Brussels’ thirteenth BD Comic Strip Festival announced the recipients of the 2022 Prix Atomium de la Bande Dessinée over the weekend. There was an eclectic mix of winners, and cartoonist Judith Vanistendael received a career achievement award.
According to the PR:
“Brussels is a hotbed of creativity and the comic strip industry is particularly well represented there. Nevertheless, comic strip creation has been weakened in recent years and professionals sometimes have difficulty making a living from their art. To support authors, the Brussels authorities have for six years now awarded the Atomium Comic Strip Prizes as part of the BD Comic Strip Festival. Most of these are cash prizes to enable the winners to finance their work. This year, €95,000 will be distributed between the nine prizes.”
Winners of the 2022 Atomium Prizes ranged from a choose-your-own-adventure style graphic novel about the trials and tribulations of being a female creator in the male-dominated, precarious life of the European BD scene – Emilie Plateau‘s L’épopée infernale (tr. The Infernal Journey); a gay love story across the generational divide – Cyril Legrais and Alice V.D.M‘s, Les oies cendrées (tr. Greylag Geese); and an author’s haunting grief of a sibling lost too young – Jean-Louis Tripp‘s Le petit frère (tr: Little Brother).
Denis Lapière, Daniel Couvreur and Christian Durieux‘s Le Faux Soir (tr. The False Soir) based on the true story of an underground satirical newspaper produced in Belgium during Nazi occupation received two awards – the 2022 Atomium Brussels, for work set in Brussels, and the Cognito historical comics prize.
Judith Vanistendael received a career achievement award. Trained at art schools in Belgium and Germany, Vanistendael has produced comics, zines and children’s picture books since the 2000s. Several of her graphic novels have been released in English, via SelfMadeHero – these include the semiautobiographical Dance by the Light of the Moon; the 2014 Eisner-award nominated When David Lost His Voice; and Mark Bellido-collaboration Mikel.
Check out the full list of winners with the DeepL translated book synopses.
RAYMOND LEBLANC PRIZE FOR YOUNG ARTISTS: Cyril Legrais & Alice V.D.M, Les oies cendrées (tr. Greylag Geese)
Prize for creators that have not published more than two books
Award: €10,000 and a publishing contract with Editions Futuropolis
“A delicate subject treated with sensitivity and tenderness… A love story between two men with a significant age difference is not commonplace in usual comic strip representations. The simple fact of featuring an older “hero” is not common. The strength of this project lies not only in the fact that it shatters taboos (sexuality of senior citizens, homosexuality, etc.) but also in the fact that it creates a beautiful story, enhanced by elegant cutting, which will soften the hardest hearts.”
WALLONIA-BRUSSELS FEDERATION COMICS PRIZE : Emilie Plateau, L’épopée infernale (tr. The Infernal Journey), MISMA publications
Prize for work by creators based in the Wallonia-Brussels region of Belgium
“With L’EPOPEE INFERNALE, Emilie Plateau parodies the mythical ” You are the hero ” books that we read as teenagers in the 90s. Except that instead of living a heroic fantasy epic, we will suffer the daily misadventures of a comic book author.
“From the sending of a new manuscript to publishing houses to its publication in print, including invitations to festivals and bookstore signings, Emilie Plateau examines the microcosm of the comic book industry with a fine-toothed comb, exposing with humor the precarious situation of authors in general as well as the long struggle of women in an environment that is still all too often sexist and misogynistic.
“Readers will have to make crucial choices to progress in this interactive quest and avoid the pitfalls of a journey full of pitfalls. And who knows? Perhaps in the end they will win the Holy Grail coveted by so many comic book authors: the Fauve d’or at Angoulême!”
“”L’épopée infernale” (éd. Misma, 2022) is a multiple choice book. Emilie Plateau uses the codes of “books in which you are the hero/heroine”. It humorously and sensitively shows the trials and tribulations of her avatar, the author Emily D. Plateu, as she finds her place in the comic book world.
