The 42nd Angoulême International Comics Festival is well underway, wrapping up the second day of exhibits as you read this, and the year is dominated, of course, by the Charlie Hebdo killings. Matthias Wivel is offering on the scene reports, and security is very high for the festival this year the checkpoints and bomb sniffing dogs.
BIZARRO WORLD A rain-drenched Angoulême has been preparing for the annual influx of people from all over the world for weeks, scrambling to take the necessary precautions against possible terrorism. Bomb-sniffing dogs around the Noveau Monde comics tent and body searches with portable metal detectors, backing up visitors at every entrance is the new reality at Angoulême.
The Charlie Hebdo massacre looms large everywhere, even as people are trying to carry on as usual. The Lewis Trondheim-designed festival mascot appears on the cover of the official program brandishing the ubiquitous JE SUIS CHARLIE sign, while absent festival president Bill Watterson’s delightful official poster, hanging in shop windows around town, reminds one of a (seemingly) more innocent time in comics.
Charlie Hebdo itself has been given a special prize, and the names of those slain loom over the entrance to the festival, a shown in the photo above by Wivel.
ComiXology, the revolutionary cloud-based digital comics platform, celebrates this year’sAngoulême International Comics Festival with a sale spotlighting comics, bandes dessinées (BD), graphic novels and manga from all over the world from January 29th through February 1st. ComiXology will also be covering the show through their social media channels under the “All Access Angoulême” moniker – giving fans around the world a way to experience the festival. The AngoulêmeInternational Comics Festival takes place in Angoulême, France and runs from January 29th to February 1st.
• LES ROYAUMES DU NORD by Stéphane Melchior and Clément Oubrerie (Aya), an adaptation of Phllip Pullman’s The Golden Compass won the YA prize. I already like it better than the movie.
• Local resident Jessica Abel has a few tweets of note:
— Jessica Abel (@jccabel) January 30, 2015
AND she has a new book, Trish Trash! Finally!
— Jessica Abel (@jccabel) January 28, 2015
§ The Sodastream controversy continues, with an open letter signed by 110 cartoonists and allies protesting the sponsorship by the Israeli company that has factories on the West Bank. Festival director Franck Bondoux has responded:
“We are no longer in the same situation as last year,” remarked Bondoux, whom we reached last night. “SodaStream announced in 2014 that the factory under discussion will be moved. This means that the problem is in process of being resolved and has been understood.” The executive director of the festival further believes that the letter “moves into a broader proposal with terminology that goes much farther in its call for a boycott.” “We have moved from a discussion where one speaks of a specific problem to a total generality.” “This is an incitement to a stronger, more militant form of resistance.” Bondoux refuses to “judge” or “comment” if only to say “that in the current situation [reference to Charlie Hebdo and Kosher supermarket attacks], I’m not certain whether this is a time to welcome such proposals.”
But the petition organizers Ethan Heitner (NYC) and Dror Warschawski (Paris) have also responded:
On the eve of the 42nd International Comics Festival in Angoulême, the open letter we have sent to the festival director has more than 110 signatories, including 14 cartoonists having been awarded prizes at Angoulême and 7 Grand Prix laureates.
Additional signatures are still coming in from illustrators outraged by the contempt that Mr Bondoux displays towards them. Several of them had initially not thought it necessary to sign this letter, feeling that the one sent last year had served as a warning, at a time when Mr Bondoux could plead naivety. This year, with the facts out in the open, they cannot accept that the art of comics be used to whitewash the crimes of colonization and complicity in war crimes, be it in Angoulême or elsewhere.
Last year Mr Bondoux challenged the truth of the information we had provided and claimed that the Sodastream factory was not situated in territory militarily occupied by Israel since 1967. This year, without blushing, he declared to the press that “the Sodastream firm announced in 2014 that the factory would be relocated. The problem is being resolved.” (Sud Ouest newspaper, 23 January 2013). Firstly, as of now the factory has not been relocated, and Sodastream is still a sponsor of the Angoulême festival. Secondly, the “problem” is not being resolved and it is now 67 years that the Palestinians have been waiting for a solution. Finally, cartoonists cannot accept that their art form be exploited by a firm that will, in addition, profit from the expulsion of Palestinian Bedouins in order to install its new factory on their land, and thus participate in the ethnic cleansing policy carried out by the State of Israel.
Mr Bondoux adds that “In the light of current events, I am not sure that such excessive remarks are appropriate”. We suggest that Mr Bondoux discuss it with Willem, a Charlie Hebdo survivor, Grand Prix laureate in 2013, president of the Angoulême Jury in 2014, and a signatory of the letter. We also suggest that he speak with the artists to whom his own festival has awarded prizes, and especially with other Grand Prix laureates (Baru, Jean-Claude Mézières, José Muñoz, François Schuiten, Tardi, Lewis Trondheim…). It is they, rather than Mr Bondoux, who make this festival what it is. Their voices must be heard, and the Sodastream firm must be driven out of the Angouleme festival.
• According to the Matthais Wivel account, China is very much involved as a sponsor in this year’s festival, so you can see cultural clashes of this kind will continue.
• It wouldn’t be an Angoulême without some kind of particularly Gallic controversy, although this year the Hebdo situation has swept most of that aside. Before the fest there was a huge controversy about Bondoux, who actually works for a firm contracted by the festival to put it on, taking aggressive steps to trademark the name of the festival, an event that got everyone’s dander up and forced the Angouleme minister of culture to make a public show of his outrage. Locals tell me that there is a three way battle over the festival between L’Association (no relation to the publisher) which puts it on, 9e Art+, the contractor, and the local government. While this tussle has been put on hold due to the greater events sweeping over the French cartooning community, it hasn’t been solved.
• Finally, this comes from the NY Post of French comics coverage, so add some salt, but along with the above controversy, there have been claims that FIBD (Festival Festival international de la bande dessinée d’Angoulême) has inflated it’s attendance figures and does not draw the 200,000 that is claimed. Quelle horreur! A lot of the evidence seems to be based on whether 40,000 is a typo for 400,000, which is flimsy, but there have been other claims about this perviously. Speaking for myself, after actually going I’d guess that 200,000 people don’t all show up every day, but there are more than 50,000 people every day, too. Also, in the rough Google translation, it seems that, SDCC-style, scrutiny is being given to the costs versus the amount spent by attendees, with a study by the local tourism board showing major expenditures: the festival costs € 4.3 million, € 1.9 million of it public money, but brings in € 1.1 million for restaurants and € 0.72 million for hotels, with visitors spending some € 1.42 million (About US$1.6 million.) That actually amounts to….$18 per attendee, so the French may also be a living embodiment of the Single Can of Tuna Theory*.
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.