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Angoulême 2013:

A Report

The city’s state-of-the-art theatre was packed to the rafters for this year’s Awards Ceremony at the 40th edition of the Angoulême International Comics Festival, the Cannes, Frankfurt and Mecca of worldwide comics wrapped up in one, held from January 31st to February 3rd in south-west France. On stage was a rock band playing appropriate tracks for each Master of Ceremonies Jean-Pierre Dionnet, co-founder of seminal magazine Métal Hurlant, as each Prize was announced.

Bristol-based Jon McNaught (above) couldn’t quite believe it when he scooped the Revelation Prize given to a first-time published author for the French edition of his exquisite duet of poignant tales in Dockwood from Nobrow. And the Special Jury Prize went to the translation of Glyn Dillon‘s The Nao of Brown, originally from SelfMadeHero - too bad that Glyn had already gone back to London. 

For two British creators to triumph like this is extraordinary, when you realise that 5,565 bande dessinée books, across all genres, markets and formats, were published in 2012, that’s an average of over 100 per week. Other Brit nominees who came over included Luke Pearson for Hilda and the Midnight Giant, Charlie Adlard for The Walking Dead and Sean Phillips for Fatale. From the UK, Nobrow, The Dessinators and Comica Festival took stands this year (see artist Jenny Linn-Cole and me in our titfers on the Comica stand below). British publishers SelfMadeHero, Blank Slate, Knockabout, Myriad and Jonathan Cape and graphic novelists Hannah Berry, Nye Wright and Karrie Fransman were also attending and promoting their wares.

Other big winners of the prestigious Fauve statuettes, based on Lewis Trondheim’s wildcat mascot for the festival, included Frederik Peeters for best series, his ongoing SF epic Aama from Gallimard, which SelfMadeHero will release in English, and as this year’s Golden Fauve best album, the second concluding volume of Quai d’Orsay. A commercial and critical hit, a sort of Yes, Minister satire of French politicians, it’s drawn by Christophe Blain and written from inside knowledge by Abel Lanzac, a pseudonym for real-life diplomat Antonin Baudry.

This fortieth festival was more packed with programming and exhibitions than ever. Four years ago you might get twenty or thirty events during the four days, this year there was a bewildering 300, from interviews and masterclasses to drawing concerts and movie premieres. Digital comics were also in the spotlight with Comixology launching its European operations and launches of new digital and app-format magazines.

North American guests included famous Disney Duck man Don Rosa, and Chester Brown and Anders Nilsen, both with nominated graphic novels. Rare appearances by veteran superstars Albert Uderzo, co-creator of Asterix, and Leiji Matsumoto, manga and anime legend, attracted huge crowds. Here’s a photo of them in the front row of the Theatre on the Festival’s opening night, sat either side of Jean-C. Denis, this year’s President.

To mark the sad loss of Jean Giraud aka Moebius last year, the Centre National de la Bande Dessinée et de l’Image, opened in 1990, was officially re-named the Vaisseau Moebius in his memory. This was the venue for a major show celebrating the long and illustrious career of Albert Uderzo, who attended the packed private view with the Festival’s artistic director Benoît Mouchart. Throughout the city in venues big and small, from cosy restaurants to cathedrals and even a Mongolian yurt, exhibitions spotlighted European masters like Jean-C. Denis, Andreas, Didier Comès, Jano and the late Sergio Toppi, and countries like South Korea, Algeria and Flemish Belgium.

Another popular attraction in the Town Hall’s courtyard was a spectacularly imaginative exhibition about the rich international traditions of Disney comics, in particular Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. You can see lots more photos from this show in BoDoï Magazine here!

As well as the two gigantic marquees of publishers, the festival offers other venues devoted to manga and Asian comics, children’s activities, helping youngsters break into the profession and a professionals-only rights area. It even has its own rebel ‘OFF’ or fringe festival for the underground and zine communities.

Change was in the air with the departure after ten years of Benoît Mouchart to head up publishers Casterman, and no successor named yet. The system of electing next year’s Grand Prix was also tweaked to be a bit more democratic. Till now, this has almost always been left to a jury composed of all the previous winners, but this year all creators attending the festival could vote from a shortlist of 16 nominees. Here’s a snap of Leiji Matsumoto casting his vote. Among the candidates were Britain’s own Posy Simmonds and Alan Moore (though he might not be all that interested in this role!).

Reportedly, Chris Ware of Jimmy Corrigan fame emerged with the most votes, but the regular jury were asked to choose from the top five. To the surprise and delight of many, they selected Willem (pen-name and middle name of Bernard Holtrop), the great left-wing Dutch cartoonist, 72 next April, former editor of Charlie Mensuel, scriptwriter for Joost Swarte, and a tireless advocate for upcoming young talents. He’ll bring some real bite and political edge to next year’s 41st edition of this unmissable gathering of global comics.

Posted: March 31, 2013

This article originally appeared in Comic Heroes Magazine. Photos © Jorge Fidel Alvarez/9e Art+, BoDoï Magazine and Frederik Stromberg, with thanks.

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