Today it was announced that Alison Bechdel, Catherine Meurisse, and Riad Sattouf are in the running for Angoulême International Comic Art Festival’s prestigious Grand Prix 2023 career achievement award. With two women on the three-person shortlist for this year, women continue to assert their place in the Grand Prix after years (decades?) of being snubbed.

The three names on the Grand Prix 2023 shortlist emerged following a nomination process among the professional comics community in France and abroad that took place between January 3 to 9, 2023. The second round of voting held between January 11 and January 17 will take place with the winner being declared on the eve of this year’s Angoulême Festival, Wednesday January 25. The winner will act as honorary president and receive a special exhibition at next year’s festival.

Alison Bechdel © Elena Seibert

Of the three Grand Prix 2023 nominees, the most familiar to Anglophone readers would be Alison Bechdel – award-winning author of the autobiographical graphic novels Fun Home (which is now a hit, award-winning Broadway musical) and Are You My Mother? Prior to becoming a graphic novelist, Bechdel made her name as a cartoonist on the long running weekly comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For, a topical humour and soap opera series that featured a large cast of mostly lesbian characters which ran from 1983 to 2008 in Funny Times and other gay and lesbian newspapers. Her latest critically-acclaimed autobiographical graphic novel The Secret to Superhuman Strength (2021) was translated into French in August 2022 and has already been in contention for many awards already in France – including this year’s Angoulême Official Selection.

Riad Sattouf © Marie Rouge Allary Editions

Both Riad Sattouf and Catherine Meurisse are award-winning prolific French cartoonists who have a wide and diverse body of work for adults and children in France – but only a fraction has made it into English. Of the two, Anglophones would possible recognise Sattouf for his autobiographical series Arab of the Future (L’Arabe du Futur) about his upbringing in the Middle East. The series is highly successful and critically acclaimed in France and overseas. The sixth concluding volume in the Arab of the Future series released in November 2022 in France and is also in the Official Selection of books up for awards at Angoulême 2023. The series has sold more than 3 million copies and been translated into 23 languages, including English – where the first four volumes have been published by Metropolitan Books. His kids series Esther’s Notebooks (Les Cahiers d’Esther) about the daily life of a fictional neighbour’s daughter has proved very popular. Each volume covers a year as Esther grows up, beginning from age 10 and is planned to run until she reaches 18 – the seventh volume (Esther at age 16) released in France June 2022. The first three volumes were released in the UK by Pushkin Press in 2021. Pantheon will release a hardcover omnibus edition of those first three volumes January 24. While that already seems like a large body of work – there is still a significant amount of his back catalogue (many of which is also critically acclaimed and award winning) that has yet to see translation into English.

Catherine Meurice © Dargaud/Rita Scaglia

If you were following our coverage of the Angoulême Grand Prix last year – in which Julie Doucet came out the winner – you will recall that Catherine Meurisse was also on the landmark all-women shortlist. Criminally almost none of her work is available in English except a handful of books from digital exclusive publisher Europe Comics. Like Sattouf, Meurisse has produced short and long form comics work, political cartoons and caricature – and both cartoonists have worked at controversial French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Meurisse was also working at Charlie Hebdo when the 2015 attacks happened. The narrow escape and her recovery from the trauma became the 2016 graphic novel La Légèreté (Lightness). She has done an autobiographical graphic novel about her childhood in the countryside 2018’s Les Grands Espaces (The Great Outdoors). Her latest release Humaine, trop humaine (Human, Too Human; 2022) is a collection of her cartoons, illustrations and musings originally published in Philosophie Magazine since 2017; her last graphic novel release was 2021’s The Young Woman and the Sea (La jeune femme et la mer). Her professional cartooning work extends at least as far back as 2006 with work for magazines, anthologies and books. In 2020 Meurisse became the first cartoonist to be elected to Paris’ Academy of Fine Arts – in the Painting department – a post which she held until 2022.

The current system of voting has been in place since 2014 following a series of controversies that led to women being practically locked out from being nominated for the highest honour in French comics as an old boys club of former Grand Prix winners would select nominees and winners – and they tended to pick their friends who tended themselves to be male. The current process is open to the wider professional comics community registered with the festival.