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Conversational Euro-Comics: Bart Beaty On The Launch Of The Angouleme Festival 2010
posted January 28, 2010

imageBy Bart Beaty

After a great deal of posturing between the festival and the city, the 2010 edition of the Festival International de la Bande Dessinee opens today in Angouleme, France. While there has been a lot of talk that this year will feature a stripped-down approach due to the effects of the global economic meltdown, you sure wouldn't be able to tell that from looking at the program or the scope of the spectacles and exhibitions. Even more than the San Diego Comic Con, Angouleme is an event at which you need to carefully ration your time and simply accept the fact that you can't do everything that you want -- there is simply too much going on.

With that in mind, if you're planning on being at the center of the comics universe over the next four days, here are some suggestions.

Visit Le Monde des Bulles. These are the two enormous tents set up this year on the Champ de Mars housing the biggest of the Franco-Belgian publishers like Casterman, Dargaud, Delcourt, Dupuis and Glenat. This is the crazy beating heart of commerce at FIBD. It will start packed and get more so, peaking on Saturday afternoon when it is often impossible to walk through the space. Aside from the piles and piles of books for sale, the main attraction is the artists who come to do signings ("dedicaces"). Your best bet is to sprint through these tents on Thursday morning, note the times when your favorite artists will be signing and then plan on camping in line at the appropriate moment. There are people whose entire experience of FIBD is sitting in long lines for free sketches, but I'm not one of them. That said, I do usually camp for at least one signature per year, often as a break to rest my tired feet and when there is an artist present too good to pass up. Lots of potential for that again this year.

Browse the nominees at the Espace FNAC-SNCF. Angouleme nominates a ridiculously large number of books for its Fauve d'Or and the one place that you'll find them all is in the tent erected by the festival's two main sponsors, FNAC (a media chain) and SNCF (the national railway). This is a spot that's rarely that crowded, and a good place to just take in the diversity of what the jury thinks is the best work of the past twelve months.

Head to the Manga Building at the Espace Franquin, which this year is hosting a major exhibition about One Piece as well as an exhibition of the work of Makoto Yukimura, who will be attending the festival as a guest.

Check out a Concert des Dessins. This is one of my favorite things about Angouleme. Cartoonists draw live on stage, with their images projected onto giant screens behind them, all to live musical accompaniment, creating a story by Zep. Go to a later version rather than earlier -- these things take some time to jell.

Shop at the Nouveau Monde. This is the other large tent over by City Hall, this time housing the smaller publishers (essentially those L'Association-sized or smaller), many of whom have the most interesting books. If you're looking for an SPX-like experience you could literally hide yourself out in this tent for four days and you'd certainly have it. It's a less crowded space than that for the big publishers, but still crazy by the weekend. This is where I will spend the bulk of my money.

Go to the Rencontres Dessinees at the Conservatory. The Rencontre Dessinee, basically a chalk talk, has been an Angouleme staple for years, but this time has a new home. Frederik Peeters and Nix are among the artists featured this year. The same space will also convene two discussions of Hergé's work, featuring speakers like Benoit Peeters, Joost Swarte and Charles Berberian.


Visit the Fabrice Neaud exhibition at the Hotel Saint Simon. I can't even begin to tell you how much I am looking forward to this exhibition of work by the man I consider to be the world's premiere autobiographical cartoonist.

The Maison d'Auteurs is a space on the way down the hill from the old town towards the museum that annually hosts a number of artists doing interesting work. Their exhibitions are always interesting and sometimes the best of the year. This will probably be no exception. A great place to see works in progress by some of the best young talent in the field. Right across the road is the Young Talent Pavillion this year, which features comics by kids and teens. Always worth a look.

The legendary Enki Bilal will be present this year with a one-night only showing of Cinemonstre, a cut-up deconstruction/reconstruction of his work in film. This will be a tough ticket to get for Friday night at the theatre.


Saturday night, Festival president Blutch will present a show in which he draws live on stage at the theatre, accompanied by the music of Irene and Francis Jacob. The chance to watch Blutch draw for a couple of hours is surely worth the price of a ticket. If you can't make it, there is also the Blutch retrospective at the Place Henri Durnant to check out. In the same location Fabio Viscogliosi will be showing his unique and idiosyncratic work. Oh, and did I mention the exhibitions by Etienne Lecroart and Jochen Gerner? What a year this will be for looking at art in Angouleme -- maybe the best ever.

The Rencontres Internationales will be held in the Salle Nemo at the CIBDI this year. These are conversations with the Festival's invited international guests. Get there early to hear interviews with Jean-Jacques Sempé, Fred, Enki Bilal, Floc'h and Riviere, Joe Sacco, David Heatley, Dash Shaw, Ivan Brunetti and, making his return to the festival, Robert Crumb. Seriously, wow, what an outstanding line-up of cartoonists.

The CIBDI, formerly the CNBDI, is hosting a family-friendly, and ecologically themed, exhibition dedicated to Turk and De Groot's Leonard this year. In a similar vein, Les Tuniques Bleues by Lambil and Cauvin will be feted at the City Hall.


The Musee de Beaux-Arts, in conjunction with the Louvre, will be showing work from the books in the Futuropolis/Louvre collection that is being translated by NBM. I saw this at the Louvre last year, and you need to take any opportunity that life gives you to see Nicolas de Crecy's originals. Trust me.

The Musee du Papier (Paper-making Museum) often has an international flair, and this year is no different as they host an exhibition of Russian comics. This is a topic that I know very little about, and I am thrilled to be having the opportunity to learn. This is one that I think could be a surprise hit of the entire event.

Finally, the Musee de la BD, built across the river from the older CIBDI, makes its FIBD debut this year, and there will be tons of interest in it. It hosts what promises to be the show-stopping exhibition: 100 for 100, in which a century of artists have selected works from the museum's collection and then reinterpreted them, with past and present colliding. The possibilities are simply mind-boggling: Edmond Baudoin doing Guido Buzzelli, Florence Cestac drawing E.C. Segar's Popeye, Lorenzo Mattotti interpreting Alberto Breccia, Scott McCloud deconstructing Ernie Bushmiller... For those who can't make it, there is a very nice catalogue available. We promise to tell you that it is almost as good as seeing it all in person.

That's a lot of ground to cover and we still haven't even mentioned the outstanding cuisine of the region or the wines and cognacs. If I have the chance I'll try to post the breaking news. If I don't, blame the wines and cognacs…


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