By Jeremy Melloul

In France, almost every kid reads comics when they’re growing up. There’s no stigma or deep consideration about whether they’re not challenging enough for their reading level, or poor replacements for books. Instead, kids read both comics and books. Not only are there legacy characters like Asterix, Tintin, and others, which parent, who read those books as children themselves, can share with their own kids now, there are also a wide variety of original comics to draw in their interest.

It’s also possible that these kids, after reading comics early on, might move on to different formats of comic book storytelling. In France, the Young Adult market seems to be predominantly captured by Manga, which first set its roots there 40 years ago and has continually grown and consolidated since.

But besides Manga there are also other formats to consider, like Webtoons – which presents the work in a very different way and is extremely accessible to any curious readers. After all, the comics are available to read for free online.

Even in Europe, which was, historically, very behind the times when it came to digital comics and distribution, comics companies have taken notice. The Belgian comic book publisher Dupuis is launching a digital publishing program based off the Webtoon format called “The Webtoon Factory,” modeled after Delitoon, a French webtoon service that offers a large catalogue of Korean and French webtoons, supported by micropayments.

It’s not only possible that these kids form the basis of our readership in the future, both in the books they read and eventually pass down to their own children, but also because they could be tomorrow’s creators. I believe that the Angouleme International Comics Festival recognizes this. It’s most apparent in the series of awards Angoulême presents that honor a young, unpublished, emerging artist and the creators behind comics for young audiences.

In the Ceremony last night 8 such awards were given and some great new comics and authors were celebrated. I was pleased to see that “Gunning for Ramirez” by Nicolas Petrimaux, originally published by Glenat won the “High School” prize – part of a series of prizes awarded by the different school levels (Elementary & Middle school are the other prizes).

(I have to mention that I was only familiar with the book because I had the pleasure of translating it – it’s being released in English by IDW in April.)

And, most notably, I think, for the American comics market, Jen Wang’s The Prince and the Dressmaker, originally published by First Second and published in France by the company Akileos, won the overall prize for what essentially translates to “Best Youth Album” (album being the French term for a comic). [Editor’s note see a complete list  of winners below]

This tells me that we’re on the right path. The reality of the French comics market is a future I think the North American comics market, more generally, can strive for and potentially even surpass. One major hurdle has clearly already been overcome. If the stories we’re telling “at home” can also break through abroad in this way, then I don’t think we need to worry about the oversaturation of this market.

Not all kids will continue to read comic for their rest of their lives. Some may think of comics as being “just for kids,” though if comics are continually made available for every age group and varied interest, it’s far more likely that more of them will continue to read sequential works in some form as the years go by. This is part of why it’s so important to publish for a diverse audience. To publish stories from creators of different backgrounds and to take risks, publishing the kinds of comics that haven’t been seen before – so that we expand the range of interests represented in our medium.

Instead, we should be eager and excited about what the future holds. About trying to emulate the prevalence of comics in France in our own way and getting as many kids reading comics as possible.

The bright future of the market for kid’s comics also becomes the bright future for comics as a hold.

Prize winners (thus far – taken from here which has video of the winners!)

The awards kicked off with the arrival of Bernadette Després who is apparently a much loved children’s author.

Angoulême Schools prize:

 The Music Box of Gijé & Carbone (Dupuis)

Hippocampus prizes – found here

Prize of the Poitou-Charentes colleges:

The Nightmare Brigade T. 1 Franck Thilliez and Yomgui Dumont (Jungle)

You have to shoot Ramirez T.1 from Nicolas Pétrimaux (Glenat)

High School Students of Poitou-Charentes Prize:

School Comics Contest Award:

Hope Award: Thomas Ouedraogo with The Fruit of Chance
Prize of the screenplay: Fela Maazou for It was a joke
Prize of the graphic design: Louise Moutessier with Skate or Die
Angoulême Prize: Julien Auclair , for Jap seen by Jap

Young Talent Award: Louis Lanne

 Young Talent Award Poitou-Charentes Region: Robin Pouch

A new prize, Drawmecomics, which rewards nine-page comic books produced on Instagram went to Flavie Roux 

Fauve d’Angoulême – Youth Award

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (Akileos) 

 

[Check out Jeremy’s podcast on the business of comics at The Creator at Large.]

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