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Home > Bart Beaty's Conversational Euro-Comics

Bart Beaty in Angouleme 2007
posted January 29, 2007
 

Report #1 -- Monday Morning

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In their 36-year history, the prizes given out by Festival International de la Bande Dessinee have changed their names at least four times. They started as the Alfreds, changed that to the Alph-Arts, then changed that (briefly) to the Prix d'Angouleme (need to get the brand name out there!) and now they've changed again, to "The Essentials," which is probably as bad a name as I could imagine for a book prize.

Moreover, the rules have changed too. This year, a whopping 50 books have been nominated as "Essentials" and eight of them will win prizes. One will win the main prize as best book (the Essentialist Essential, I suppose) and then there will be six Essential runners-up, and one book will win the special prize for best "heritage" book (Essential Reprint). And I'm pretty sure one of them will win "Essential Book from a New Talent." Of course, all of this was undertaken in order to make the whole awards process less confusing. Job well done.

With 50 books in the running it is almost impossible to handicap the nominees. The jury can go pretty much any which way (there are seven jurors, I suppose that they could all just pick one book and pretty much call it a day), and there are pretty much no clear criteria other than the jury should pick a bunch of really good books.

imageThe pre-selection committee did a generally nice job. It's hard to argue with a list where the English-language books nominated are: Black Hole, Hate, Frank, Fun Home, Ganges, Ice Haven, The New Frontier, La Perdida, and Wimbledon Green (and the French version of the giant Little Nemo book is nominated in the Heritage category). Imagine the day when the Eisners or Harveys have an equivalent line-up of Euro-comics nominated for their main prizes. Odds are the one or two of these books is walking away with a prize. In fact, I will predict three American comics will win prizes, and that one of them will be the Little Nemo collection winning the Heritage prize. I would imagine Jessica Abel and Kevin Huizenga are strongly in the running for the Newcomer award.

imageManga is also well-represented by Avant la prison (Kazuichi Hanawa), Gyo (Junji Ito), In the Clothes Named Fat (Moyoco Anno), Jacaranda (Kotobuki Shiriagari), Ki-Itchi (Hideki Arai), Non Non Ba (Shigeru Mizuki), Sorcieres (Daisuke Igarashi), and Zipang (Kaiji Kawaguchi). I'm not sure which of these seven series is available in English (I'm sure Chris Butcher or Dirk Deppey can help us there). I will say that Hanawa's prison material is fantastically good, and that Ki-Itchi is by far my favorite contemporary manga series. I've never read In the Clothes Named Fat, but it looks interesting. Manga has also done well in the Heritage category, where Golgo 13 (Takao Saito) and Hato (Osamu Tezuka) both appear. I will go out on a limb and say only one award for manga this year, and I'm predicting that the prize goes to Hanawa. Outside chance: Shiriagari for Jacaranda.

imageThe rest of the nominees are all European, a mix of small presses and established houses. From the biggest and most commercial publishers we get: Daniel Goossens' Georges et Louis (a humor comic from Fluide Glacial), Kinky & Cosey by the Flemish artist Nix (Lombard), Julien Neel's children's series Lou (Glenat), Magasin General by Loisel and Tripp (from Casterman, about a Quebecois general store), Le Marquis d'Anaon by Fabien Vehlmann and Matthieu Bonhomme (from Dargaud, a story of an Enlightenment-era adventurer), Pascal Brutal, a satire by Riad Sattouf (Fluide Glacial), Les Passes-Murailles by Stephane Ory and Jean-Luc Cornette (Humanoides, Ory is an interesting artist), Le Photographe by Emmanuel Guibert (discussed here recently), Pourquoi j'ai tue Pierre by Olivier Ka and Alfred (Delcourt, which, I believe, is about rape), Le Sang des Voyous by Loustal and Paringaux (Casterman, everything by this duo is probably worthy of an award -- do they ever miss?), Universal War One by Denis Bajram (Soleil, not my type of thing at all!), and Wizz et Buzz by Winshluss and Cizo, which I haven't read but which will find me racing to Delcourt for a copy. I've got to imagine that at least two of these books will walk away with prizes. I'm strongly pulling for Le Photographe, and Magasin General is a good bet as it is regularly praised. Almost inevitably, however, each year a book that I know nothing about wins a prize, and it will probably come from this group. Possibly Pourquoi j'ai tue Pierre.

