Comic strips are considered a genuine art form in France and Belgium, where they are known as bandes dessinées. Bandes dessinées has been referred to as ‘the ninth art’, raising it to the same level as the seven liberal arts, the traditional branches of learning: grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music. This introductory chapter sets out the book's purpose, which is to explain why Francophone comic strips command such extraordinary respect in their countries of origin. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
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