I think I mentioned a few times that I will be going to Angoulême this year—the 41st annual Festival International Bande Deseinee, held yearly in Angoulême, France. This is the biggest comics show in Europe, as I’ve heard tell, with some 200,000 people attending. There are also 260 exhibitors and some 7000 professionals on hand. You can see the guest list here, and it goes on for page after page– hundreds of French artists but also international folks including Paul Pope, Gregory Benton, Frank Santoro, Dash Shaw, Jock, Darick Robertson, and doubtless many more whose names I missed.
I’ll be set up at the Publishers Weekly booth in the Rights Center. I’m also moderating a panel on graphic novel publishing on Thursday 1/30 at 4:30. I’lll post more info on all his closer to the date.
When I first got invited to the show, I was excited to do a “how to go to Angoulême” guide, since I don’t think a member of the press has ever done one in English. There have been rapturous reports from the inimitable D&Q Crew, and travelogs by past residentSara Glidden and current residents Jessica Abel and Matt Madden. But nothing too solid on how and why.
I am sorry to say that the process still remains somewhat murky. There are a couple of things that make going to FIBD a little difficult besides just the price of a fight to Europe. #1, it is quite early in the year so planning must take place over the holidays, a time when no one wants to think about logistics.
Second and most important, getting a place to stay for Angoulême makes getting a room at San Diego look like August in Las Vegas. This is a medieval town with a population of 44,000 when the circus isn’t in town. There are few hotels, but most people stay at AirBnBs, private homes, and whatever they can find, earlly. There isn’t much information on how to get a place to stay, as far as I can find out, because it’s all done on a “my publisher got me a room” basis, and no one wants to reveal any secrets. I will say that the festival organizers got me my room, at a small 18th century chateau where all the rooms are named after trees. Yes, try not to cry for me too much.
I can pass along a few general tips I have already learned:
— Although there are some smaller regional airports a few hours drive from town, the accepted way to get to the fest is to fly to Paris and take the train. The train costs about €100-150 depending when you book it. Early booking is advised. The train takes about three hours.
— Although Angoulême is in the South of France, don’t think bikinis and breezy scarfs. Everyone tells me it’s cold, and from previous winter experiences in Europe, I can state that old medieval buildings tend to be cold, drafty and not centrally heated. I suspect a black wool turtleneck is going to be my best friend, and I’ve already stocked up on sweatery things at Uniqlo. Granted it going to be tropical (45ºF 7ºC) compared to the Arctic single digit conditions I’m experiencing here in NYC. (Earlier today I was wearing a t-shirt, a wool sweater, a sweatshirt and under a blanket just to stay comfy IN MY APARTMENT.)
— The Festival takes over the entire town with huge exhibits and more than 400 events going on, including concerts, talks, signings and more. There is way too much to see. Planning is essential.
— Despite the fact that “going to Angouleme” is still seen as something that interests only a small group of American comics professional, I suspect it will get more accessible in the coming years. French comics publishers are eager to get better known in the English-language comics market, and I can see this is already happening. Plus as I keep hearing, this is a global culture now.
— You can have a shitty time at the show, as this fellow seems to have, but camping out in France in January sounds like a misery-optional plan. To paraphrase those Direc-TV ads: “Don’t camp out in Angoulême in January.”
— I’m going to have an awesome time because this is the greatest comics event in the world.
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.