Follow TV Tropes


Comic Book / Les Nombrils

Go To
From left-to-right: Jenny, Vicky, and Karinenote 

Les Nombrils ("The Bellybuttons") is an ongoing French-Canadian series following the misadventures of long-suffering Karine and her two "friends" Vicky and Jenny. Starting off as a gag strip it quickly became a dramedy about the daily lives of the three with Karine learning to stand up for herself while Vicky and Jenny learn that there is more to life than hanging off the hunkiest boy in school.

The series was introduced in 2004 in issue #188 of the Québécois humour magazine Safarir. It was later picked up in 2005 by the Franco-Belgian comics magazine, Spirou. Spirou's publisher, Dupuis, published its first BD album, Pour qui tu te prends?, in 2006.

An English version of the series, with its title directly translated to The Bellybuttons, was introduced in 2009 by British publisher Cinebook.


Les Nombrils provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Vicky's mother and to a lesser extent her father, of the emotional and neglectful variety.
    • Karine's parents have a tendency to slap her when she talks back, though it's played more for laughs than Vicky's situation.
  • Abhorrent Admirer: Most of the guys' who follow Vicky and Jenny are this but Murphy probably wins the prize for most abhorrent, by not only being covered in huge zits but for also having a rather terrible personality.
  • The Alcoholic: Jenny's mom.
  • All Men Are Perverts: All the guys who lust after Vicky and Jenny, but particularly Murphy. Dan, Albin and Hugo seem to avert this.
  • Alpha Bitch: Jenny and Vicky, although it is somewhat toned down in later volumes. Somewhat. Mélanie also reflects this trope, when we realise she's even more manipulative than Jenny and Vicky combined.
  • Advertisement:
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Jenny may have some kind of learning disability or she could just be stupid. She does occasionally make some clever observations.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Vicky, on the one hand she has never shown interest in women other than Megane, on the other her pursuit of men was always superficial even more so then Jenny. Her pursuits were either to increase her own social status or to steal men away from Jenny and/or Karine to lower theirs. She also never showed the level of attraction she shows for Megane for any guy.
  • Ambiguously Evil:
    • Albin is trying to get Karine to cut off contact with her friends, a classic sign of controlling behavior, but then again her friends are Vicky and Jenny. Also it's left ambiguous whether Karine's changes in lifestyle since meeting him were really her choice or his. Albin eventually confesses that he finds shy girls and turns them into goths, but that he does it because he enjoys making weak-willed girls strong.
    • Is Mélanie a bitch intentionally or is she a sociopath and can't help it? The fact that she was willing to poison herself in order to frame Karine seems to point more toward psychological issues. To confuse the matter further, it is shown that all of Mélanie's humanitarian projects are in an effort to alleviate the guilt she feels about her actions. Still, both might just be trying to excuse their unsavory personality traits.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love:
    • Vicky does eventually admit she is in love with Megane, but also realizes she will never be happy. If she chooses Megane she will lose her family, and her affluent life, if she chooses her family she will never have true love. All because her parents are homophobic.
    • Averted with Jenny, she realizes that she is in love with Hugo but can't bare to ruin her reputation by admitting it in public. When the opportunity presents itself, Jenny is tempted to jump into his arms but her pride wins and she ends up publically humiliating him instead.
  • Balloon Belly: Jenny gets one in volume 6, causing her to be Mistaken for Pregnant.
  • Bare Your Midriff: If the title hasn't clued you in...
  • Batman Gambit: These start showing up in volume 3.
  • Be a Whore to Get Your Man: Vicky and Jenny's modus operandi. Well... Jenny's anyway; Vicki's all talk and no action. She's also a deeply closeted lesbian, who spends much of the series in total denial about her sexuality.
  • Between My Legs: The cover of volume 4.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Karine, after some serious Character Development.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Mélanie. So very, very much.