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The final category would be books published by the smaller presses. These range from the genuinely small to the increasing mid-range and well-funded publishers that are the bread and butter of the type of work that I tend to read and review here. A few of these nominees I haven't read yet, so they're books that I'll take a close look at later this week. The nominees include Canetor by the late, great Charlie Schlingo and Michel Pirus, Capucin by Florence Dupre la Tour (an artist I don't really know at all), Comment ca se fait by Nadja (one of Cornelius' several nominations), L'Homme qui s'evada by Laurent Maffre (someone I've never even heard of -- a first book based on the true story of a convict's escape from a penal colony), They Found the Car by Gipi (who won the grand prize last year), I Killed Adolf Hitler by Jason (expect this time-traveling adventure soon enough from Fantagraphics), Luchadoras by Peggy Adam (about the 400 women murdered in Juarez), Lucille by Ludovic Debeurme (which I recently reviewed), the final volume of Frederik Peeters' amazing Lupus, Michel by Pierre Maurel (about a sound artist), Olivier Schrauwen's amazing Mon Fiston (also recently reviewed here), L'Oeil Prive by Blexbolex (who is amazing beyond words), Orage et Desespoir by Lucie Durbiano (I went back and forth on buying this when I was last in France -- seems I made a mistake in passing it up), Panier de Singer by Jerome Mulot and Florent Ruppert (the hyper-talented duo behind Safari Monseigneur), and La Volupte by Blutch. Additionally, two L'Association collections (Touis and Frydman's Sergent Laterreur and Gebe's Service des cas fous) are nominated in the Heritage category. How many awards do I have left to hand out? Two? I'm going to give them to Blutch and Frederik Peeters, just on a whim.

Frankly, I don't have a clue what is going to win. I've read just about half of the nominated titles, and there's none that I haven't liked and admired to at least some degree. There are few books on the list that seem to be absolute locks (except for the Nemo book), so nothing is going to surprise me. In all fairness, despite some omissions that seem inexplicable to me (World Trade Angels, the entire Fremok line), the list of nominees is very good -- far better than I've ever seen in a comparable American awards. So, good luck to the nominees! The awards are handed out on Thursday (I think), the opening night of the Festival. I'll be back then with a look ahead at the Festival as a whole. -- Bart Beaty

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Those in North America interested in buying comics talked about in Bart Beaty's articles might try here or here.

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Report #2 -- Wednesday morning

Bart Beaty Reports In From Angouleme:

It snowed in Angou on Tuesday, throwing things into chaos

Everything rests on the shuttle buses and the Festival is logistically on the edge. The director of Casterman made rumbling noises this morning in the local paper about moving the Festival out of Angouleme.

There is a real distance between the tents and any place to eat and one publisher bowed out over food issues!
Bart's official preview will run tomorrow, and we'll run anything he's able to send; there should at least be a big write-up at the end of the show.

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Report #3 -- Wednesday afternoon

Bart Beaty Reports In From Angouleme:

I hate French keyboards!

Bit of a fuller update -- Angouleme now has an Internet cafe, so I may get others, too.

One of the lead stories in the Charente Libre this morning was an interview with the director of Casterman. He says that 2007 is make or break time for the festival in this city. All of the publishers were unhappy with last year and revenues being down. Now that it is clear that the festival can never return to its old location in the center of the old town, the publishers demanded a central site where they would all be together. They have received this, but the drawback is that it is far from downtown. I walked it this morning and it took 40 minutes, although that was hampered by the snow and ice.

