In what is not a shock but is a break with tradition, Katsuhiro Otomo, creator of Akira and Domu, has been awarded the Grand Prix at the 42nd annual Festival d’Angoulême which is taking place as we speak.
Otomo beat out beloved Belgian cartoonist Hermann (the safe choice) and Alan Moore, who probably would have just chucked it into his garden and forgotten about.
This caps off several years of unrest for the prize, which is awarded for a body of work and voted on by participating cartoonists (just how you participate isn’t always clear, but I think attending a past Angouleme qualifies you.) Traditionally the prize has been given to Franco-Belgian cartoonists—all strong but many of them better known for being popular with their peers than for making a mark on world cartooning. In 2013 a younger, more international group of cartoonists wanted to give the prize to Akira Toriyama, but Willem, a Dutch cartoonists who makes his home in Paris, was selected, with Toriyama being given a special prize.
In 2014, Otomo was once again a finalist, along with Alan Moore and Bill Watterson, who weren’t very likely to actually make the trip to pick up the prize and attend the festival, as if the Gran prix winner’s duty. In the event, Watterson won out and he’s represented at the festival by a gorgeous art exhibit.
This time, the influence of manga has finally been recognized officially and a new day is dawning for the world culture of comics.
Otomo is of course one of the world’s greatest living cartoonists and animators, whose visionary work has influenced countless creators around the globe. Akira, a darkly futuristic tale of bikers racing across a neon Tokyo, helped create the entrée look of cyperpunk and video games. He’s world class and highly deserving of the win.
Also, if I’m not mistaken, the prize is usually given out on Sunday night…so not sure why the news was released on the first day of the festival.
Maybe it was just leaked. Hope here’s his acceptance speech:
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.