“Emilie Plateau shows a constant willingness in her creative approach and in the graphic and narrative approach to complex subjects: gender identity, place of women in art and culture, recognition of graphic authors, treatment of minorities, etc. She was primarily noticed for “Noire, la vie méconnue de Claudette Colvin”, an adaptation of a text by Tania de Montaigne (2019). Emilie Plateau also devotes a great deal of energy to collective fanzine and micro-publishing projects”
BRUSSELS ATOMIUM PRIZE : Denis Lapière, Daniel Couvreur & Christian Durieux, Le Faux Soir (tr. False Soir), éditions Futurolopis
Atomium Prize for comics set in Brussels
“On November 9, 1943, the Belgian resistance succeeded in the most audacious coup in the history of the underground press by distributing, under the nose of the Nazi occupiers, a pastiche of the “Soir volé”, the Belgian daily newspaper confiscated from its owners by the Propaganda Abteilung, which had also replaced its pre-war journalists with an editorial staff made up of zealots of the new order. 50,000 copies were distributed either in the normal circuit or through clandestine channels at 10 francs apiece in order to finance the Independence Front. On November 9, 1943, the great burst of laughter that swept through occupied Belgium was heard in the Allied capitals, London and Washington. If the Faux Soir was an illustration of the Brussels Zwanze, it was above all an act of bravery and resistance that earned its authors death or prison. This fascinating story questions the power of words and satire as a weapon of resistance against all oppressions.”
“In Le Faux Soir, Daniel Couvreur, head of the culture department of the newspaper Le Soir, conducts an investigation into the incredible history of this high point of the Belgian resistance. The journalist is accompanied in this story by the scriptwriter Denis Lapière, the cartoonist Christian Durieux and the editor Sébastien Gnaedig. The story alternates between the current investigation and recontextualised historical episodes. The jury was particularly impressed by the success of this before and after in Brussels. This comic book will remind all generations of the daring resistance operation carried out by the press department of the Independence Front. With the help of accomplices in the ‘stolen Soir’, the resistance secretly printed and distributed a fake version of Le Soir in Brussels newsstands on 9 November 1943. The Faux Soir openly mocked the Nazi occupiers through articles filled with the mocking spirit of the Brussels zwanze. Let us remember that the authors will pay for this act of non-violent resistance with their lives or their freedom.“
LA PREMIÈRE GRAPHIC NOVEL PRIZE: Jean-Louis Tripp, Le petit frère (tr: Little Brother), éditions Casterman
Graphic Novel prize for works that resonated with listeners of Belgian radio station La Première.
Award: Recipient gets €20,000 in advertising space, as well as considerable editorial presence on the media channels of La Première radio station.
“One evening in August 1976. Jean-Louis is 18 years old. It is the time of family vacations, of the great heat and of carefree life… But a brutal event will interrupt everything: Gilles, Jean-Louis’ brother, is mowed down by a car. Transported to the hospital, the boy succumbs to his injuries a few hours later. For Jean-Louis, haunted by guilt, a difficult journey of mourning begins… 45 years later, the author chooses to go back over this episode and to go through each moment of the drama again. With frankness and sensitivity, he probes his memory and that of his family to recount the immediate and more distant aftermath of the accident, struggling to draw the tragic loss of a little brother of 11 years who continues to exist in his family history…”
“The jury of the Première Graphic Novel Prize 2022 wanted to reward a work that, in sharing the most intimate part of a person, manages to touch on the universal. The mourning that Jean-Louis Tripp recounts, the loss of his little brother, deeply moved our six jurors. One confided that he had to step away for a while before continuing his reading, another said he was overwhelmed, while yet another highlighted the silences that run through this work. Jean-Louis Tripp tells the story of himself and his loved ones with sensitivity and precision, without pathos but also without concessions, and this is how he communed with everyone who read him – he spoke to them about their own story as well, a story of living with death. A story of presence despite absence.”