The new location is a bit bizarre. The good thing is that all of the publishers -- including the small press and fanzines -- are together for the first time in decades. It is truly one stop shopping. The horrible thing is that there are no restaurants down there. None. There is a snack bar but the average French person is no more likely to eat at the snack bar than the average SDCC goer is likely to order foie gras. This means that it is likely that festival goers will arrive at the publishers tent, leave for lunch and then the key question: will they come back?

The festival is betting everything on the navettes (shuttle buses). They are claiming that these will move people around smoothly and efficiently. We shall see tomorrow if that is the case.

One publisher, Albin Michel, was so upset about the food situation at the tents that they decided to bring their own kitchen and chefs! Then, the local restaurateurs took offence, and when the smoke cleared Albin Michel boycotted the festival because of the food situation. No one takes this as a good sign

The key is that the publishers are united in the feeling that the city should do more to appease their interests. Casterman claimed that it costs them 120,000 euro to attend, and they want more or they will leave. The Charente Libre asked point blank about the rumour that has circulated for two years about the festival picking up and moving to La Rochelle. This was denied, but it was also indicated that there needs to be a plan B, C, and D if this festival is not a big moneymaker.

All of this is complicated by the coming elections, as the festival receives money from various levels of government. The Socialist Party candidate for President is Segolene Royale, who is the president of Poitou-Charente, this region. She strongly supports keeping the festival in Angouleme, and were she to become president (she is currently second in the polls to the conservative candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy) that might be a boon for the festival. Next year will see municipal elections, and those will be closely watched by the publishers as well.

Is it so much hot air? Hard to say. The big publishers get an enormous media boost from Angou that they don't get from anything else. They need an event like this, and festivals in Grenoble (15 years ago) and Paris in 2002 and 2003) failed to compete with the FIBD. But the big publishers hold a lot of cards.

The headline on the new issue of DBD is Angouleme: The end of an epoque. It could well be the case

As for the snow, it has all melted, although some additional snow and cold weather are forecast for tonight. Dress warm if you're coming!

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Report #4 -- Thursday Morning

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Bart Beaty Reports In From Angouleme:

If it's the last Thursday in January, this must be the opening day of the Festival International de la Bande Dessinee in Angouleme, France's enormous celebration of all things comics, hosted each year in a little medieval town. The organizers will be praying for no repeat of the snow that last year shut down the trains and highways and kept tens of thousands away. The rest of us will be just trying to figure out what the hell is happening.

Last year the Festival was thrown into disarray by the construction of a new shopping space on what used to be the main grounds of the event. The arrangements made to work around the construction seemed to please no one at all -- and even led to the creation of a counter-festival organized by the small press publishers. This year everything has changed once more. The biggest shift is that the publishers have been moved way, way out of downtown, out past the museum (the CNBDI) basically on the road to Cognac and Bordeaux. Okay, maybe not that far but the official map estimates a 25-minute walk back to the old town, and that may be a little optimistic. This is an enormous change, and all the e-mails I keep getting are from people predicting disaster. We'll see.

Of course, at Angouleme hanging out at the publisher booths hoping to get things signed or to pick up the latest and greatest books is just about the least interesting thing to do. The highlights for this year include:

imageThe concerts. As in the past two years, there will be a series (three, actually) of live cartooning performances featuring Zep, Ludovic Debeurme, Dupuy & Berberian, Loisel, Tripp, Ville Ranta, Francois Schuiten, and others. Basically, each artist draws a panel which is then projected on a giant screen for the audience to see, all set to a musical arrangement by Areski Belkacem. New this year is a comic strip improv match, featuring artists from Fluide Glacial, and, the highlight has to be a live performance by avant-garde songstress Brigitte Fontaine, accompanied by eight musicians and Blutch, drawing based on the music. That's Saturday night at the theater, and I am hoping tickets haven't sold out already.

