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10 Comics That Are Popular Everywhere Except The United States – CBR – Comic Book Resources

For one reason or another, these comics either found success overseas or they quickly captured an entire country’s imagination, just not in the USA.
America may be the source of many of the most well-known comic book characters, but not all of them are popular in their country of origin. Some characters have long been forgotten despite being pop culture giants decades ago.
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Fortunately for these aging pulp heroes and serialized comedians, they found a second wind or even more popularity abroad. For one reason or another, these comics and their characters either found success overseas or quickly captured an entire country’s imagination.
As a franchise, Transformers is an unstoppable behemoth – especially in the movies. As a series of comics, Transformers is a niche interest. Take the critically praised The Transformers: More Than Meets The Eyefor example. While beloved by readers and far from a sales bomb, this Transformers run didn’t exactly break new ground in America.
Japan’s reception painted another picture, since any IDW Transformers title that had Drift quickly sold out. This was due to Drift being a love letter to Japanese culture, as seen in his ninja and samurai aesthetics. Thanks to Drift’s popularity, IDW’s Transformers got Japan-exclusive reprints, plus new cover art from prominent Japanese artists.
In 2001, Disney’s Italian studio created W.I.T.C.H., a magical girl series about five otherwise normal girls who save the world. While W.I.T.C.H. ran for 139 issues and even got a short-lived animated adaptation, it was more of a modest hit than a blockbuster in America. In Scandinavia, though, W.I.T.C.H. was a massive success.
While W.I.T.C.H. was still being published, the comics branched out into books written by Danish authors like Lene Kaaberbøl and Josefine Ottesen. Here, the worldbuilding was expanded and the characters got more adventures together. However, almost none of these books have an English translation, and they’re currently exclusive to Scandinavia.
Jonah Hex is one of the most recognized Western comic heroes, which is probably why his sci-fi reboot Hex fell flat. In this post-Crisis relaunch, the scarred bounty hunter was somehow transported to a post-apocalyptic future where he fought for his life. Hex lasted a year at most, and the titular character was brought back to his Western roots.
Hex was considered mediocre by American readers and, at best, it gained a minor cult following due to how much of an oddity it is. Conversely, Hex was a major hit in Italy, Japan, Spain, and the United Kingdom. It’s widely believed that this was because of these countries’ preference for the post-apocalypse over the American Old West.
Given how ubiquitous Disney’s classic characters are, it’s easy to forget that they only became household names because of comics. Disney comics used to be a big hit in America, but they’ve since been phased out in favor of the Disney Channel and more. That being said, these comics continue to thrive overseas – especially in Europe.
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In Europe, Donald Duck became an icon who outshined Mickey Mouse in fame and relevance. Finland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, and other countries still sell his comics and magazines and even treat him like a celebrity. Meanwhile, Germany turned him into a local literary icon after the translators went the extra mile to ground him in German culture.
To most Americans, Jose the Brazilian parrot is best known for being one of The Three Caballeros. Of the trio, only Donald Duck maintained his stardom, and the group has been limited to making the odd cameo now and then. In Brazil, however, Jose isn’t just the most popular of the Caballeros but a national mascot as well.
Known as “Ze Carioca” in Brazil, Jose was the country’s star. Instead of Disney adventures, Jose headlined comics about everyday Brazilian life alongside his original cast of side characters. His original solo run lasted between 1961 to 2018 and pumped out almost 1400 issues. He later returned in the compilation magazine, Adventuras Disney. 
Beetle Bailey is one of the oldest American comic strips that’s actually still ongoing today, but the military satire is unfortunately long past its prime. This slow decline in popularity was simply due to Bettle’s life in a military base being tied to its time period, especially when the United States Army was constantly deploying around the world.
Conversely, Beetle Bailey continues to be a mainstay in countries like Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, where it still enjoys exclusive magazines that are printed even to this day. This is because, unlike America, these countries still have conscription programs. Or, in Sweden’s case, have only recently stopped the practice, making Beetle’s humor timeless.
Despite only exploding in popularity in the ’50s, Little Lulu is one of America’s oldest comic strip characters. Little Lulu was at the forefront of the slice-of-life craze in comics of the time, where kids’ everyday shenanigans were the primary focus. Like many of her contemporaries, though, Little Lulu faded into the background over time.
This wasn’t the case in Japan and Brazil, where the character enjoyed new life. In 1976, Little Lulu starred in the anime Little Lulu And Her Little Friends. In Brazil, Little Lulu was such a beloved cultural fixation that she got a local legacy sequel manga in Teen Little Lulu And Her Gang, which starred the original Lulu’s granddaughter.
After World War II ended, many of the Golden Age heroes who debuted to boost morale faded into the annals of history. One of the few who didn’t was The Phantom, and he barely escaped obscurity by being one of the most popular pulp heroes of his time. Though American readers forgot about the ghost who walks, other countries didn’t.
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The Phantom consistently sold out in Australia and Scandinavia, where he still gets reprints and new material. His most impressive legacy was becoming a symbol of the fighting spirit in Papua New Guinea. After first seeing him in American soldiers’ comics in World War II, the tribespeople used The Phantom for their art and ceremonial shields.
Depending on who’s asked, Riverdale is either the most entertaining teen show of the 2010s, or it’s a campy mess. Either way, this fame and/or notoriety never transferred to the comics. After debuting in 1941, Archie Andrews stuck around in comics but faded into the background as the decades went by. Yet in India, he became an icon.
Archie is so popular in India that he and the gang visited the country in India-exclusive issues. Furthermore, the comics introduced its first Indian character, the aspiring filmmaker Raj Patel, in 2007. In 2021, Netflix announced that it would produce an Indian adaptation of Archie titled The Archies, an Archie musical set in ’60s India.
As omnipresent as Garfield is, the truth is that he’s more of a meme than a respected comic strip character. Garfield’s modern American fandom is fueled by irony, especially since the consensus is that the comics suffered a drop in quality. This isn’t the case in France, where Garfield’s fandom has a genuine love for the lasagna-eating cat.
Garfield comics (and anything starring him) were so popular in France that the country made a CG cartoon for him. The Garfield Show dominated French TV ratings for five seasons, even beating SpongeBob SquarePants. Meanwhile, in America, anything beyond the first two seasons is incredibly hard to find either online or physically.
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CBR Staff Writer Angelo Delos Trinos’ professional writing career may have only started a few years ago, but he’s been writing and overthinking about anime, comics and movies for his whole life. He probably watched Neon Genesis Evangelion way too much, and he still misses video stores. Follow him at @AD3ofc on Twitter, or email him at delos3nos1992@gmail.com.

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