  • Bittersweet Ending: After the Downer Ending of Volume 7, Volume 8 ends on a more positive note... though there's plenty of tragic or ominous elements there that keeps it from being an outright Happy Ending. After an album-long Trauma Conga Line, Jenny has recovered, Took a Level in Kindness and is a better and happier person than she ever was before, now openly dating Hugo and having repaired her friendship with Vicky. Albin and the Albinos, after a bit of struggling, have wone a prestigious music awards and have become a success. At the same time, Karine is plagued by guilt for what she did to Xander, and Vicki, who just seemed ready to accept her sexuality and confess to Mégane, discovers that she insulted the girl one too many times and how her chance seems to be blown as Mégane instead got with Lara. The last we see of Vicky in the album, she's depressed and has started comfort eating again.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Karine, Vicky and Jenny respectively.
  • Brainless Beauty: Jenny fairly quickly reveals herself to be this. It gets worse as the series goes on, but already in the first album she has a moment when she needs a calculator to figure out what 2+2 is.
    • In volume 7, Jenny meets her boyfriend's friends' girlfriends, who are all even dumber than she is.
  • Buttmonkey: Karine, Karine, Karine. Also The Chewtoy.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The comic started out as a series of gag strips. The second volume starts introducing some Freudian Excuse scenarios for Vicky and Jenny, and by the time of volume 3 it was going into some pretty involved storylines, which got progressively darker and more dramatic.
  • Closet Key: After their kiss, Vicky realises she has feelings for Mégane.
  • Comedic Sociopathy:
    • The main source of humor whenever Jenny and Vicky are around. Especially Vicky.
    • John John spent a good part of volume 2 beating the snot out of Dan.
  • Conjoined Twins: John John
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Gary, the drummer for Albin and the Albinos, is perfectly open about at least partly having gone into music because it was a good way of scoring with a lot of girls. Unlike 90% of the male characters in the comic, though, he's amiable, respectful and, yes, even chivalrous.
  • Cultural Translation: Vicky's father forced her to go to English Camp every summer, and he always throws random English phrases in his dialogue. English translations change it to French Camp and gratuitous French.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: All the members of Albin and the Albinos have this to some extent, as the band consists of people who have been victims in the past.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Gary is the snarkiest of the Albinos. He often uses humor to relieve tension, though it doesn't always work... sometimes he doesn't accomplish anything other than annoying the other members.
  • The Ditz: Jenny. So very much.
  • Divergent Character Evolution: For much of the first book, Vicky and Jenny are interchangeable, being equally mean and manipulative. Towards the end of the book we start seeing a difference between them, with Jenny's Brainless Beauty traits played up a lot more and her maliciousness heavily toned down. In subsequent albums she is pretty consistently portrayed as an Innocently Insensitive Ditz who generally just follows Vicky's lead.
  • Double-Meaning Title: In French, the title isn't just about the preponderance of Bare Your Midriff for the protagonists, but also allude to the French expression "believing you're the bellybutton of the world," which is said about someone being extremely self-centered, fitting perfectly with Jenny and Vicky.
  • Downer Ending: Volume 7, dear god. Jenny realizes she really is in love with Hugo and wants to be exclusive with him, to bad this is after she publically humiliated him by rejecting his "him or me" ultimatum. Vicky finally stops denying she is in love with Megane, but then can't risk throwing away everything to be with her. Karine finds out that Albin is a chronic manipulator and that she is number 12 in his list of victims. Vicky after getting drunk and rejecting Megane decides to take her frustrations out on Jenny which leads to Jenny outing her and Megane's activities which then leads to a huge fight between Vicky and Megane's bigot parents as they try to pass blame for their "deviant" daughters.
  • Dramatic Irony: No-one but the reader knows that Jenny's younger brother, Willy, is also Vicky's half-brother. At least until the end of Volume 7. Which is revealed to all when Vicky and her dad come to live with Will's new/old girlfriend, Jenny's Mom.
  • Egocentric Team Naming: Albin's band "Albin and the albinos".