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And, of course, there are the exhibitions. This year the biggest of these is the Kid Paddle exhibition, which is 500 square meters dedicated to the children's comics phenomenon. The World Comics Expo, which seeks to examine comics as a worldwide phenomenon looks to be one of the more ambitious undertakings of the Festival in recent years. Festival President Lewis Trondheim declined the opportunity of a career retrospective exhibition, and instead has opted to create the 7 Wonders of Comics Art at different locations around the town. He is also one of the 24 cartoonists who began working on a 24-hour comic book at the Maison des Auteurs on Tuesday. The theatre hosts an exhibition dedicated to the work of Pierre Christin, the CNBDI hosts a Jim Woodring retrospective, the Place St Martial celebrates the 100th birthday of Herge, and the art school hosts the work of Richard McGuire. To name but a few.

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Angouleme is not big on panels in the American comic-con sense, but they do have something better: International Meetings, where two disparate artists just sit and talk comics. This year features discussions including: Blutch & Jessica Abel, Alison Bechdel & Fabrice Neaud, and appearances by the likes of Charles Burns, Jeff Smith, Toppi, Trondheim and Mattioli. Additionally, five artists this year will work, in public, on a current project, taking questions from the audience: Riad Sattouf, Lewis Trondheim, Joann Sfar, Etienne Davodeau, and Mathieu Sapin.

So, there is a lot to be done and a lot to see. The big questions, however, all revolve around logistics. With such a drastic change to the layout of the Festival, what will be the impact? And what will moving things from the center of town do to the biggest comics event in Europe?

Let the madness begin.

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Report #5 -- Thursday Afternoon

Bart Beaty Reports From Angouleme:

For the first time ever -- Angouleme has wifi in the press area!

It is now 3:30 in the afternoon of the first day of the Festival and people are slowly adjusting to all the changes. The worst thing is that it snowed hard on Wednesday night again and then all the snow froze. I rode the bus to the main tent in the morning and saw only one person braving the trek on foot. It's all downhill from the old part of the city, and really a skating rink. It is expected to warm up a bit by the weekend, but so far the weather is not a friend of the Festival.

Crowds have picked up in the afternoon but the hall was almost totally empty this morning, which was not a good sign at all. Angouleme is a steady growth Festival, with crowds more or less doubling from Thursday to Friday and then again from Friday to Saturday, so it is too early to rule on whether this remote Festival is a success or failure.

The good news (so far) is that the navettes are working extraordinarily well. Last night at dinner I watched Joost Swarte calculate the bus needs of the Festival. Given the frequency and number of buses, he estimated that they could serve 30,000 attendees in total and "more if people aren't lazy." Joost announced that if only 30,000 people come, we're in luck. But, of course, if only 30,000 people come the Festival will lose money. You can't win.

But this morning I walked right of my hotel and onto a shuttle, which took eleven minutes to get me to the main tent. At lunch I took another shuttle right up to the old town, and was able to catch a third shuttle after a lovely meal. So far I've heard of absolutely no problems, nor any lengthy waits. How this holds up for Saturday is still a question, but right now I would say that this is a major victory for the Festival.

One huge drawback of the remote location: No cash machines in the vicinity. I've found at least thirty books to buy so far, but just had to write them down so that I could get them after lunch now that I have cash in hand.

The press is here, of course. Right behind me right now Charles Burns is giving a TV interview. The lines are growing at the biggest publishers for book signings. I have not spent a lot of time in the fanzine space, but on first glance the mini-comics quality seems to be peaking again after a bit of a recent drought.

So, spirits are generally high at Europe's biggest comics Festival. People are well-rested and ready to buy and sell. If the snow melts and the sun comes out, this whole thing may become a success.

By the way, L'Association is announcing the arrival of the Apocalypse. Just so you know. More news when it's warranted.

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Report #6 -- Friday

Bart Beaty Reports In From Angouleme:

Friday and the crowds have arrived in full force to the town of Angouleme. Thursday has been fairly well written off as an aberration and a bit of a disaster in terms of sales and excitement. The crowds never materialized on the icy streets, but now navigating the tents has become a full-scale challenge. I arrived this morning from the CNBDI and walked into the midst of an enormous crowd queuing for the chance to receive a Guardino book signing. A feeling of mad desperation in the crowd.

