Believe it or not, Marvel and DC are no longer the only big kids on the comics block. Nor, for that matter, are their major U.S. competitors, their British counterparts, or even the wildly popular Japanese manga industry. Our little comics neighborhood has officially become a major global metropolis. Many countries around the world are getting in on this comics business for themselves. And thanks to the internet, we’re all invited.
Enter: Bubble Comics.
Bubble Comics is Russia’s largest comic book publisher. Founded in 2011, they have successfully published more than 200 monthly issues of ten different titles of original content, and counting. Those 10 titles span a variety of genres, from mystery and suspense to fantasy and sci-fi. They have brought together some incredibly talented Russian writers and artists to produce extremely high-quality comics, and have even ventured into the comic movie-making business (more on that later). So let’s talk about Bubble’s titles and why you’re missing out if you’re not already on-board.
Over the past few years, Bubble has appeared at major U.S. shows like Comic-Con International attempting to break into the U.S. market. It’s still a bit difficult to purchase physical copies of their products in the States. Thankfully, most of their titles are available digitally with English translations on ComiXology. Hopefully, with a little more traction we can strengthen our trading bridges because let me tell you, they make some damn good comics.
Where To Buy Bubble Comics
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably looking for English translations. Many of their titles are available in English digitally on ComiXology for $0.99-1.99 a piece. If you’re new to digital comics, the Guided View feature on ComiXology is a really cool way of maintaining suspense while reading without spoiling the next page peripherally, totally recommended. They are, however, still in the process of releasing English translations, so be aware that the plots are much further along (if not completed) in Russia and spoilers abound online. In the meantime, each title has about 10-15 translated books out, so there is plenty available while we wait for more.
What About Hardcopies?
Hardcopies are a bit more difficult. Bubble Comics is currently selling an English-language hardcover collection of Exlibrium on their English website, but this seems to be the only physical book in their store currently. If you can navigate their Russian language website, there is an English section with a few extra English preview copies of Demonslayer, Major Grom: Chance, and Time of the Raven, as well as a Best Comics from Russia preview collection. To have these shipped outside of Russia, however, you have to email your order to email@example.com and they will manually calculate your total and international shipping. In the meantime, hopefully Exlibrium will be the first of many to come to their English store!
I was recently lucky enough to pick up the first three trade paperbacks of Major Grom, the live-action Major Grom Ultimate Edition movie, and The Art of Bubble book at their booth at Comic-Con International. All are in Russian, except for the movie, which has English packaging and subtitles. All of the packaging, binding, layouts, and, of course, the content of these items is gorgeous and absolutely worth picking up if you have the opportunity. If you can’t make it to Comic-Con and already speak Russian, want an amazing opportunity to practice your Russian, or just want a tangible way to view these amazing comics, they are totally worth the effort to buy.
A Note On Translations
When sharing Bubble Comics with friends, the first question is inevitably, ‘how are the translations?’ The short answer is, they’re totally fine. As someone who sat through a fair deal of fan work like, say, the Duwang translations of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, the quality is incomparable. Bubble Comics has an extremely professional team producing high-quality content published professionally in English.
Are there some minor hiccups here and there? Yes, a few. But 99% of the time, Bubble comics read like any native-speaking English comic. The only caveat is that it takes time for comics to be translated, so while there is a good selection already available to us, we may have to wait a bit before we’re caught up with Russia.
Major Grom is Bubble Comics’ most successful title. The series ran in Russia for 50 issues from 2012 to 2015. There are currently 15 issues in English on ComiXology thus far. These complete the first Plague Doctor arc and begin the second arc, St. Patrick’s Day. Word of warning, though: the sequel series being translated simultaneously, Igor Grom, contains major spoilers for Major Grom in the description alone, so avoid it for now.
Major Grom begins as a relatively light-hearted murder mystery series set in Saint Petersburg. Igor Grom is a police detective charged with solving a series of high-profile murders committed by a serial killer dressed as a plague doctor. The killer leaves themed notes at each scene revealing his desire to rid the city of its corruption ‘plague.’ As Igor strings together the pieces, more and more layers are added to the deceptively simple plot. Eventually, he and his companions are swept up into much larger, darker themes of corruption, social upheaval, and mental illness.