  • Epic Fail: Dan tries to pretend Karine's drug is his, the principal know that aside the haircut Dan doesn't look like The Stoner. He then tries to shoot himself to prove it. The drug is marijuana. Instead he just calls the principal fat which pisses her enough that she suspends him instead of Karine.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Much of volume 4 revolves around Vicky and Jenny's rivalry with Mélanie, with Karine siding with her "friends". YMMV as to who is worse.
  • Extreme Doormat: Karine's primary character trait. At least for a while. There are implications that Karine is still a doormat — it's just that the only one walking over her is Albin, and he's such a master of manipulation she doesn't realize it.
  • The Faceless: John John never takes off his helmet. For understandable reasons.
  • Five-Finger Discount: Jenny has a habit of doing this.
  • Flanderization: Jenny's stupidity increases each album. She started out as merely vaguely ditzy and bad at schoolwork, but by the fifth album she's essentially Too Dumb to Live.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • A subtle, possibly unintentional one, but Karine's Dream Sequence in the first album where she's inexplicably turned into a total knockout but also to her horror finds herself developing a mean streak. It's never this exaggerated, but she does eventually get a makeover and discover that She Cleans Up Nicely... as well as getting a few shocking Beware the Nice Ones moments that borders on cruelty. Same dream also has Jenny as her normal self but Vicky has turned fat, hinting both of Vicky's Formerly Fat reveal and that Karine subconsciously thinks better of Jenny than she does of Vicky.
    • John John sometimes seems to contradict himself or have problems making up his mind... Come the end of the third album, we find out why. He's conjoined twins. The smaller voice that sometimes pipied up, sometimes with a different opinion, was in fact his twin brother.
    • In volume 6, Mégane sure is eager to get Vicky into her bedroom and gets noticeably jealous when Vicky shows interest in her brother.
    • Vicky always seemed uncomfortable when the topic of her kissing (or doing other stuff to) guys was involved, even when she was the one who started the topic to tease someone. Besides, she fell from a roof to avoid kissing a guy (although it was Murphy, so it may not count). She's gay. In addition, it seemed that she had never actually kissed a boy until Megane and her brother James, always shoving it on Jenny.
    • The identity of Willy's father is heavily hinted at until The Reveal at the end of the seventh book.
  • Formerly Fat: Vicky, according to her sister.
  • Frame-Up:
    • Melanie poisons herself with food allergy to frame Karine.
    • Karine herself pulls this in book 8 when she plants drugs in the car of the leader from a rival band and calls the cops on him. Beware the Nice Ones indeed. Even Albin is impressed.
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • Vicky might be a pretty awful human being but realizing that her dad is a greedy jerk who raised her to believe that compassion is a hindrance, her mother being mentally abusive and pounding in her head that status is everything, and her older sister Rebecca being ten times the Alpha Bitch she is, it's not hard to see why she acts the way she does.
    • Jenny gets her image obsessed attitude from her alcoholic mother, who slams the door in the face of Hugo, her average looking boyfriend, while stating she could do better. This is right after she gave a speech to Jenny about liking whoever she brought home.
  • Gayngst: At first Vicky vigorously denies she has any attraction to Megane, but even when she does finally admit her feelings she still can't follow through on them because it would mean being disowned by her family. The revelation makes her realize she can never be happy.
  • Gold Digger: Vicky's mom is one, and considers it a proud family tradition that she intends to impart on her daughters, as her own mother did before her.
  • Gonk: The word "ugly" gets thrown around an awful lot in this comic, but Murphy stands out by being genuinely repulsive-looking.
  • Has a Type: Will, Vicky's father, has a thing for redheads. Just ask Jenny's mom.
  • Heel Realization: Repeatedly parodied and subverted with Jenny, who every so often realizes that she's behaved badly and tries to make amends... only to to reveal that she totally misunderstood exactly what she did wrong and why it was wrong, so attempts at making amends end up not even addressing the issue or even making things worse. And then finally played straight towards the end of Volume 8. It took an album-long Trauma Conga Line of Break the Haughty, and a The Reason You Suck speech from Murphy, of all people, but she finally comes around to realizing just what a terrible person she's been, especially towards Hugo, and truly changes for the better.
