The long list for the 2016 Grand Prix at Angoulême was announced today—this is a kind of lifetime achivemenet award, and arguably the greatest honor a cartoonist can receive. It’s also been the center of much controversy in recent years over the jury’s tendency to select only winners from the inner circle of the Franco-Belgium comics world. That changed two years ago when Bill Watterson won, followed by Katsuhiro Otomo, this year’s winners.
This year’s long list is certainly FAR more International than ever before—heck it includes Brian Michael Bendis! But out of 30 names there is not a single woman woman. And that had angered many people.
In the Grand Prix’s 42 year history there has only ever been one female winner, Florence Cestac. Claire Bretecher, long considered the grand dame of French comics has never been won, and isn’t on this list. Last year, Marjane Satrapi was nominated, but she’s been removed from this list—and she was the ONLY female nominee last year.
BDgalite, aka Women in Comics Collective Against Sexism, a loose confederation of female cartoonists who aim to shine the spotlight on sexiim in the French comic community, has reacted with a call for a boycott of Angoulême. The page is in French, But Jessica Abel, who lives in Angulême has provided a translation below:
WHAT IS THE GRAND PRIX?
The Grand Prix is given to one cartoonist as a kind of “Lifetime achievement” award. This person then becomes “president” of the Angouleme Festival (FIBD) the next year. (Otomo won the Grand Prix last year, is the president this year.) There is obviously a committee who selects the candidates for the Grand Prix (president), but I don’t know who is on the committee. I suspect it’s the same people who nominates the books for the Fauves, but I don’t know. The list emanates from the company that runs FIBD, 9e Art.
the President is a very important, high prestige position. There is a large exhibition of their work, there is a lot of press, they draw the poster, they sell many many books. They also head up the Grand Jury, who decide who wins the annual book awards, the Fauves.
In the past, the “academy” of previous presidents of the festival nominated and selected the Grand Prix winner. In the last few years, the system has been changed so that it’s comics professionals who have accreditation from the Festival as pros who can vote, somewhat like the Eisners, but the Grand Prix is NOT a book award, it’s a CAREER award.
The Fauves of Angouleme are the annual book awards. The books nominated for the Fauves are selected by a committee of people who are paid by the company that runs FIBD, 9e Art. (I don’t know how much or what the arrangement is, if they are employees or paid an honorarium or some of both). There is only ONE woman on that committee. The committee does not change (much) year to year. (There are about 20% women on the nominations list for the Fauves this year, and about 20% women on the Grand Jury.)
The Grand Jury selects the books for the 5 most prestigious book awards. I was on the Grand Jury in 2013.
The Grand Jury is usually selected by the President (i.e. winner of last year’s Grand Prix), though this year it’s Antonin Baudry who’s running it, since the President is Otomo, and he’s not reading any 48 books in French. The Grand Jury is composed of the President, 2 authors, 2 press members, and 2 booksellers.
THE OFFICIAL CALL FOR BOYCOTT OF THE ANGOULEME GRAND PRIX (translation):
The International Festival of Comics (Angoulême): Women Banned from Comics
5 January 2016
With the announcement today of the list of nominations for the Grand Prix d’Angoulême 2016—and award for which we comics creators are asked to vote—the ax fell:
30 names, 0 women.
We remind you that in 43 years, Florence Cestac has been the only woman ever to receive this distinction. Not even Claire Brétecher, pillar of the 9th Art, has ever received the Grand Prix. She was awarded the “10th Anniversary Prize” in 1983 (a prize which does not prevent its winner from qualifying for the Grand Prix as well).
We protest this obvious discrimination, this total negation of our representation in a medium practiced by more women every year.
With the Grand Prix of Angoulême, the comics world recognizes one of its own for their entire career. This award is not only honorary, it has an obvious economic impact: the media covers the Grand Prix winner extensively, and the distinction makes a huge impact in the bookstore, to the benefit of booksellers, publishers and…the award-winning author.
We simply ask for a consideration of the reality of our existence and of our value.
Indeed, what is the message sent to women cartoonists and those in the process of becoming such? We are discouraged from having ambition, from continuing our efforts. How could we take it otherwise? It all comes back to the disastrous glass ceiling; we’re tolerated, but never allowed top billing. Will we require women in comics to perpetually play second fiddle?
It is no longer tolerable that renowned female creators, known by one and all, are absent from the nominations of this Grand Prix. If comics professionals are expected to select three names from a list decided by the FIBD, this list must be truly representative of comics today. Female comics creators are also significant players in this literary field.
For all of these reasons, the Women in Comics Collective Against Sexism calls for a boycott of the Grand Prix 2016.
We will not vote.
LIKE THE BD EGALITE FB PAGE FOR MORE UPDATES:
To throw in my own two cents here, as I learned about European comics I thought there were no women in the field, much as like in US comics, but the mre I learned the more I found out that there have been many great female cartoonsits in France, Italy and everywhere. Their accomplishments and work has never been accorded the same respect as male cartoonists, however, just ilke in the US. WOmen make and read comics, and it’s time to recognize that. Far from “lowering” the standards of the nominees, broadening the list would show how universal the appeal of comics is. So yeah, please. Time to break up the old boys cub for good.
And here’s the long list:
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.