by Jeremy Melloul
[We’ve got a person on the scene to give us reports from the Angoulême Festival International de Bande Desinee and here’s his first one!]
The world of comics is so much larger than we think.
Human once thought they were the center of the Earth and, in comics, people tend to think that the sector of the industry they’re a part of is the center of the comic book world.
But if the last few years in the evolution of the comic book industry has taught us anything, it should be that there’s always another world beyond the one we know.
Big Two comics. Independent, mainstream comics. The Direct Market as a whole. Small Press. Webcomics. Crowdfunding.
There’s always another part of the industry where the rules are different and where we, as fans, creators, professionals, might find some new, exciting approaches to telling or delivering stories that we can make a more permanent part of our world.
And this truth is particularly evident when look to international comics.
The South Korean Webtoons. Franco-Belgian bande dessinée. Japanese Manga. The incredibly diverse range of stories and storytellers you can find when you look to Taiwan, Italy, Nigeria, Israel, Mexico, Spain, and much, much more.
Piecemeal, this world would be difficult to explore and gain exposure to. But at the Angouleme International Comics Festival they gather. Fans travel from long distances to see the medium of comic book storytelling celebrated. American comics, Manga, Franco-Belgian bande dessinée. All these varied formats – and the artists behind them – celebrated on increasingly equal ground.
Comic book professionals, too, from all these regions and more gather to do business in the largest rights and licensing market for comics in the world. There they seek to bring stories from the rest of the world into their home languages and countries and, on the other hand, help resonant stories from their own industries reach a global audience.
And here, at Angouleme, the world just keeps expanding. Historically, European bande dessinée, was the center of Angouleme. And by virtue of location, it’s still most represented. But things are changing. As the world grows more connected and it becomes possible for us to read stories from creators in other countries, speaking other languages, it’s become apparent that, in comics, at least, we’re all speaking the same language.
This will be my third year at Angouleme. If you don’t know me, no worries. My name’s Jeremy Melloul, I’m a comic book writer, translator (I translated French language bande dessinée into American English so you can read them!), and I’ve also made it my business to learn and discuss the business of the comic book industry, primarily in the United States, but also abroad.
Over the next few days of the festival, I’ll be reporting back daily, sharing my thoughts and observations from the festival and giving you a window into one of the coolest comic book events in the world.
I hope you’re as excited as I am.
Each year here has broadened my view on the global world of comics and I believe this year will do the same. Going into the festival already, on this Day 0, it feels like there is more appreciation for the craft of comic creators from around the globe than there ever has been.
At the Opening Ceremony, Xavier Bonnefont, the mayor of Angouleme, announced the city’s candidacy as part of Unesco’s Creative Cities Network, which would tie it to a selection of other cities around the world, all serving as patrons to the arts – recognizing its importance to the world at both a local and international scale.
In addition, this year, Angouleme has unveiled Manga City – an expanded section of booth space in which manga is made available to attendees and the entire format celebrated.
And as was reported yesterday on this site, Rumiko Takahashi – a legendary manga-ka – has won the Grand Prix at Angouleme, the greatest honor at the festival and one of the greatest honors in comics in the world. This, only a few short years after Katsuhiro Otomo was awarded the same prize in 2015.
In addition, Frank Miller (Batman: Year One, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, 300, Sin City) was also honored for his contribution to comics.
This wouldn’t be the case at a festival just for European bande dessinée. Instead, this is indicative of a global comics festival. And it’s only growing more globalized.
I’ll report back again to tomorrow, but for now, I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
[Check out Jeremy’s podcast on the business of comics at The Creator at Large.]