  • Heroic BSoD: After Vinko's revealed to be a serial killer, Albin becomes a shell of his former self.
  • Hidden Depths: Most of the characters have more to them than is apparent at first glance... the hidden depths aren't always nice, however.
  • Horned Hairdo: Albin seems to deliberately cultivate his own satanic imagery. Possibly as part of his stage persona.
  • Huge Schoolgirl: Karine is comically tall.
  • Ignorance Is Bliss: Jenny's homelife is in a terrible state, but she's too stupid to realise it.
  • Informed Attractiveness: In some gags, Jenny is said to be more beautiful than Vicky, despite them looking almost the same, save for skin color, hair, and nose shapes.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Most of Jenny's more mean-spirited moments are a result of this. Unlike the far smarter and more cynical Vicky, Jenny isn't actually malicious, just very stupid and narcissistic. Usually she doesn't even realize when she's being a terrible person.
  • Insult of Endearment: Mégane continues to call Vicky "Barbie" teasingly even after developing feelings for her.
  • Irony: Vicky's vengeance towards Jenny for the events in Volume 7, involves sabotaging Jenny's appearance, causing her to not only lose her social status at school,but become shunned by her own image-obsessed family. This, however, ends up causing Jenny to undergo Character Development , culminating in her public confession to Hugo, leading to her becoming a happier and better person than she ever was.
  • It's All About Me: The title refers to both Bare Your Midriff and this, "le nombril du monde" being a French expression for people thinking everything is about them (as if they are the bellybutton of the world). Jenny and Vicky are the epitome of total self-centered behaviour, albeit in slightly different ways: Jenny is just too narcissistic and oblivious to realize that she isn't the center of everyone's world, while Vicky gets jealous and malicious as soon as anyone takes attention away from her.
  • Jerkass: Vicky and Jenny, to a hilarious degree, though they do have their redeeming moments, especially Jenny. Murphy, too, though his redeeming qualities are approximately zero.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Murphy is one of the most repulsive people in the comic both in looks and personality, but his little speech in Volume 8 about people who aggressively judge others based solely on appearance is totally on point. It's in fact his honest The Reason You Suck speech to Jenny that makes her fully realize how badly she's treated Hugo and what she needs to do to make up for it. This moment marks the turnaround in Jenny's storyline in Volume 8, when she pulls herself out of her depressed funk and really changes for the better.
  • Jerk Jock: Jean-Franky. His entire circle of friends qualify too.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Xander, the lead singer of the Underdogs, is haughty and condescending toward Albin's band. However, after his older brother tragically dies, he composes a song about him that immediately becomes a hit. Karin then learns that he actually hated his brother and used his death for popularity.
  • Kick the Dog: It's bad enough that Mélanie stole Dan away from Karine, but she just had to needlessly rub it in her face too.
  • Knight Templar: Subverted or double-subverted? TRIPLE-subverted! Albin has some tendencies in this direction, but not to the murderous extent hinted in volume 5. His childhood friend, on the other hand, seems engaged on a personal crusade to eliminate the worst victimizers he knows.
  • Love Epiphany: Vicky has one in volume 6 when she kisses James, she spots Mégane looking down at them from her bedroom, and blushes deeply, while stuttering and her heart racing. She later realises the one she loves might just be Mégane.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl:
    • Mégane for Vicky, encouraging her to rebel against her parents' expectations for her.
    • Albin convinces Karine to break out of her shell and try new things. He is a deconstruction of the trope, as he has a reputation of doing this to girls, and then dumping them not long afterwards to find a new girl to fix up. Karine is the 12th girl he's done this to.
  • Manipulative Bastard:
    • Vicky tries to be one, though her manipulations are pretty shallow. The only people they work on are Brainless Beauty Jenny and Extreme Doormat Karine.
