So after a few solid weeks of controversy and outcry, the finalists for this year’s FIBD Grand Prix were announced: Alan Moore, Hermann Huppen and Claire Wendling. If case you missed all the fun, here’s a rough timeline:
• The Grand Prix is awarded each year at the close of the Festival international de la bande dessinée d’Angoulême (Fibd.) It is a lifetime achievement award for comics work, and the winner serves as the president of the next year’s festival, with input on exhibits and a spotlight on the winner’s own work. In recent years there’s has been much controversy over the awards being given almost entirely to Franco-Belgian cartoonists who are part of a somewhat cliquish group. Changes were made to the awards to liven it up. One of the changes was to open up voting to all cartoonists who are published by a qualified French publisher, as opposed to a group of past winners. This change helped result in an American winner—Bill Watterson— and a Japanese winner–Katsuhiro Otomo–in the last two years.
• This year, as in the past few, a “long list” of nominees was announced that while international was all male. While I’m not certain who selected these nominees, my understanding is that it was a committee organized by FIBD.
• FIBD president (he runs the organization that runs the festival) Franck Bondoux doubled down on the list with insulting comments about how there are no women in comics history, digger himself deeper and deeper.
• After there was an international outcry, and prominent cartoonists from the nominee list began to withdraw in protest, FIBD responded by, very briefly, adding six women to the list, and then, realizing that these nominees would look like also rans, FIBD simply opened up all nominations to eligible voters in the wider cartooning world.
• According to Paul Gravett, out of 3500 eligible voters, 1216 votes were cast.
• This same voting group will select the winner and has until Sunday to vote.
• And now we get to the latest information. Bart Beaty has a thorough round-up on the news explaining that Wendling, who is sort of an artist’s artist who works mostly in illustration and animation (think Alex Toth), was voted on after a campaign organized by French writer J.D. Morvan.
•Moore and Hermann were on last year’s finalist list, along with the eventual winner, Otomo. Moore, has already said that he won’t accept if he wins, and Hermann also has a contentious history with the Grand Prix, due to the lack of Belgian cartoonists who win the award (Hermann is Belgian). So he says he won’t accept if he wins.
• AND NOW, in a surprise shock twist, Wendling also doesn’t want the award! On her FB page she writes (in English)
You want to make me happy?
Do not vote for me anymore.
I love you, really. Huh …
Even the hateful. Finally no.
Kisses. Not at all. You know Who you are, just keep it between us.
Wendling previously described being nominated as being “given a really ugly sweater.”
So no matter who wins this year, someone is going to be offended!
The best choice? No Award.
As I’ve noted before while covering this story, the French love a certain level of controversy, and this fits in well with that narrative. The award has long been considered a great honor in the cartooning world, but its history and infrastructure is also fraught with so much institutional provincialism and sexism that maybe it is time to figure out what this award really means? Or should mean? Taking a break this year may be the only way to really look in the mirror and see what is the right thing to do.
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.