Everywhere you go people talk about the shuttle buses. So far I have had six good experiences out of seven trips. Last night I waited twenty minutes in the freezing cold for the navette, then it got stuck in traffic and I was late for my meeting. But that has been the exception, and the system generally still seems to be working well.

Perhaps people talk about the buses because there is not that much else to talk about. The exhibitions are far from overwhelming. This morning I watched Jim Woodring lead a tour of his exhibition at the CNBDI for the press, and that was a highlight, but otherwise there is nothing that people feel is a must-see. That, in combination with the remoteness of the main tents has the Festival feeling somewhat vacant. Certainly in the old town, there is very little sense that there is a Comics Festival in town.

Of course, the bars and restaurants are full as usual. If the Hotel Mercure bar was a little subdued last night you'd hardly know it for the screaming at 3:00am. Tonight, L'Association hosts a party for the launch of the third (and last) number of Eprouvette, the mammoth (570+ pages!) collection of essays and manifestos about the current state of the art, but they are promising a subdued affair befitting the mood of the Festival.

The awards were not handed out last night, so those looking for results will have to wait until Saturday. I spoke with a jury member yesterday who gave me no hint of what the jury is feeling. My sense from last weekend that Pourquoi j'ai tuee Pierre was a strong contender has been amplified by seeing the book, which looks lovely and fascinating.

The snow is melting, but not fast enough. The tents are about to close, which means we're at halftime on the day and the real business of the Festival can get under way at the bars. Certainly the highlight of the day was watching Jerome Mulot and Florent Ruppert sign at the L'Association booth -- a four-fisted enterprise in which they cut apart their books to turn them into frames for their sketches. Truly unbelievable. Meanwhile, the search for the perfect pork sandwich continues.

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Report #7 -- Sunday

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Bart Beaty Reports From Angouleme:

So, after two days of wifi suddenly the system shut down and there was no more blogging from the Festival. That might have been the least of the organizational problems. Yesterday I waited five minutes to get off a shuttle bus as there were so many people waiting to get on that no one could move at all. And the party for the artists at town hall lost power for half an hour -- no lights, no music, free drinks -- but there no one seemed to care so much (did I mention the free drinks?). Just another Angouleme Saturday night.

I will have a proper reflection on what was learned at this Festival in a day or two when I'm back in Canada and a little more rested. The big tension was between the commercial and the artistic (as always) with the commercial sucking the life out of the town, but the artistic rallying through the prizes.

The prizes? Oh, the prizes! Tom has the covers up below so you can see for yourself, but let me just say that last night at the Mercure a "famous French cartoonist" walked by me and just leaned over and said "Fantastic palmares, oui?" And for the small press, oui bien sur!

Shigeru Mizuki's Non Non Ba becomes the first manga to win the big prize, and it is a work of supreme skill wonderfully, beautifully, lovingly presented by small press champion Editions Cornelius, the producers of the nicest books around.

Best newcomers are the insane Belgians from L'Asso, Ruppert and Mulot. I'll have more on these guys in a couple of days, and with luck you may even see something in English from them before too long. L'Asso also took the Heritage prize, a shocking upset over Little Nemo, with Sergent Laterreur, the long overlooked masterpiece from Pilote. I spoke with someone last night who told me that this choice had restored his faith in the Festival.

The rest of the winners are an outstanding collection of books. Note the publishers though: Only two books from the largest presses (Le Photographe and Black Hole), and neither of those a traditional BD. I rode the train back to Paris in a first class car filled with employees from the major houses, and there were few smiles about the prizes.

As for the grand prize, Jose Munoz is, obviously, a wonderfully deserving choice and I couldn't be happier to see him win this accolade. Yesterday in the afternoon I was feeling that Angou had little left to offer me. The mall-ification of the Festival seemed complete. But the dramatic last minute shift towards a celebration of the art rather than the commerce (plus a nap on the train) has me excited already to return.

I'm back in a day or two with thoughts on the whole of the Festival, and over the next few weeks I will endeavor to review all of the prize winners that I haven't reviewed already.

