Crushing the Imperial(ist) Eagles: Nationalism, Ideological Instruction, and Adventure in the Bulgarian Comics about Spartacus – the 1980s and Beyond
Keywords:Daga, Bulgarian comic magazines, Spartakiad, Strimon, Thrace
Daga (the Bulgarian word for “rainbow”) was a Bulgarian comic magazine launched in 1979 and regularly published until 1992. Its remarkably westernized aesthetic greatly impacted an entire generation of readers. Included in its variety of stories (history, sci-fi, literary classics) is an action-packed account of Spartacus’ exploits. For ten consecutive issues (1979–1983), the story spanned the hero’s life from a more fanciful narrative of his early years in Thrace to the better-documented events in Italy and his death. The paper explores the plotline, characterization, and visual aspects of “Spartak” to reveal the eponymous hero’s significance for young Bulgarian readers in the 1980s. Drawing on the cultural and historical context, I argue that Spartacus was well suited to serve as a role model and a national hero by embodying the proletarian anti-imperialist struggle and also, notably, because of his supposed place of birth near the river Strimon in modern-day Bulgaria. I also look at examples of contemporary comics, including a new graphic novel based on Daga’s story published in 2020, and consider the transmutations of the hero to suit the post-communist (and anti-communist) ideological agenda, characterized by a departure from the proletarian image of Spartacus in favor of more conservative, aristocratic features.
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