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25 Things Bart Beaty Wants to Do in Angouleme
posted January 29, 2009


By Bart Beaty

The 36th annual Festival international de la bande dessinee opens today in Angouleme, France. I'm attending for my twelfth time. To be honest, it's easy to fall into a routine at an event like this. Visit the tents on Thursday as it's the least crowded day. Visit the museum on Friday before the full crowds show up. Meet with people on Saturday as the crowds are so vast that it becomes difficult to do anything else. I even tend to eat in the same restaurants every year. It's a nice rut, but it's a rut. So this year, I've pledged to do some new things to shake myself up. I can't promise that I will do all of these things, time being what it is, but here's what I'd like to do:

image1. Take in the Dupuy-Berberian exhibition. I wouldn't miss this for the world. Two great talents, well deserving of the presidency. In the past we've had some fantastic exhibitions from the presidents of the Festival, and I have high hopes for this year's signature show.

2. Attend a "concert de dessins." These are live concerts during which a cartoonists provides live drawings (projected onto a screen). In the best cases -- like at last year's awards featuring Jose Munoz -- they are breathtaking. The integration of live performance and comics is a fascinating experience. This year Brigitte Fontaine will be singing while Alfred, Herve Bourhis, Ludovic Debeurme, Clement Oubrerie, Ville Ranta, Tanxx, Tripp et Bastien Vives interpret the music. Wow.

3. Attend a lecture. American cons have panels, Angouleme has "meetings." This year's schedule is one of the richest in many years, with numerous opportunities to listen to the world's best cartooning talents. Here's what you're missing by not being here. Friday has talks by Milo Manara, Hiroshi Hirata, and Vittorio Giardino. Saturday features Posy Simmonds (expect to see me there for sure), Adrian Tomine, Dan Clowes, James Kochalka, Melinda Gebbie and Jose Villarubia, and South Africans Conrad Botes, Joe Daly, Joe Dog and Karlien de Villiers. Sunday "only" has Marjane Satrapi and Chris Ware and David Heatley. I defy you to find a better line-up of cartoonists talking anywhere.

4. Spend time in the Manga building. Two potentially great exhibitions over here, one featuring the work of Hiroshi Hirata and the other Shigeru Mizuki (who won the prize for best book a couple of years ago). Or you can see the new Hayao Miyazaki film, Ponyo on the Cliff, before it is released later this year.

5. Stand in line for a dedicace. Pick at least one comics legend, stand in line, get a book signed, act like a drooling fanboy. You know that you want to. Feel free to act uncool. I recall one year getting books signed -- simultaneously -- by Lorenzo Mattotti and Jacques de Loustal. I almost wet my pants.

6. Visit "La Maison Close" by Ruppert and Mulot. I think that these guys may be the future of smart comics, with their mixture of performance art and high irony. Here they are opening the first comics brothel, integrating the work of female cartoonists like Aude Picault, Anna Sommer, Fanny Dalle-Rive, Pauline Martin, Caroline Sury, Florence Cestac and others. This could be the exhibition of the festival. Hell, it could be the comics event of the decade.

7. Read the nominated albums. There's only 50 of them. Or so. And they're all on display at the booth sponsored by FNAC/SNCF. Chill out for a while, take a break from the walking and talking, and just read some comics.

image8. Revisit Boule et Bill. Angouleme is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Jean Roba's comic, which I haven't read in a long, long time. I'm looking forward to renewing my acquaintance.

9. Buy a round at the Hotel Mercure bar before 4:00am. We resist drinking here because it is too crowded, too hot, too loud and the drinks are too expensive. We usually wind up here late in the evening when it's the last place still serving, but this year I'm going to make an effort to be here during the heart of things.

10. Log on to and check out the 24 hour comics. Introduced to the Festival by Lewis Trondheim two years ago, the event is hosted by the Maison des Auteurs on the Tuesday/Wednesday before the festival, so if you go now the works will be up and the creators are probably still sleeping it off.

11. Hang out with some Flemish people. An exhibition will be celebrating comics from Flanders, the northern half of Belgium. Raise a glass, and discuss the politics of secession!

12. Buy lots of things in the Fanzine tent. Some of the artists will have the same sad eyes that you see at SPX, pleading with you to take a look at their work. Others have the cocky attitude that all up-and-comers should have. Either way, they're the future of this art form and you owe it to yourself to see what it is that they're doing. Odds are high that you'll find the best book of the festival in this tent.

13. Look at the Sai Comics exhibition. Here's one of the reasons that I go to Angouleme: to learn things. Sai is an independent Korean comics publisher. To say that I know nothing about the independent Korean comics scene would be a vast understatement. Now I'm going to learn.

14. Eat foie gras. Sure, eating fat will kill you eventually, but who wants to live forever?

image15. Run to the Winshluss exhibition. Under his real name he was nominated for an Oscar for co-directing Persepolis. Under his pen name, he is the funniest man in comics today. His Musee Ferraille, in 2003, is still the best exhibition of comics I've ever seen. I cannot wait for this one.

16. Eat dinner at the Passe Muraille. Still my favorite restaurant in town even after all these years.

17. Re-examine Frank Margerin. Margerin was a big influence on the early career of Dupuy-Berberian, so it makes perfect sense that an exhibition of his Lucien work is appearing while they are president(s). Margerin is not nearly as present in the current comics scene as he once was, so it will be a pleasure to take in this material.

18. Take some time off and visit some vineyards. Angouleme is proximate to Bordeaux and Cognac. This is the great wine region of the world, and I do my best to take advantage of that at lunch and dinner. It's been a few years since I've had the opportunity to take a day in the countryside and sample the local fare, and if I find someone with a car, then I'm off again.

19. Visit South Africa. The Flemish aren't the only international guests of honor. This exhibition, based largely around the Bitterkomix material of Joe Dog and Conrad Botes, should be a revelation.

image20. Head to the theatre and watch singer/musician Arthur H. perform while Christophe Blain draws. This should be seriously cool, and one of the tougher tickets in town.

21. Or catch Rodolphe Burger performing with art by Dupuy-Berberian. This will likely be the toughest ticket to come by.

22. Shop for comics at the big tent. It's the biggest comics shop in the world for four days, and they want your money.

23. Eat greasy pork and frites. I don't know why we have to do this, but we always end up doing it.

24. Buy a piece of art. I love the art dealers here, even though I suspect their wares are often over-priced. But if you want an unusual piece of comics art, here's a good place to start. For those looking to spend a little less, check out the many publishers and galleries selling deluxe prints and seriegraphs.

25. When I get back to Paris, I'll read about the prize winners. Sadly, the decision to move the presentation of the awards to Sunday afternoon means that I will no longer be in town when they're handed out. I've tried in the past couple of years to review the winners on this site, but that has often necessitated me picking up the books on the last day of the Festival. This year, I'll have to try to do this in one of the few Parisian bookstores that opens on Sunday. After all, what better way to wrap up four days of comics, than with a little more comics shopping?


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