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Report #8 -- Festival Summary and Photo Gallery

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Bart Beaty Reports On Angouleme:

Given all of his public denunciations of the commercialized aspect of the Angouleme Festival, it is ironic that Lewis Trondheim presided over what was the most commercially-oriented of any of the ten Festivals that I have attended. Indeed, this year the focus on book-selling at Angouleme reached a fevered pitch, with the festival moving out of the center of town and creating a giant comics shopping mall that placed almost all of its emphasis on mercantile issues. If you were just looking to sell books, this year's set up was probably ideal. If you think that comics are an art form, you were out of luck. This was, by far, the worst Angouleme that I have ever attended, the type of event that by Saturday had me depressed and wondering why I come at all.

When he was elected President, Trondheim spoke out aggressively and controversially on a number of issues, picking a fight with the sponsors (particularly the Leclerc superstores, the French equivalent of Wal-Mart), and calling for free admissions and an end to the publishers' domination of the event through the form of publishing booths. Of course, what we got was a festival totally and completely dedicated to preserving the interests of the biggest publishers. The sponsors remained the same, admissions remained in place, and the whole event became BD World, a place where you pay your entry to see artists signing books. With the old town virtually removed from the festival this year, there was little to do other than wander around the loud publishers tent and hope to meet some artists that you've long admired.

The one thing that Trondheim seemed to understand by the time the Festival arrived is that the ceremonial title of president is just that, ceremonial. He was not authorized to make changes, and in fact the festival moved in the totally opposite direction to what he had called for. The changes that he did make, to the prizes, were generally well received and will likely be continued. But that was about the only thing from this festival that should be kept.

Probably the biggest problem of the Festival this year was the fact that the exhibitions were, to put it mildly, poor. While strolling the exhibitions at Angouleme is usually a good way to spend a day or more, this year it seemed a little bit like grimly ticking off boxes on an itinerary.

The big exhibition this year was also, by far, the biggest dud that I have ever seen. The Universal Exposition was the subject of jokes even before the Festival began. Placed in the space that once held the fanzines (and which was now all but deserted), it consisted of two shipping containers placed side by side. Upon entering, the viewer was met by a sadly over-designed walkway featuring photocopies of comics pages on light boxes. That was it. It took about 15 seconds to take in the total disappointment of the thing, and, sadly, people were queuing for up to 15 minutes at times to get in. This exhibition is meant to be expanded each year over the next several years, but I would advise the Festival to simply get rid of it now while it still can. It did absolutely nothing to promote the art form and was, frankly, an embarrassment.

The Champ de Mars held the largest exhibition space, most of which was given over to Kid Paddle, Midam's humor strip for young people. This was a good use of space, if totally uninteresting to someone like myself. The kids liked it, which is what was important. The rest of the tent was given over to exhibitions featuring comics by school-aged children (a contest involving schools) and to an exhibition of sports-related manga series. There were also rooms showing anime, and spaces for lectures and talks. This space was packed on Saturday, and, indeed, when I first tried to get in the line was considerably too long. The success of this space in the old town demonstrated the importance of the city and of themed exhibitions to the festival as a whole.

One of the big disappointments of the year was that, for the first time, there was no exhibition of work by the President. Trondheim, for reasons that I am unclear of, declined the opportunity to show his work. Instead he installed seven gag pieces around town. I only saw six of them (three at the theatre, three at Espace Franquin). These included original Smurfs comics pages (i.e. pages drawn by the Smurfs), the most expensive comics page in the world (a frame with shattered glass, the page having been "stolen") and so on. Each of these was worth, at best, a minor giggle, and was certainly little consolation for those of us who would have liked to have seen his work featured, or more material featuring the small press movement to which he is so intricately linked.

