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January 29, 2014

Euro-Comics Special: Paul Karasik In Angouleme 01

imageBy Paul Karasik

Compared to Bart Beaty I am an Angouleme neophyte. For the past four years I have come to Angouleme for the week prior to the Festival to teach a Comics Workshop at the EESI school (in four classes, my students create eight-page mini-comics which they proceed to sell at the Festival). After teaching, I usually stick around for the Festival.

This year I offered to write some pieces for The Comics Reporter for fun (and to score myself a Press Pass!). I had imagined that my pieces would dance around the edges of Bart's usual play-by-play posts. I did not know until this morning that he would not be walking his usual beat this year, delivering genuine news stateside.

Bart's interest and knowledge of global comics and local Angouleme festival politics far exceeds my own. I suspect that my posts will be far more anecdotal and lacking in objectivity (as well as anything resembling real news).

To those of you who have come to depend on Bart Beaty's reporting, I join you in hoping that he returns to the Festival the near future.

In the meantime:

Here are a few things you should know if you are visiting the festival for the first time.

1. It's a comics festival.
This may come as a surprise to U.S. visitors who expect Comics Festivals to be about movies and television and computer games. The focus here is comics.

Wait, let me rephrase that, the real focus here is to separate attendees from the contents of their wallets -- through comics. Comics for every taste and demographic, many of which you will find nowhere else, are for sale everywhere.

2. Angouleme is a tangled mass of tiny streets.
You will get lost as soon as you land. The festival hands out oodles of free maps that you will see overflowing from trashcans throughout the city because they are essentially useless. Even Google Maps has given up on Angouleme, replacing the usual street map on your iPhone with a color drawing of Professor Calculus holding his divining pendulum and shrugging his shoulders.

3. Skip the schedule as well as the map.
Here’s an example: last year I followed the schedule and went to the location where I thought I was going to see an inking demonstration by an interesting Chinese artist. Instead I found there a living-tableau recreation of Asterix and Obelix outfoxing some Romans. I snuck out and, while trying to get my bearings, found myself in an auditorium where Joost Swarte was singing the blues -- a performance which was nowhere to be found listed on any schedule.

4. To sum it up: go with the flow.
The best way to enjoy Angouleme is to exit the train from Paris waving a white flag on a stick. Wander, be surprised, and be prepared to empty the contents of your wallet on the byways of this crazy little town.


Paul Karasik is a cartoonist, author and educator best known for his work on the graphic novel version of City Of Glass and for bringing to a wider audience the work of Golden Age cartoonist Fletcher Hanks.

posted 12:30 am PST | Permalink

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