Major Grom brings together a team of amazing artists and writers. Denis Popov’s more lighthearted, animated style beautifully sets the brighter, more innocent mood in early chapters. Popov’s art contrasts profoundly with the darker, metaphorical dreamscapes and flashbacks illustrated by Anastasia Kim (a.k.a. Phobs) as the series transitions to darker themes. (Her dramatic spread at the end of #10 Metamorphosis is deeply unforgettable.)
The writers Evgeniy Fedotov and Artem Gabrelyanov do an equally fantastic job creating a full cast of compelling characters. They masterfully tease readers with gradual revelations and misdirection, making the series quite an entertaining roller-coaster. Even when things seem a bit predictable, there is always an unexpected layer attached.
Major Grom Live-Action Film
In 2015, Bubble Comics announced the creation of their own movie-making division called Bubble Studios. Two years later, Bubble Studios premiered a live-action Major Grom short film at the Berlin International Film Festival. The film was screened at Comic-Con International a few months later, and Bubble Comics sold English-subtitled Ultimate Edition copies of the film at their booth. (The movie comes on a flash-drive that folds neatly into a realistic credit card — quite possibly one of the coolest things I’ve ever purchased.)
If you can’t make it to Comic-Con, the movie is on YouTube and well worth the watch. The film is a prequel to the Major Grom comics and runs just under 30 minutes. The plot is straight-forward: Major Grom fashionably disrupts a bank robbery in Saint Petersburg. You do not have to read the comics to enjoy this film. In fact, it serves quite nicely as a great stand-alone introduction to the comics.
If you have read the comics, there are lots of fun little homages throughout. Little details like Igor’s trademark lightning-shaped eyebrows, or an ad for ‘Together’ in the background really draw you into Bubble’s universe. New fan or old, though, the filming techniques, acting, and choreography make it one of the most refreshingly fun films I’ve seen in some time.
A Passion Project
The Ultimate Edition includes a making-of video in which Bubble Studios describes the sheer amount of effort and passion put into making this film. It absolutely shows in the final product. All of the stunts are real, inspired by films like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon. The studio built all of the gorgeous, multi-storied sets themselves, and recorded a full, original soundtrack. They even engineered a unique filming system using scaffolding to rotate the camera’s 360° around the bank fights.
The acting is fantastic, and the humor hilarious. The fight scenes are technically impressive in their own right. But they also provide a meaningful yet humorous glimpse into Igor’s thought processes. I genuinely have nothing bad to say about the film, except that I want more. Luckily, the film ends with a teaser, and a Plague Doctor film has been announced for October 2019!
Meteora is without a doubt my favorite Bubble title. The series has been ongoing since 2014 and currently has 49 issues in Russia. ComiXology currently only has 10 issues translated, which is devastating because this is a series you didn’t know you needed. If a scenario like Invincible meets Cowboy Bebop set in the lower levels of Coruscant or Nar Shaddaa overshadowed by the Galactic Empire excites you, you need to read Meteora.
Needless to say, Meteora is a space opera centering on the titular character, Alena “Meteora” Kuznetsova. Meteora, or ‘Ora’ if you dare, is a legendary space smuggler and sharpshooter with a temper. She travels around space with her smuggling crew: the noble, lion-like alien, Push, and Ziggy, the gambling addict. All three of the main characters are extremely well-written. While they form their own little smuggling family, it’s never easy to tell if tempers are actually flaring, or someone is scheming.
The first ten issues are a bit episodic, revolving around whatever new smuggling jobs the crew takes on. But nothing ever goes as expected. Each new episode adds new dimensions to each of the characters, and greatly expands the intergalactic world-building. I could go on about Meteora for days, there are so many fun things
A Meteora Love Letter
As a tomboy with a feminine edge, Meteora’s character design was what initially drew me in. Some of her depictions may occasionally be a bit gratuitous, but Meteora remains my perfect brand of strong female character.