    • Mélanie and Albin are both more realistic and more successful versions, though Albin is a less villainous version.
  • Manly Gay: Dieudonné the gym teacher.
  • Mood Whiplash: The are always jokes even in the most dramatic moments.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Karine suffers a big case of this after finding out Mélanie jumped off a bridge shortly after Karine screamed at her to do just that. Luckily Mélanie lived.
  • Never Learned to Read: John John. In fact, he can read and writes but his spelling is terrible.
  • Nice Girl: Karine herself.
  • Nice Guy: Dan. He does have a few Jerkass moments, and gets carried away a little too easily, but he means well.
  • Noodle People: Everyone is drawn rather Noodly, but none more so than Karine.
  • Nice, Mean, and In-Between: Extreme Doormat Karine is Nice, Alpha Bitch Vicky is Mean and Innocently Insensitive Jenny is In-Between. Vicky does have her nice moments and Karine (especially post-Character Development) could be the poster child for Beware the Nice Ones, but the dynamic is pretty prominent for most of the comic.
  • No Respect Guy: Karine, most of the time. Hugo too, to a lesser extent.
  • "Not Wearing Pants" Dream: Inverted in the image for September in a 2009 Spirou calendar where Karine dreams that everyone except her has gone to school naked.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • John John pretends being far more Book Dumb than he really is to prolong high school.
    • In the climax of volume 4, Karine pretends to go along with Vicky and Jenny's not-so-brilliant plan in order. In so doing, and by letting Mélanie discover it, she tricks her into lowering her guard and falling for Karine's real plan.
  • Obliviously Evil:
    • Jenny can be nice. A significant part of her Comedic Sociopathy appears to be the result of obliviousness and Vicky's bad influence.
    • Albin seems to genuinely believe his controlling behaviour over Karine is justified.
  • Out of Focus: Karine only plays a secondary role in volume 6.
  • Parental Favoritism: Vicky's parents have favored her older sister for years, going as far as leaving Vicky at French camp every summer where she was bullied even after losing weight and getting a makeover, and taking her sister with them on their extravagant vacations. Vicky's sister doesn't treat her well and her parents do little to deal with it. Things come to a head when their mother tries to give Vicky's sister a necklace she inherited after she gets into a relationship with their equally affluent neighbor's son. When it turns out that Vicky caught him on the rebound, they actually take the necklace from her and give it to Vicky, and start to spoil Vicky in ways that not even her sister enjoyed. Her sister even breaks down when Vicky gets a car for her sweet sixteen, as she was only allowed to borrow the family car a small number of times.
  • Peek-a-Bangs: Vinko has long hair covering half of his face to hide a large disfiguring burn.
  • The Pete Best: In-Universe. In volume 7, Mégane replaces Vinko as the band's bassist.
  • Poisonous Friend: It would be shorter to list the people around Karine who aren't this.
  • Precious Puppy: An absolutely adorable one gets introduced as Jenny's pet... only to die horribly within the next five minutes due to her sheer idiocy. Yeesh.
  • Progressively Prettier: Karine becomes notably cuter over the course of the series, even before her radical makeover at the end of album #4 reveals that She Cleans Up Nicely.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Rather than have his secret exposed, John John opts to leave school at the end of the third volume. After he leaves, the readers (though not the characters, apart from Karine) finally find out what he looked like underneath his helmet ans why he never took it off. He is in fact two people... Conjoined twins, to be presice. His twin brother is a second head stuck to the left side of his own head.
    • After giving up on getting Karine back, Dan decides to go live with his father in New York at the end of the fifth volume.
  • Pygmalion Plot: In the seventh book, Albin's ex reveals to Karine that Albin has an habit of dating an insecure girl then turning her into a gothic. Karine is #12.
  • Really Gets Around: Jenny... and to a lesser extent Vicky, though not for lack of trying.