The Herge exhibition was maybe the weakest of the lot. Having been scooped by the Pompidou Centre's major installation celebrating the centenary of Remi's birth, Angouleme just simply gave up without a fight. They posted some blown up panels, some text about how Herge never traveled in real life but did so in his work, blah blah blah. This was among the worst efforts by the Festival in the ten years I've been attending. Pathetic, really. Meanwhile, Nick Rodwell, who controls the Tintin empire, used the occasion of the festival to confirm the construction of a Tintin museum in Belgium, a forthcoming Steven Spielberg Tintin film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and the fact that he is suing Casterman to regain the rights to the Herge material.

So was anything worth seeing? Well, the CNBDI hosted, for about the fifth year, their Imaginary Museums exhibition. Clearly, the CNBDI has run out of money. Angouleme, as former director Thierry Groensteen indicated to one of the local papers, is a bad location for it, as the region does little tourism. Budgets are down, and the museum is starting to look a bit worn. Upstairs hosted an exhibition by Jim Woodring, the undisputed champion effort this year and the only thing anyone that I talked to seemed to like. The consensus was that all the exhibitions were poor save Woodring's, about which no one could say anything negative. Downstairs was an exhibition of work by Richard McGuire that consisted almost entirely of blown-up illustrations done as posters. This was a major disappointment, as I had been waiting for this exhibition all year (it was announced at the 2006 Festival). I later learned that McGuire had been discouraged from presenting original art since it would be displayed in the lobby, and was, therefore, prone to being stolen.

The Maison des Auteurs presented the work of their artists in residence in the form of Archeographie, a mock archeological dig. This was well presented, as always, and is a nice way to see works in progress from some significant young artists like Aude Samana and Olivier Bramanti.

Finally, the exhibition highlight of the year for me was, sadly, not even comics. The sculptor Bernard Pras, whose work uses optical effects and found objects, has been doing a series of works based on superhero images. This year, at the Espace Franquin, he installed a new piece based on 1970s-era Captain America imagery. This was a great piece, but when the best exhibition at a show of comics art is not comics, something has gone desperately, miserably wrong with the priorities of the Festival as a whole.

The problem in a nutshell is that Angouleme has lost the balance between commerce and art that at least made it tolerable. While the festival will never be an art-first festival like Fumetto, there is also no reason that it should merely become a book-selling convention like San Diego and SPX. Angouleme once had the balance between the two, to a greater or lesser degree, but it seems to be gone at the moment. More and better exhibitions in the town are called for. More and better events as well. Yes, the publishers threatened to bolt if a new emphasis wasn't placed on book-selling, but in winning that battle Angouleme is at risk of losing the war for its soul.

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Photo Gallery
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on Saturday, Angouleme renamed one of its streets for Rene Goscinny, writer of the Asterix series. Guess who showed up?

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the navettes were the talk of the Festival, when they worked and when they didn't

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Bernard Pras' Captain America sculpture. Peer through the lens and you can see what you're looking at

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comics fans line up for tickets. Not a Wolverine costume to be seen

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the line getting off the bus extended along here, around the corner, around another corner -- you get the idea

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sadly, this photo did not come out. Nicolas Mahler debuts the models for his Flaschko inaction figures at the Chat Noir bar, circa 3:30 in the morning. The beer didn't help the camera focus

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inside the dreadful Universal Exhibition. Those are glowing photocopies on the left and right

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at the L'Association booth. Matt Madden signs in the foreground, Edmond Baudoin (red shirt) signs behind him, Guy Delisle talks with Ruppert and Mulot in the background

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the Richard McGuire exhibition at the CNBDI featured blow-ups of his work

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Delcourt's booth had a Little Nemo theme this year, and an elaborate walking bed

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reading the Trondheim-created Smurfs comics pages at the Theatre

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President Trondheim greets his adoring public

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Lewis Trondheim gives a lecture to 500 people in a room that comfortably holds 150

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at the Jim Woodring exhibition

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Next time: A final word on Festival President Lewis Trondheim in light of two of his newer books, the break-up of the L'Association gang, and what it all could possibly mean.

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To learn more about Dr. Beaty, or to contact him, try here.

Those interested in buying comics talked about in Bart Beaty's articles might try here or here.

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