic comics has arisen regarding the WW1 centennial, based on which nearly a 1000 pages of historical comics were created and published in Serbia since 2014.