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January 9, 2013

Conversational Euro-Comics: Bart Beaty On Changes With This Year’s Angouleme Festival Grand Prix

imageBy Bart Beaty

It wouldn't be FIBD if they didn't radically rejigger something. After years of changing the awards, they have decided to fiddle with one of the most important elements of the entire event: the Presidency.

Traditionally elected by the past-presidents who come to the event, the Presidency is a big deal not only because it is an important recognition for those who win it, but because it is the tent pole around which all of the exhibitions are organized. A big name President -- like Art Spiegelman last year -- draws an entirely different crowd and sense of the event than does a much less well known President, like Jean-Claude Denis this year.

This isn't the first time that the FIBD has let artists vote. In the 1990s, artists demanded enfranchisement and in 1996 they elected Daniel Goossens. This dramatically unexpected event -- the election of a cartoonist's cartoonist -- caused them to lose the vote the next year!

The hybrid system used this year seems - from the outside - to be a way of breaking what looks to be about a dozen way tie. Every year when rumors spread from the selection meeting, there are complaints about certain voters who "just don't get it" or who are so out of touch that they ask who Chris Ware is. Of all the names on the ballot, I have heard every one seriously batted as a contender for years, with the exception of Willem (who would be another Goossens pick, and one I could get behind!), but it is odd to see the choices laid so bare. It's also depressing, I would imagine, for names that are absent. Not a great day to be Jacques de Loustal.

I don't think that this change is lamentable -- frankly, FIBD has screwed up the legitimacy of their awards so badly that it would be hard to complain about the undermining of their Presidency -- but I also doubt that it will be permanent. It will be nice if, as I suspect, it helps break some of the lunatic logjam that has kept the award from someone like Jiro Taniguchi, who should have won years ago. It will also be interesting to see if the voters plug for someone who doesn't draw -- an Alan Moore or a Jean Van Hamme. My feeling is that they're still long shots, but without the wider vote they'd likely never make it.

If you just want to see a beautiful exhibition, everyone should vote for Lorenzo Mattotti or Nicolas de Crecy.

Update: Bart sent along this addendum about three hours after his initial note:

"One odd bit that strikes me on looking at the list of nominees is the presence of Joann Sfar. Sfar was announced as the 30th Anniversary laureate in 2004, and I have always assumed that that meant he was considered a past winner. Perhaps not. It is notable that Angouleme has had three previous people given this kind of award (Claire Bretecher for the 10th anniversary; Hugo Pratt for the 15th anniversary; Morris for the 20th; and Albert Uderzo for the millenium) and none of them is back on the ballot. I have no idea what that means, other than if they allow him to win twice he likely will."
posted 5:00 am PST | Permalink

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