By Aleksandar Stevanov

Macedonian historical comics, when it comes to clichés and stereotypes, have a series of peculiarities that are part of the corresponding global trends, but also a series of those that make them unique. Unlike in Italy, for example, a country where after the Second World War comics set not in Italy but in the mythologized chrono-spatial milieu of the Wild West enjoy the greatest popularity, “Fernweh” is rarely felt among the Macedonian authors of historical comics. They express their longing for the exotic through science fiction comics, but not through historical ones. They, in the entire almost nine-decade long history of the ninth art on Macedonian soil, are regularly on a Macedonian theme. A rare exception that confirms the rule is a comic on the subject of South African history, i.e. on the subject of the Boer wars, which is published in “Our world” (Наш свет) and several comics on historical subjects from other (former) Yugoslav regions, such as for example “Surrounded” (Во обрач).

“Surrounded”, Ljupčo Filipov (art), Ilija Jordanovski (script)

Bearing in mind that the themes of Macedonian historical comics are in most of the cases drawn from the rich fundus of Macedonian national history, which makes it a kind of cliché, the protagonists in them are regularly Macedonians. Due to this peculiarity of theirs, Macedonian historical comics are close to American superhero comics in which the good guys are regularly Americans. Identical to them, this is not accidental in the case of Macedonian historical comics, which we perceive from the wider historical-political context of both countries. If the reason for the mentioned characteristic of American comics is the foreign policy of the United States of America as the world policeman, in Macedonian historical comics we find this in the desire of a (re)founded state to legitimize its right to exist among the rest of the Balkan states. We also find a similarity between comics from both countries in the cliché that the protagonist has the aura of a saint and is morally superior. Such are, for example, the comics “The magical saddle” (Волшебното самарче) and “Revenge of the One-eyed” (Одмазда на еднооките).

“Revenge of the one-eyed”, Ljupčo Filipov

But in addition to the similarities with American comics in this matter, we also find distinct differences that are “endemic” in Macedonian historical comics. Unlike the stereotype of comics across the Atlantic in which Americans are the ones who save the world, in Macedonian historical comics the main heroes – Macedonians – are usually tragic heroes. And if American historical comics almost without exception end with a happy ending, Macedonian historical comics more often than not have a tragic ending, which is often the death of the protagonist. Such is, for example the comics “Goce Delčev: Famous voivode” about the eponymous Macedonian national hero by the authors Ljupčo Filipov and Ilija Jordanovski.

“Goce Delčev: Famous voivode”, Ljupčo Filipov (art), Ilija Jordanovski (text)

Such comics are also: “The Epic of Nožot” (Епопејата на Ножот), “Voluntary in Death” (Доброволно во смрт), as well as several comics “Tsar Samuil” (Цар Самуил), illustrated by Mile Topuz, which deal with the life of the medieval Macedonian ruler, the first of which is actually the first Macedonian comic publication.

“Tzar Samoil”, Mile Topuz (art), Dragan Taškovski (text)

Among the most common clichés found in Macedonian historical comics, placed under the umbrella of the tragic ending, are: the expensive price of freedom (Cost an arm and a leg), a terrible end is better than terror without an end, blaze of glory and mourning/glorifying of the fallen hero. However, it should be taken into account that these clichés are in most of the cases not the result of artistic solutions, but rather conditioned by historical facts, because these comics, as well as the largest number of Macedonian historical comics, are based on real historical events. Among the smaller Macedonian historical comics that present stories about fictional characters set against the background of real events are “Vojdan” (Војдан) by Dime Ivanov-Dimano and “Šenko” (Шенко) by Mile Topuz, based on a novel for children by the writer Kiro Donev.

“Šenko”, Mile Topuz (based on a book by Kiro Donev)

The fact that the majority of Macedonian historical comics are based on historical events and persons is the reason for another cliché, that women in Macedonian historical comics are regularly in a subordinate position and as a secondary characters. The exceptions to this are the comics “Sirma voivode” (Сирма војвода) and “Vara: The Stone of Love” (Вара: Каменот на љубовта), in which women are not only protagonists, highly capable women, but also titular characters.

“Sirma voivode”, Ljupčo Filipov

The aforementioned causation of the majority of Macedonian historical comics is also the reason for the cliché – the protagonists are Macedonians, and the antagonists are members of other nations, mostly Byzantines and Turks, and sometimes Germans. The Macedonian authors of historical comics present the Byzantines as the most bloodthirsty, which is probably due to the fact that they committed one of the greatest atrocities in the history of mankind against the Macedonian soldiers – the blinding of 14,000 soldiers of Tzar Samuil. Although the Macedonians are mostly protagonists, in several of the Macedonian historical comics they are also antagonists, i.e. traitors, and the authors portray them worse than the members of other nations because of this. The nations of the Macedonian neighborhood that have survived to the present day in some comics appear as antagonists (but sometimes also as protagonists), like in the comics “Ballad for my enemy” (Балада за мојот непријател), but rarely, as the case of the Byzantines, as bloodthirsty dehumanized villains.

Study on cultural and social clichés and stereotypes