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Bart Beaty Reports In From Angouleme 01/27/08
posted January 27, 2008

By Bart Beaty

imageNapping on the train back to Paris this morning, I was awoken by a friend who whispered only "Dupuy Berberian," and a huge smile crossed my face. A perfect cap to one of the best Angouleme's I have ever attended. The Festival moves from strength to strength to strength with its presidency, honoring two cartoonists who are deeply committed to the form in its all its glorious varieties. Another wonderful selection -- I am counting down the days until next year already.

This was the first time in many years that I feared I may not take in all of the Festival. So much to see, and the weather had everyone lingering longer on the patios at lunch, giving the whole enterprise a more casual air. True, a few of the exhibitions seemed haphazardly put together, but the show pieces more than made up for it.

The CNBDI performed better than it has in years. In the lobby, a lovely, if small, showing of Bottaro originals. Taking the place of the Imaginary Museum exhibit which had ruled the main space for the past half decade, a phenomenal Argentinian comics exhibit curated by Jose Munoz. This was a must see, lovingly presented and showcased a ton of raw, and often little known, talent. The Munoz exhibit itself, though modest, was also lovely. Upstairs, to cap things off, a plethora of Ben Katchor originals. All in all, the Museum outdid itself once again.

Crowds seemed intense but reasonable on Saturday, which is to say that the biggest tents weren't terrifying. A number of books, including a few I was interested in, sold out, which had publishers in a good mood. The Festival will release some raw numbers in a couple of days, but I am sure everyone seems happy by the move back to the centre of town.

Well, not everyone. One tiny whiff of scandal seeped out on Saturday night at the awards when the winners of the Fanzine Prize lambasted the Festival for what they perceived as shoddy treatment. It is true that the location of the fanzine tent beside a tent whose main draw is the ultra-mainstream Soleil was less than ideal, and the tent itself was smaller than in the past, with some presses unable to get tables. The twinned draw of Italy's Canicola and America's Buenaventura Press right at the end of the tent seemed unable to attract the crowds, and I fear that the fanzine publishers might not have done as well as they would have liked. A location closer to the small press tent would've likely helped them.

But that public airing of (legitimate) grievances was one of the few sour notes for a Festival where everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. The awards themselves were nicely presented, with an opening that featured an Argentinian singer, a guitarist and Jose Munoz live drawing in accompaniment -- an awesome sight. Equally gratifying was the generous reception accorded Carlos Sampayo, Munoz's longtime collaborator. Speeches were short and the awards moved along in a lively fashion, which is not always the case. Shaun Tan's victory, coming as it did with Tan not in attendance, seemed to take many by surprise and take some air out of the proceedings. My sense is that the work is not well known yet in France, though it will obviously garner more attention now.

All in all, a great turn around for Angouleme after last year's dismal performance. I will be back in a couple of days when I'm less exhausted with some more thoughts on the significance of the prizes, and maybe even a photo or two.


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