Her half-cocked attitude disguising inner intelligence and turmoil reminds me a lot of traditionally male characters like Han Solo or Transformers’ Rodimus in the more recent James Roberts IDW comics (mirroring Push’s Chewie or Ultra Magnus). She’s hard to read, deceptive, brash, and even a bit silly at times. But as her motives are revealed, you realize she’s also honorable, intelligent, and lost by herself in a big, unforgiving universe, just making the best of what she’s got.
Galactic World Building
Speaking of a big ol‘ universe, the alien designs initially seem to be inspired by the usual Earth-animals-but-different formula. However, as more species are revealed, there are some truly, awesomely unique visual concepts, particularly in the villain, Zab Neru. Denis Popov, Arseniy Chebynkin, Pavel Falicki, and their talented coloring team absolutely kill it with more simplistic, lightly textured, dark or neutral-colored backgrounds, which beautifully set the gritty underworld atmosphere of the galaxy’s scum and villainy and make its vibrant inhabitants pop.
Conceptually, without spoiling too much, Meteora is a bit similar to Marvel’s film adaptation of Star Lord. However, Bubble twists the usual sci-fi tropes into an interesting play on Fermi’s paradox. Meteora is the only human in this huge galactic empire because humans haven’t mastered spaceflight yet. It remains to be seen in the English translation how exactly she got into space in the first place, apart from it having something to do with her father.
But no matter how much she wants to, she can’t return to Earth. Galactic rules stipulate that primitive societies cannot be contacted until they set foot on another planet. Meteora’s return to Earth would jeopardize the galactic order. She can smuggle almost anything through any impossible situation, but smuggling herself back to Earth proves to be far more difficult.
Other Bubble Comics Titles
If, for some reason, Major Grom and Meteora haven’t convinced you, Bubble’s other titles are just as amazing. Demonslayer and Realmwalker are excellent supernatural or mythical options. Exlibrium is an interesting spin on traditional folk and other stories that come to life, with plenty of recognizable pop-culture references to boot.
And if political intrigue and espionage are more your thing, take a look at Red Fury. Check out the list below of all other Bubble titles currently available in English on ComiXology, and their official descriptions.
Danila the Demonslayer is a grim avenger who exterminates fiends with the power of living tattoos, made from Satan’s blood. Together with the cynical renegade imp called Sneak he tracks down and annihilates demons, trying to hold back the infernal invasion.
«EXLIBRIUM» (from the Latin ‘ex libris’, «of the books» and ‘equilibrium’, «balance») – a magic seal that helps the mysterious order of sorcerers to guard the border between the real world and the world of fiction. For many centuries members of the order have been successfully preventing creatures from the works of art and literature from escaping into our world. But sometimes the order fails to do so and some of those characters manage to break the walls between realities…
Andrey Radov, alias Friar… An heir to the ancient generation and the owner of a powerful artifact – a cross inlaid with Power gems. For many centuries forces of evil have been trying to get ahold of this unique item, clashing with the Radovs. Traveling through different worlds, Friar is trying to help every person he meets…
We’ve got two kinds of news: a fantastic one and an even more fantastic one. First of all, our Earth is just a part of the Collar of Worlds that consists of many parallel worlds. And, second of all, the gods that you read about in myths and legends actually exist. And any world that they visit will be destroyed in an apocalypse! But don’t worry: there are heroes that will not let that happen. The universe is protected by the Realmwalkers – the mighty warrior of the ancient lineage Andrey Radov and his wife Kseniya who can control plants and their friend – the former Ivan Tsarevich who transformed into the Grey Wolf.
Nika Chaikina, the best thief in the world, is recruited by agent Delta from the International Control Agency. “ICA” was created in the late 40’s for one purpose – to prevent armed conflicts around the world, and it copes with its task perfectly (for example, the peaceful outcome of the Cuban missile crisis is the merit of “ICA”). Nika, who was codenamed “The Red Fury”, begins her most exciting and dangerous adventure ever…
The Value Of International Comics
Bubble Comics presents an entirely new universe of incredible comic characters representing the thoughts and ideas of their Russian creators. International comics provide an incredible opportunity to promote diversity, friendship, and understanding. They give readers around the globe a unique window into unfamiliar cultures, while also proving that the human condition is universal no matter where you’re from. Check back to The Daily Fandom for future spotlights on more comics from around the world. Which countries would you like to see featured?