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Bart Beaty’s Angouleme Preview
posted January 25, 2006


The 33rd edition of the Festival International de la Bande Dessinee in Angouleme kicks off today, with a ton of changes on the horizon. The world's biggest comics event takes over this small medieval French town, but this year even the Festival had to make way for progress. Construction in the town center, historically the place where the two largest tents ("bulles") are housed, has forced the festival to relocate publishers all across the town. A little more legwork for the attendees it seems. And, for those who tend to stay in the bars a little too late, less opportunity to see the sights on auto-pilot (if this is Saturday, this must be the Espace Fanzine...)

imageOne of the big draws at the Festival each year is the exhibitions, and this year offers a number of potentially fascinating shows. Festival president Georges Wolinski has a show at the CNBDI. Two other artists with large solo shows are masterful Italian artist Guido Buzzelli and up-and-coming Japanese artist Kotobuki Shiriagari. A Dargaud-themed show will trace the evolution from Pilote magazine to the Poisson Pilote line (many of whose works, such as those by Christophe Blain and Manu Larcenet, have been recently published by NBM). The national comics scene spotlighted this year is Finland, and this will be a must-see show given how graphically innovative the Finns are when it comes to comics. Oh, plus there's a show about Jules Verne, featuring new pieces by fifteen artists made specifically for the show (including Chantal Montellier, Stephane Blanquet, Pascal Rabate, Jose Munoz, and Riad Sattouf). There's a Capsule Cosmique show celebrating the children's magazine. Plus a bunch of other exhibitions that, frankly, aren't even listed yet on the Festival's site. You can find me at the Martin tom Dieck exhibition at Fil du Nil tomorrow night, for example.

imageThen there are the events. Last year's Cartoon Concerts (in which artists create a strip live to musical accompaniment) will be featured again with the likes of Dupuy-Berberian, Zep, Blutch and lord knows who else. Discussions about comics (what at San Diego would be called panels) feature the likes of Ben Katchor, Enki Bilal, a meeting between Jeffrey Brown and Frederic Poincelet (I am so there) and, um, Jim Lee (so a little San Diego creeps in everywhere). Angouleme isn't big on panels like American conventions are, but the quality of the discussions tends to run much higher. They're a great place to duck out of the crowds for a little while.

Unlike most comic conventions that are huge but slightly boring, Angouleme is huge but filled with stuff to do. It's a challenge to see everything in just four days, and, indeed, few people do manage to take it all in. As with every year, the biggest challenge is negotiating the teeming tents with a cognac-produced hangover. It's a rough job, but this reporter will do his best. If you're looking for me, I'll be at the bar at the Chat Noir. Feel free to buy me a drink.

squint and maybe you can see Bart; one of the festival's many posters; wolinski art