Art © Laura Callaghan
Whooooo-ah! This whole Angoulême-gate thing got out of hand FAST. In just 24 hours it went from an angry petition to the world’s best cartoonists rejecting their nominations to front page news to the festival sulkily added Marjane Satrapi and Posy Simmonds to their list, even though no one would vote for them, and a whirlwind of hot takes.
Perhaps my favorite was this interview with Florence Cestac, the only woman to ever win the Grand Prix. Cestac is known for her humor comics, which appeared in the comics magazines from which most of the Grand Prix winners have been drawn. Asked about the ludicrous statements from
Bond villain Festival director Franck Bondoux, she replied:
Oui bien sûr, mais c’est l’avis du directeur du festival d’Angoulême qui est un crétin total. Le festival est devenu une foire à dédicaces, un business qui n’a plus rien de culturel. Les organisateurs du festival ne connaissent pas leur sujet : ce n’est pas parce que la bande dessinée est consommée et achetée majoritairement par les hommes que les œuvres féminines n’existent pas. Il y a plein d’auteures de ma génération et de la génération suivante qui méritent amplement le Grand prix. La moindre des choses, c’est que des femmes soient nominées!
Or as Google translate put it:
Yes of course, but it is the opinion of the Angoulême festival director who is a total moron. The festival has become a fair in signings, a business that has nothing culturally. Festival organizers do not know about them: it’s not because the comic is consumed and purchased mainly by men than women work do not exist.There are plenty of authors of my generation and the next generation that fully deserve the Grand Prize. The least is that women are nominated!
There is no google translate alas for this amazing video of Bondoux being grilled on Le Grand Journal, a Canal Plus chat show, where a skeptical female host asks him sharp questions and the rest of the panel just gives him what for. They even have double screens. It’s as if some comics exec was being grilled by a panel on Fox and Friends. The above embed may not show up but you may be able to watch here. Even without speaking French it’s obvious that Bondoux can’t even NAME female cartoonists. What a maroon.
§ The Anti-sexism organization BDE Egalite also released a statement responding to Bondoux’s claims that there just aren’t many women in comics history.
§ The US group Comic Book Women (of which I am a member) also released a statement:
Comic Book Women, a collective of over 250 comic book professionals from the United States, Canada, and Europe supports the Women in Comics Collective Against Sexism in its initiative to boycott the International Festival of Comics (Fibd Angouleme).
§ Bart Beatty, a frequent Angoulême attendee has the most comprehensive take, with a lot of the back story:
Historically, the Grand Prix has been elected by the previous winners at a meeting during the Festival. Those who attend, and a few who are tele-conferenced in, meet in a room and debate who will be the next to join the group. This led to a certain generational blockage, as the members of the academy tended to vote for their friends and colleagues – for many years it was wondered when a cartoonist who made his or her name in the 1990s would finally win (it was Zep in 2004, followed by Lewis Trondheim in 2006). Trondheim, once elected to the jury, became a notable critic of this process, publishing comics (collected in Little Nothings) that depicted certain members of the jury as hopelessly out of touch (I am told one juror asked as late as the 2010s “Who is this Chris Ware you keep mentioning?”). In addition to a generational bias, there was a nationalistic one, with the overwhelming number of Grand Prix winners being French. Only three Americans were elected under this old process: in 1974 (Will Eisner), 1999 (Robert Crumb), and 2011 (Art Spiegelman).
§ Ellen Lindner weighed in pointing out some of the hypocrisy of the names that WERE chosen:
To us, this statement says that no women – not the pioneers of 70s alt comics, not the ragers of 80s and 90s art comics, not amazing memoirists like Joyce Farmer and Roz Chast, not the amazing webcomics stars of today, not the ladies who’ve struggled and succeeded to make their way in the world of mainstream or kids’ comics – none of them are up to the standard of Wolinski, who presented a wall of birthday cards as part of his presidential Angoulême exhibit.
If the selection has only to do with who’s popular in France, fine. But don’t nominate obscurities like Edika and then try and pretend that this list is either a) nepotism-free or b) based on the commercial viability of the festival.
§ Also to all you people saying “well there just haven’t been that many women who had long careers in comics” you are wrong. I’ll expand upon this in a later post, but the tweeter at Page 45 seemed to sum this up.
I could go on for hours. GROWING BORED of female creators not being acknowledged for their comics. By Daishu Ma: pic.twitter.com/Tq5tYmxalj
— Page 45 (@PageFortyFive) January 6, 2016
BUT WAIT THERE’s more!!!
§ Next Month, Comix Creatrix: 100 Women Making Comics an art show co-curated by Olivia Ahmad and Paul Gravett will open in London. That’s the poster art by Laura Callahan at the top of this post.
Explore the world of comics through original artwork by 100 women comic creators working across genres and generations – from the 1800s to the present day; from observational comedy to surreal fantasy, challenging biography to subversive dissent.
Featuring artists from Marie Duval and Tove Jansson to Posy Simmonds, Audrey Niffenegger and Nina Bunjevac, Comix Creatrix: 100 Women Making Comics is the UK’s largest ever exhibition of leading female comic artists.
From their early incarnations as sequential satires and newspaper strips to today’s countercultural zines, webcomics and award-winning graphic novels, comics have evolved into a complex and powerful literary form. Women have been present throughout this evolution, creating some of the most defining and provocative works of the medium.
Comix Creatrix presents the work of 100 innovative creators and debunks the myth that women have a limited stake in the world of comics. Highlighting 21st century work by British creators, the exhibition will also recognise ground-breaking works from the 19th and 20th centuries, and will highlight the influence of international practitioners on the British scene.
§ And 13th Dimensions basic, everyone-should-know-them list of women cartoonists.
§ In case you missed it., here’s Brian Michael Bendis’s statement on withdrawing from the Grand Prix.
of course. i was obviously quite honored to wake up to the news yesterday. its a list of my heroes and i’m among the youngest on the list. but the lack of female presence certainly does not reflect the reality i live or work in.
i did not rush to withdraw my name at first because i have no idea who runs angouleme, i do not know who put this list together, and i have no idea what the agenda is. was it oversight? was it a mistake? i have so little desire to jump into an internet dust up just because somebody else is. there’s way too much of that going on in the world. also to instantly slam down on someone(s?) who, if i may be ‘cup half full’ for a second, was at least trying to celebrate this art form of which i have dedicated my life seemed rather rude of me.
i also thought being the youngest on the list with the least chance of winning, my self removal would be a VERY shallow gesture. if i remove myself does that mean they WILL put in a female creator? would that creator want the ‘honor’ at this point? i couldn’t think of one female creator who would want it at this point.
then i thought; if everyone bails, i become president of angouleme by default, take the stage, read MY list of thirty female creators who i would pick in a heartbeat, and give it to them like Lindsey lohan breaking up the prom queen crown at the end of mean girls.
but as i drifted off to sleep last night i thought of my daughters. my smart, strong willed daughters who will STILL have to fight for their equal rights and how they will STILL have to fend off some men treating them as objects before they can see them as individuals and how insane it seems to me.
so, with that i join my fellow creators in removing my name from the angouleme grand prix list. i hope the people in charge who, again, i do not know rectify whatever happened that created this mess. i truly thank them for the honor and will gladly accept it once the honor is restored to its full power of inclusion to all creators all over the world.
I’m sure I’ve missed your own favorite hot take, but please link in the comments!
And also, remember, one person’s token is another person’s pioneer.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.