The Angoulême Comics Festival is supposed to be the crowning event of the comics world, a festival that celebrates the art of the medium in an informed and respectful way, a reputation it has enjoyed for the more than 40 years of its existence. In 2016, the festival pretty much shredded that reputation with a series of unforced errors, from dismissing the work of women cartoonists in overtly sexist terms to the shocking debacle of the closing ceremonies. While there were many calls for boycotts of various kinds, a group of respected French publishers have stepped up to the plate with a call to boycott the 2017 festival unless changes are made. Even in Google translate the message is clear:
This event has a central place in the life of the comic. You can not let it deteriorate and thus tarnish the image of the 9th Art in France and abroad. This is why we decided not to participate in the next edition of a radical overhaul if FIBD n ‘ is not implemented in a timely manner. The festival should be rethought in depth, in its structure, its governance, strategy, project, and ambitions. Given the magnitude of the task and the importance of the issue, both to our profession and population of Angoulême and its region, where the comic has generated a whole institutional and industrial complex, we appeal to the state: we ask Madam Minister of Culture to receive us and to appoint a mediator to carry out urgently, this radical reform.
Participating publishers include just about everyone of any importance:
publishing comics publishers of the National Union:Casterman, Dargaud, Delcourt, Denoël, Fluid Glacial, Futuropolis, Gallimard, Glénat, Jungle, Le Lombard, Panini, Street Sèvres, Sarbacane, Sun, Urban, West Winds.
the editors of the Union of alternative publishers (SEA) to: Anathema, Arbitrary, the Association, It & There, the Coffee, the Cherry, the 5th layer, Cornelius Editions 2024 Frémok, Even Here, Ion, the Rack, Employee of Me, the Egg, the Black Lizard, the Hammerheads, Dreamers, Misma, Pre Square, Radio As Paper, Super Lotto, Empty Cocagne, Even no Evil, The Hoochie Coochie.
This is as if Marvel, DC, D&Q, Fantagraphics, Dark Horse, IDW, Action Labs, Image, Dynamite, Koyama Press, Secret Acres and every other meaningful North American publisher got together and decided on something…which, as you can imagine would be rare.
But this is real and important.
The 2016 FIBD (to use the French acronym) was an embarrassment to everyone involved and a disgrace to the art of comics. Hopefully they will take this seriously and do some house cleaning.
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.