  • Repetitive Name: John John. Even though there are technically two of them, who gives their children the exact same name? Talk about extreme Twin Theme Naming.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Vicky and Jenny (and possibly Dan) about Albin being wrong for Karine.
  • Sarcasm-Blind: Jenny, much to Vicky's frustration, always takes everything she's told completely literally.
  • Sarcastic Confession: Albin loves giving these. It remains to be seen how much of them are actually true.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: Both Vicky and Jenny, who play up their sexiness and dress in skimpy, revealing clothes for attention. We also see the tendency in both their sisters, though with VERY different results: Vicky's older sister, though, who whenever she shows up in the comic has a tendency to be just in her underwear and proudly displays as much of her body as she can get away with, is kind of like a Character Exaggeration of Vicky herself, but Jenny's younger sister Jenna is thirteen at most and her attempts at looking sexy and presenting herself as older than she is comes across more as Troubling Unchildlike Behavior.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Many early strips have something good about to happen to Karine, only for Vicky and Jenny to sabotage it at the last second, intentionally or not.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Once Karine decides to stop being a victim, she changes her looks, this time without the sabotaging input of her "friends". The result is a net improvement.
  • Sherlock Scan: Albin is good at figuring people out. But not good enough to tell his best friend is a murderous Knight Templar.
  • The Sociopath: Mélanie and Albin both show signs of being this. Unlike Vicky and Jenny, it's not played for laughs.
  • Sorry, I'm Gay: Dieudonné turns Vicky down for this reason. Funnily, it turns out Vicky isn't straight either.
  • Spoiled Brat: Both Vicky and her sister count, but her sister is far worse. They're both very materialistic due to their affluent upbringing, but for many summers Vicky was dropped off at French camp while her sister got to join their parents on vacations to exotic locales. When Vicky manages to earn their favor for a change, even getting a car for her sweet sixteen, her sister actually breaks down crying simply because she was only allowed to borrow the family car a few times when she first started driving.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Karine becomes this after she gets her makeover and stops slouching.
  • Teens Are Monsters: In full effect, especially in the first album, and generally played for laughs.
  • Temporary Bulk Change: Happens to Jenny when Vicky takes her to an all-you-can-eat place in an effort to make Jenny fat so the guy they're fighting over will date her instead. When Jenny starts gaining mass unusually fast, Vicky can't believe it. It turns out she was just having an allergic reaction.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Not everything that happens to Karine is horribly depressing.
  • Too Much Information: In Murphy's first scene in volume 6, he tells Vicky he was thinking about her last night while finishing his box of Kleenex.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Vicky is very clearly a poor influence on Jenny, who according to Karine Used to Be a Sweet Kid when they were little.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Jenny, of all people gets subjected to this in Volume 8, courtesy of Vicky. The latter sabotages her trademark appearance, making Jenny believe this will make Hugo interested in her again. Not only does Hugo gets even more upset she's missing the point of his rejection, she loses all her fanboys immediately and her family now shuns her, to the point of refusing to be seen with Jenny. Since Jenny has no friend besides Vicky and Karine, who is away with her band, she ends up incredibly isolated and miserable, so much that she is at one point seen asking Murphy for advice on Hugo.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Jenny's little sister Jenna wears tops with things like "sex bomb" and "Porn Star" written on them and is more interested in high school guys than boys her own age. She is at most thirteen.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Jenny's boyfriend Jean-Franky never wear a shirt, even in an high class restaurant.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Karine accuses Vicky of not knowing what it is like to fall in love. Turns out Karine was right, if not correct on the reason.
  • With Friends Like These...: Vicky, and to an extent Jenny towards Karine.
  • Wrong Name Outburst: Near the end of volume 6 when Karine is yelling at Vicky, telling her how in love she is with Albin, she accidentally says Dan instead of Albin.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: In volume 6 things finally seem to be going well for Vicky as she gains a boyfriend and her parents' respect, but toward the end not only is she almost murdered, she also realises she's trapped in a loveless relationship and the one she truly have feelings for is her boyfriend's sister.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: