Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

January 27, 2014

All Eyes Turn To Angouleme

imageThis week is the Festival International De La Bande Dessinee in Angouleme, France, one of the biggest comics shows in the world and certainly the most important for the vital French-language comics market. It will be an awesome show for many, many people barring some sort of horrible circumstance. There will be a huge North American contingent there, because that is something that show offers these days. The winner of the festival's Grand Prix is always of interest because it's one of the cooler awards. Multiple reasons: you get to be involved with the next show, which is the best award perk; it's a big national and regional-European deal; like all the best awards it's hard to tell exactly how the votes work, which is extra-great in that they've recently traded old-men-in-a-room mystery for sprawling-process mystery; because it's a limited award it almost always goes to someone worthy or at least interesting.

I am slightly worried as a comics fan that this year's finalists -- apparently Alan Moore, Bill Watterson and Katsuhiro Otomo -- portend some less than ideally awesome days to come at least in terms of how I like to look at that award. While each one of those comics-makers serving as finalists could win the award five times as far as I'm concerned, they all come from a generally populist mindset regarding that in the past has only been one aspect of what the Grand Prix winners have been. If opening up the voting means the awards skew younger and to more popular creators because the people that might be expected to lean that way are doing the voting now, what I would miss the most is the subset of winners that come out of a respected tradition of French-language cartooning, comics-makers with a ton of great work to their credit but that don't necessarily have a huge audience, only a significant one. There are creators that looked like future Grand Prix winners even just a couple of years ago that you now have to think won't stand much of a chance to win one because the voting is different. So I think that would be too bad. They are so freaking overdue for a manga-maker as a straight-up grand prix winner that I hope Otomo wins, although again, I like nearly all of the comics made by all three comics-makers. Also, I have never picked the winner ever in Angouleme anything.

With every festival comes drama, and there's always drama at Angouleme even when the Grand Prix isn't in question. There are industry issues that will best be encountered on the ground -- I bet just the presence of so many North Americans is going to be its own thing this year -- and there are a ton of more general political/cutlural issues that always bubble to the surface like so many people striding forward on a fashion-show platform. Maybe the best way to access those issues is this rambling open letter from's Didier Pasamonik, who has certainly had his own moments of drama in years past regarding things like press passes and various feuds with key alt-comics players. My French is pretty lousy, and I haven't taken the time to translate that sucker yet, but it's always fascinating to read the dance of art and commerce as played out on such a stage. The thing that people find alarming seems to be bottom line a loss of attendance and interest and, one assumes, cash; the solutions, however seem to be very vague calls for increased government interest and committees being formed. It's worth noting that there's a time when all shows -- and this will happen for the North American ones, or at least many of them -- cycle down either temporarily or permanently or otherwise perform in a way that doesn't meet whatever expectations people have for them, fairly or unfairly. I think you're always better off accepting rather than fighting it, but I'm not French.

Anyway, I hope everyone that's going travels safely. If you see Paul Karasik, please encourage him to file promptly.
posted 7:55 am PST | Permalink

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