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January 27, 2015

A Couple Of Notes About This Weekend’s Angouleme Festival

The Festival International De La Bandes Dessinées is sort of unofficially underway in Angouleme right now. A formal start tomorrow. That's always a big deal: it's the biggest and most important show for one of great world traditions of comics. This year is of special interest for a few obvious reasons: here are some of the things to keep an eye on.

image1. Hebdo. The biggest worldwide news story of the year so far, the murder of multiple people in the Charlie Hebdo offices on January 7, is bound to dominate the discourse and mood of the show this year round. I have no idea what this means we'll see in an overall sense, but I suspect that first and foremost extra security measures are going to make a show sometimes difficult to negotiate outright treacherous. I hope all of my friends that desire to see one exhibit or another will use any special opportunity they have to do so. I also imagine that you'll see some really broad gestures on behalf of free speech, perhaps even the French equivalent of Dr. Doom crying because of 9/11. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine. I'll be most interested to see how much it's on the minds and tongues of those attending.

2. Watterson. It's Bill Watterson's presidency this year, the outcome of a voting designed to engage with a larger number of candidates and reduce pressure on the winners to negotiate how to give or not give a first-sentence-of-obit honor to friends and peers. Watterson drew a new comic and will be represented with a version of the Billy Ireland museum exhibit, which was impressive when I saw it in Columbus last year. It remains to be seen if this more populist-oriented way of voting leads to candidates that capture the imagination of those attending. We'll also have a second round of voting of grand prix to kind of figure out where that award is going.

3. Comics As A Career. My understanding is that careerist issues are an underlying but vital issue in French-language comics right now, with some younger and even popular cartoonists making public their desire to go down a more rewarding career path. My further understanding is that this introspection was triggered by some policy proposals in terms that would have a direct impact on all cartoonists below the "wildly successful" line, but has as its main fuel the reshaping of the French industry over the last several years towards a huge number of titles being published but very few breaking out and selling more than modest number. At the same time, I also get the sense from watching that market and its culture that you have a lot of comics-makers and institutions that are matter-of-fact about what they do and their desire to continue doing it; it's a structural issue, not a generational one. I think the number of experienced pros on hand should make for a really good festival in the wider sense: there should even be a solid slate of events outside of the official ones, as those are run by mostly veteran comics-makers now.

4. US Indy/Alt Presence. There are a number of cartoonists and comics people heading over. Eric Reynolds of Fantagraphics is one of the newbies that this year benefits from a state-sponsored program to get coverage and secure publishing arrangements for French-language comics; it's a program I've applied to but for which I wasn't selected. But hey, if I were a French cartoonist I'd rather see more North American publishers than press. I think there's a small but significant number of the cartoonists over there for whom their primary publisher in Europe isn't just a bonus avenue for getting the work out there but very nearly or even absolutely a primary publisher. In return, it's interesting to see which cartoonists drive interest.

5. comiXology. I have no idea if their deal with Amazon has changed the way they're perceived or even has publishing ramifications, but I'm going to keep an ear to the ground in case there are any rumblings similar to the faint ones over here last year when it was announced last Spring.

I hope that everyone is traveling safely and continues to be safe through the entire weekend. We all look forward to seeing what results.
posted 10:15 pm PST | Permalink

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