COGNITO PRIZE FOR HISTORICAL COMICS:
Denis Lapière, Daniel Couvreur & Christian Durieux, Le Faux Soir (tr: The False Soir), éditions Futuropolis
“The jury unanimously awarded the Cognito Prize to the book Le Faux Soir by Denis Lapière, Daniel Couvreur and Christian Durieux. The album vividly recounts how in 1943, a small group of Belgian resistance fighters wrote and distributed 50,000 copies of a satirical version of the newspaper Le Soir (which had been confiscated by the Nazis and used for German propaganda). This incredible adventure had an impact not only in Belgium but throughout Europe. At a time when we are invaded by lies and misinformation, we thought it would be salutary to remind ourselves how effective humour can be against all forms of political and intellectual dictatorship.”
LE SOIR PRIZE FOR GRAPHIC REPORTAGE: Can Dündar & Anwar, Erdogan le nouveau sultan (tr. Erdogan, the new sultan), éditions Delcourt
Award: €20,000 in advertising space, as well as considerable editorial presence on the media channels of the newspaper Le Soir.
“Two opponents of the Turkish regime and exiles, one a cartoonist, the other a journalist, have chosen the formula of the graphic novel to tell the story of the life and career of Recep Erdogan. A graphic novel that required extensive research, describing the political climate of an era and the rise of Turkey’s strongman, from his childhood to the highest level of power”
“Who is behind President Erdogan? In a perfectly documented graphic novel, Turkish journalist Can Dündar and Egyptian cartoonist Jbr Anwar recount how this pious little boy, who dreamed of being a football star, became a political animal feared and idolised by an entire people. Since childhood, Erdogan has always had faith in his grip and in his destiny. In his mind, democracy was never a goal but a means to power. He removed the opponents to his ascent one by one, by force or by cunning, until he became the new sultan of the Republic of Turkey. Dündar and Anwar shed light on the meteoric career of this figure who is now a fixture on the international political scene.”
ATOMIUM SPIROU YOUNG AUTHORS PRIZE: “Bravo Zulu“, Jean-Christophe Targa
Kids prize by Spirou magazine where participants produce a four-page comic featuring classic Franco-Belgian characters Spirou and Fantasio. Restricted to under 18s who have published no more than three comics previously.
Award: Recipients are published in Spirou magazine and paid at the same rate as professionals.
“In 2022, the editors were won over by the freshness of the story “Bravo Zulu” by Jean-Christophe Targa, who gives pride of place to the imagination of children during the holidays and sprinkled his story with incredible inventions that a certain Count of Champignac would certainly not renounce. Lastly, we particularly liked the flowing lines worthy of the Spirou spirit chosen to relate this summer fantasy.”
BRONZEN ADHEMAR PRIZE: Judith Vanistendael
Biennial award, since 1977 for Flemish authors. An award for entire body of work.
Award: €10,000 and an exhibition in Turnhout
“By a majority vote, the jury decided to award the Bronzen Adhemar Prize to Judith Vanistendael for her impressive body of work, her strong personality, her creativity, her immense talent as a cartoonist and the influential role she plays with the younger generation of comic book artists. It is therefore only natural that she should be awarded the most important comic book prize in Flanders in 2022.
“Vanistendael consistently delivers good comics with social relevance, each time in a different style that still bears her stamp. Not only is her work remarkable, but her influence on the younger generation of comic creators has not escaped the jury’s notice.”
ATOMIUM CITIZEN’S COMIC STRIP PRIZE : Nicolas Wild, À la maison des femmes (tr: In the Maison des Femmes), éditions Delcourt/Encrages
A prize bestowed on works that address contemporary social issues at a local level.
“Violence against women is more visible than before. But these gains are fragile and there is always the fear that the moment will not last. Willing people have gathered at the Maison des Femmes, Plaine Saint Denis, who are determined to help those who need it. Nicolas Wild, a real emotional sponge, went to interview them.”
“Violence against women is at the heart of this fantastic and moving spotlight on an institution located just outside Paris, La Maison des Femmes. A work created with humility and without otherworldliness by an author who truly loves their subject, À La Maison Des Femmes bears witness to the day-to-day commitment of true modern heroines. The comic book gives voice to a multitude of stakeholders and addresses an impressive array of different and complex issues, but never without hope and constructive solutions. Each situation is described by Nicolas Wild on a human level, without great flights of fancy or obscure language. Just with infinite sincerity.”