These comic book characters from the People's Republic of Poland prompt recollections of a simpler time where we had to flex a creative muscle to appreciate the challenging journeys and magnificent quests of the animated hero.
From a Goofy Goat searching for shoes to a crazy Professor who battles Lord Hokus Pokus, these Hanna Barbara-like comic book characters are neither as lovey-dovey as the Care Bears nor as chock-full of quick jokes as Family Guy. Rather, they hit the sweet spot between "good old fashioned values we used to rely on" and so old-school that they're cool again.
Koziołek Matołek (1932)
Naive and clumsy, Koziołek Matołek (literally the Goofy Billy-Goat) has only one thing in mind: to find a pair of shoes that would find him. He was told he would find them in Pacanów (a real town in Poland) and his endless quest brings him to all corners of the Earth from Africa to the Wild West. Koziołek Matołek was first created in 1932 by Kornel Makuszyński. He starred in a number of publications: four tomes of books (authored by Kornel Makuszyński and Marian Walentynowicz), a small-screen series which aired from 1969 to 1971, and he also made a guest appearance in monkey Fiki-Miki's comic book.
This little goose and her lisping friend Ptyś the Chicken were pioneers. Not only did they invent a way to take a dip in the water despite the "no swimming allowed" sign (pictured) but their comic book exploits inspired one of the first TV bedtime cartoons in the 1950ties. The comic book (which appeared in the well-known children's magazines "Świerszczyk" and "Płomyczek") was actually more sophistacted than the cartoon. The former had three colours, while the latter was made of static black and white boards shown in front of a camera. Both were illustrated by Anna Hoffman with texts by Maria Terlikowska.
The Adventures of Balbinka the Goose was re-published in 2007 in the form of a book by Nasza Księgarnia.
Panna Kreseczka (1958)
When you recall that the first TV cartoons were static boards and hand puppets all in black and white (Jacek and Agatka), reading a comic strip starring a little girl composed of a couple of lines and a circle doesn't seem that absurd. Little Miss Line (created by Wanda Chotomska and the famous illustrator Bohdan Butenko) appeared once per week for two years on the last page of "Świerszczyk".
Here, the skimpy character is trying to find out if school can figure out who her mom is, suggesting "maybe the chalk." Intrigued? You'll have a chance to check it out because the comic was re-published in October 2013 by Muza publishing house.
A little boy with a big grin in a smurf hat? Too simple, you would think? Think again, because Gapiszon (little Gawk) appeared in another children's magazine "Miś" for 40 years. Here he is helpfully explaining the way to the train station...
Maybe it's only when his signature hat got a Maya the Bee look in 1991 that he became less confused.
Entirely authored by the great Bohdan Butenko, Gapiszon was re-published by Ongrys publishing house.
Gucio and Cezar (1966)
A greedy hippo named Gucio and a prudent dog named Cezar? That spells action! Side by side they meet pirates, cowboys, find spaceships and kidnapped princesses. Cezar saves Gucio from being the main dish in a "gulash, buckweat, cutlet and great big roast" dinner (pictured).
The troublesome duo appeared in "Świerszczyk" from 1966 to 1979 and made it into their own animated movie (1976-77). It was created by Krystyna Boglar and Bohdan Butenko who also constructed the adventure-detective story Klementyna Likes the Colour Red entirely drawn out in red.
The black and white Gucio and Cezar comic book was re-printed in 2011 by Wydawnictwo Dwie Siostry.
Tytus, Romek and A'Tomek (1966)
"Tytus, Romek and A'Tomek" in 1957. Here Tytus and his friends, whose characters evolved over the years, don't yet look that much alike.
We have a record setter! The Adventures of Tytus, Romek and A'Tomek is the longest running comic book in Poland. It was created by comic book artist and journalist Henryk "Papcio Chmiel" Chmielewski. The titular and central character is Tytus, an anthropomorphised monkey with a Pinocchio complex. His two friends are Romek and A'Tomek. Together the gang goes to outer space and the Earth's interior, becomes Olympic medalists, actors and soldiers, and travels back in time to learn about astronomy from Nicolaus Copernicus. In the strip above they speak of magnetic boots which will hopefully be a better fit on the moon.
In the IXth tome of the book, Tytus already looks like himself. Here, the three are at the cinema watching a western and Tytus jumps into the story through the screen.
The comic book first appeared in colour in 1977 and as a vertical format in 1985. Tytus's adventures were meant to stop following his marriage in episode 25, but the tomes kept on coming (altogether 31 and several collector's editions).
The famous now 90-year-old Papcio Chmiel continues to publish. In a series of albums published in 2009, Tytus and his friends go back in time to witness historically significant events inclduing the Battle of Warsaw and the American War of Independence.
Kajko and Kokosz (1972)
Ther is no fooling you here: Kajko and Kokosz are the Polish Asterix and Obelix. However, things aren't always what they seem to be. Kajko's character dates back to the 50ties (The Adventures of Asterix first appeared in a Franco-Belgian comic book in 1959). Created by Janusz Christa, Kajko and Kokosz were sailors before becoming warriors in the Middle Ages in 1972.
A Story that Occurred to a Certain Bee-like Prudence (1973)
Tremendously outside of the box are theses comics starring Prudence, a bee who got locked inside a car. Created by well-known artists Maciej Zembaty and Emilia Piekarska-Freudenreich, the series wasn't particularly popular but won several notable prizes.
Jonka, Jonek and Kleks (1974)
Although the little blue ink-guzzling fellow Kleks looks like he came out straight from a Hanna Barbara cartoon, he was actually created by Szarlota Pawel. Kleks embarks on wild ventures with his friends, two teenagers Jonka and Jonek.
Have you seen Copernicus?
Something like this!
I have seen something like that. He went down into the underground with another guy.
We'll catch up with them in no time!
Notice anything odd? Speech bubbles and comic characters against a photographic background. It was in this way, between 1975 and 1982, that Bohdan Butenko's character Kwapiszon traveled the whole of Poland. Throughout his journeys Kwapiszon is chased by two villains who catch up with him in Frombork, Kraków, Wieliczka, Gdansk...
Bunny Grey Ears (1975)
Zajączek Szare Uszko / Bunny Grey Ears, created by Mieczysław Piotrowski in "Is This a Book With Pictures?"
You can hardly compare him to the carrot chewing New Yorker with a "Eh... What's up, doc?" catchphrase, but Zajączek Szare Uszko and Bugs Bunny have one thing in common: escaping and outsmarting hunters. The water coloured illustrations and accompanying text are the work of one-man team Mieczysław Piotrowski. A writer, illustrator, and lecturer at the Łódź Film School, he produced three children's books in a comic book style.
Orient Man (1976)
Kapow! Boom! Zap! Tadeusz Baranowski's comic uses the language of comics that we are all familiar with. Orient Man (Orient Men in Polish not because there is more than one, but because 'man' to a Polish person sounds more like 'men') is no superhero. He is awkward, uncoordinated and chubby. The anti-action hero is meant to ridicule American superheroes, and, as the logo says "make you laugh, stupefy and scare you". He first appeared on the cover of the first edition of "Relax" magazine and featured in a book in 1980.
Eufemia's Thirteenth Feather (1977)
Apolonia and Eufemia discovered a cosmic hole, an entry gate to other worlds, and decide to embark on an expedition. Thus begins an unusual story featuring a number of wacky characters: Bromba, Gluś, Psztymucel Nulek, My Mother's Pet, Fikander and Malwinka. The comic book is the work of Maciej Wojtyszek with illustrations by Grażyna Dłużniewska.
Antresolka profesorka Nerwosolka (1985)
Professor Nerwosolka and his faithful maid Entomologia take part in crazy adventures. This time they discovered a sleeping kingdom with plants resembling Willy Wonka's purple-coloured Nerds candy. The Professor and the maid must face Lord Hokus-Pokus who wants to take over the whole comic book, and fight a resolute book worm who wants to eat up the story. Antresolka profesorka Nerwosolka (translated as Professor Nerwosolka's Mezzanine) comes from the same creative genius as Orient Man.
Tadeusz Baranowski also created a colouring comic book called In Desert and Jaw, a cunning play on words on a classic of Polish literature: Henryk Sienkiewicz's In Desert and Wilderness.
You had better be careful, because a strangler prowls in this booklet...
Author: based on the original Polish language article by Mikolaj Glinski, translated and edited by Mai Jones 22.11.201