It takes about 18 hours to get from Manhattan to this charming medieval town in France including lots of jetlag so the first day had a bit of a surreal quality to it.
My last time here was 2014, and unlike some other shows which I attend every year, Angouleme seems to evolve a little bit every year.
Wednesday was Press Day in town but I managed to sleep through most of it. However I roused myself and set off with my villa-mate, the famed librarian-scholar Karen Green, to attend the opening ceremonies of the show, this year held at the Alpha Médiatequés, a sort of media library. Although there was an auditorium in the building, the presentation was made in the library room, which didn’t have very good views, but as I am a non-French speaker, most of the talk was lost on me anyway. I did pick out the repeated use of the words “jeunesse” “le monde” and “bande desinee” so the general tone seemed to be that comics are loved by young readers around the world!
The Grand Prix was down to three nominees:
None are particularly relevant to the Jeunesse, but the Grand Prix is more of a lifetime achievement award anyway.
The winner, as we were told by everyone who wanted to gossip when we got to the venue, was Richard Corben, a selection beloved of the boomer generation and the Heavy Metal years in particular. Corben, now 77, is also beloved of the French audiences for his powerful/bombastic portrayal of sword and sorcery archetypes/stereotypes.
While it’s good to see a creator of his generation recognized – especially one who has a rather shy media profile these days – it also reinforced the idea of the Grand Prix being overwhelmingly old-fashioned and male focused. Corben is only the fourth American cartoonist to win the Grand Prix – after Crumb, Spiegelman and Watterson – and you can make your own list of female greats who might be his equal in stature.
After the awards, Karen and I hung around at a small cocktail party where I made the mistake of eating an hor d’oeuvre that contained a substance that was my Kryptonite, and then repaired to a cafe in the middle of town where we ran into Ben Smith and Keith Richardson from Rebellion, Chris Butcher, Andrew Woodwrd-Butcher and Peter Birkemoe from TCAF/Toronto, and the con was on!
Soon the evening wound down (or up) into photos of food that looked as fantastic as it tasted.
Dinner was arranged by the festival doyenne Ivanka Hahnenberger, who will now be the liaison for all of the English-speaking publishers and guests at the show. Of which there are more than ever. The number of non-Francophone publishers here has doubled since I was last in attendence. While it’s still intensely French in nature – try finding a sign in English – the international profile is definitely growing, slowly but surely.
Breakfast this am was courtesy of the French Comics Association. FCA chair Jean Paciulli (Glénet) delivered some remarks and threw up some statistics.
While so far the festival is just gearing up (and a pouring rain has dampened the spirits of at least one Beat Editor in Chief who neglected to pack an umbrella) a walk through town last night revealed that the FIBD (Festival International de Bande Desinee) leaves SDCC far behind in terms of the number of storefronts that celebrate its arrival. Even boutiques had Fauve, the cat symbol of the show, in the window, alongside more chic (Sorry, Reynolds) displays (above.)
That is really the wonder of Angouleme – the whole town is one big comics festival. With exhibits on Tezuka, Urasawa, Cosey and more there’s a ton to see. The alternative “F OFf” Fetsival has morphed into “Off of Off” and “OFF OFF OFF.” Comics, glorious wonderful comics, from indie to industrial.
Day 0 photos:
Medieval town sunset trumps jet lag
At the opening ceremony for the show. The mayor of Angouleme strongly resembles David Tennant, leading us to nickname him “Mayor Who”.
I did mention the food! This was a parsnip puree with foie gras, pumpkin seeds and grapes and it was insanely delicious. That’s a piece of snow whiteinside cod on the other side of the potato filigree.
I can’t even.
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.