At this point in history, between every country that creates comics, one would assume almost every scenario seemingly has been told on paper. You want a comic about women’s volleyball? Look no further than the classic Attack No.1! Want post-apocalyptic environmentalists? Pick up The Massive! You ever wanted a comic about an underwater welder with a Twilight Zone spin, you now have it with Lemire’s The Underwater Welder! So what is the point I’m getting at here? For everything we have out there, you would expect that the setting of ancient Egypt would get more attention in comics, outside the occasional Mummy story. I’m talking sword and sandal style stuff. We have tons of ancient Greek, Roman, Norse, Japanese, English, Chiense settings, but when it comes to Egypt, it is pretty bare bones, except one little gem titled Papyrus.
Papyrus, created by Lucien de Gieter, is a Belgian comic that started publication in Spirou, the same big comic magazine that launched Smurfs and numerous others, in 1974. It’s cool, it’s action packed, from time to time it’s epic, and most importantly, it is a great comic that takes place all in ancient Egypt! Papyrus currently is up to 32 albums in Europe, and finally a few years back it started being translated into English by Cinebook in the U.K. after all these years (currently we are up to 5 volumes in English). Although Papyrus is only a few years new to English speakers, it started its release in 2007, French speakers have dug him for years. Not only is the still running comic proof of their love for him, but the comic also spawned a 52-episode animated series in 1998, which aired in France and the Quebec region of Canada, and even a few video games.
Papyrus tells the adventures of a young boy named Papyrus. Originally he was just a fisherman, but through a series of events, he obtains a magical sword from the God Sobek. In exchange he must protect the princess Theti-Cheri. As the comic develops, he becomes a trusted friend of the princess, and a ton of mystical things both brought by man and Gods happen around them. From Sphinx’s riddles, to numerous curses of past Pharaohs and Mummies, every kind of ancient Egyptian adventure is told in these pages, without feeling boring or worn out.
Lucien de Gieter does a nice job with these stories, both writing and art, and keeps the pace going on these to make each book interesting. His art style is reflective of the time it started, and has that typical Spirou feeling and look akin to the Belgium comics of its time, where the characters can look a little cartoony, and there are nice looking details thrown into the scenery (notably the details of the pyramids and the treasures themselves, Egypt is a fairly open space with rivers and mountains throughout).
If you are looking for something different, I’d check out Papyrus. As mentioned, five of the volumes are available in English from Cinebook: The Rameses Revenge, Imhotep’s Transformation, Tutankhamun, The Evil Mummies, and The Anger of the Great Sphinx.