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Angouleme to add women creators to list of Grand Prix nominees

angouleme

Saying “We cannot rewrite the history of comics,” organizers of the Angouleme International Comics Festival nonetheless announced today that they will add women creators to the longlist of nominees for this year’s Grand Prix d’Angouleme. None of the creators already on the list will be removed.

The original list of 30 nominees for the festival’s prestigious lifetime achievement award contained only men, sparking a call for a boycott by the French women creators’ organization BD Egalite. As of today, 11 of the nominees, including Brian Michael Bendis, Chris Ware, Milo Manara, Daniel Clowes, Bill Sienkiewicz and Joann Sfar, had withdrawn their names from consideration for the prize.

A rough translation of the statement statement from Angouleme organizers can be found below:

“The Official Selection of the 2016 Angouleme Festival does not include a single woman this year? How can such an omission be possible?”

That, in summary, is the object o the discussions and polemics that have been developing since yesterday.

Except that… except that we should look at it more closely, or rather, higher and further away.

What are we talking about? About the list of creators nominated for the title of “Grand Prix of the Festival.”

What is the “Grand Prix”? A prize that crowns a creator for all of his work and his contributions to the evolution of comics. In this sense, it resembles the inductions of rock bands into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or a César Award [the national film award of France].

The winners of the last three years embody the nature of this prize. They are Willem, Bill Watterson, and Katsuhiro Otomo. These artists created comics for many decades.

When we go back and look at the places of men and women during that time, in the field of comics creation, it is clear that there are very few recognized authors. If we look at Franco-Belgian comics, which are the closest to us, and when we look at the generational markers, such as the magazines Tintin, Spirou, Pilote, A suivre, Métal Hurlant, Fluide Glacial, it is objectively faster to count the female creators (almost on the fingers of one hand) than the males.

The Festival cannot rewrite the history of comics.

If you want to judge the actions of the Festival with respect to present-day creators, look at the Sélection Officielle (which is made up of books published in the preceding year). For the 2016 Festival, women creators are are in a significant proportion (25% of the books, while the representation of [women] among creators is lower, at 15%). The Festival does not merely select authors, it also promotes them.

Although they owe everything to their own talent, the Festival has played an important role in the emergence of creators such as Marjane Satrapi and Julie Maroh (whose works met with success when brought to the screen). It also promotes creators through exhibits, contests, events, meetings (at the 42nd Festival, Lisa Mandel, surrounded by her sisters [in comics] successfully organized a panel on the theme “The place of men in comics”; for the 2016 Festival, we plan on events titled “Women in French and Swedish comics” and “Women’s traits, men’s traits, guess who designed what?”

The Festival constitutes a space, therefore, for debate where this question is regularly discussed. [The Festival] itself is a a willing actor in the cause of women creators, which nonetheless is not well served by categorizing or by positive discrimination, which are not artistically meaningful.

Therefore, two years ago, when we changed the method of selecting the Grand Prix by allowing all professional comics creators (a group of about 3,000 voters) to vote, we introduced women creators: Marjane Satrapi and Posy Simmonds. As it turned out, they received very few votes and came in last. Therefore, they were removed from the list (conforming with the rules).

Even though the Festival regrets that its relationships with creators is being viewed, in this circumstance, through the narrow prism of the Grand Prix, it understands that men and women today are sensitive to the presence of women creators in comics. It also understands the symbolic dimension that is attached to it, as a sometimes powerful beacon for [women and men] as an opportunity to understand this concern and the defense of this cause.

And if finally, today’s debate allowed concrete progress and set a marker for the years to come, the Festival has brought a contribution.

Consequently the Festival, without removing any names, will introduce the names of women creators in the list of nominees for the Grand Prix.

Although creators like Marjane Satrapi and Posy Simmonds have been nominated in years past, only one woman — Florence Cestac — has been awarded the Grand Prix in the festival’s 43-year history.

Comments

11 Comments

Such strangeness.

You can have THIRTY freaking nominees for one award?

Bendis has been in the business for like twenty years, but it still seems too soon to give someone like him a “lifetime achievement award”.

Oh, and I’m sure that the women nominees they tack on at the end will feel really appreciated.

But honestly who would they even add? I guess if Bendis is “old” enough to get a lifetime achievement award then Jill Thompson or Amanda Conner do?

Maybe they should just not do awards anymore since everyone gets upset.

Were any people of color nominated?

And the pandering continues!!

Great thing about the French is they’ll cave in to just about any demand placed on them.

Internet: we demand more kittens be nominated!
Angouleme: Mon Dieu! Put more kittens in zee list!
Internet: we demand more Toyota Corolla’s be nominated!
Angouleme: Mon Dieu! Put more Toyota Corolla’s on zee list!
Internet: we demand more lava lamps be nominated!
Angouleme: Mon Dieu! Put more lava lamps on zee list!

So, kind of a hollow victory at best.

This is hilarious! I bet they will forget Mary Wings, Trina Robins, Melinda Gebbie and a whole bunch of others for their contributions to comics (without Mary and, later, Howard Cruse gay comics wouldn’t be a thing and Alison Bechdel probably wouldn’t have produced any comics, let alone her graphic novels) – and that is just America.

Japan has lots of interesting longtime women authors

In other countries i could also throw in Brazil’s Laerte who was very significant in the country’s own underground scene. You could also add Rutu Modan who is an Eisner award winning Israeli cartoonist, one of the first from the country to break into the international sphere and is doing her part in pushing comics forward in Israel.

(and these are just off the top of my head)

Yay Tokenism!

It’s not tokenism or pandering if said group makes up slightly more than 50% of the entire worlds population.

“The winners of the last three years embody the nature of this prize. They are Willem, Bill Watterson, and Katsuhiro Otomo. These artists created comics for many decades.”

Many decades?
Watterson: 10 years.

Wait… what? I’d rather someone won the award through the merit of their work rather than because people got pissed they wren’t considered.

Bande Dessiné fans in France should be especially sensitive to those who perpetuate acts in the name of an entire group… reflecting badly on the entire group. The acts of a few shouldn’t mean that ALL adherents share the same sentiment, right?

The Angoulême Festival Grand Prix honoring ONLY men for the award is so out-of-touch on the contributions of female comics creators in the past year. It seems willful that whatever criteria was used has resulted in this sexist conclusion. And it’s no wonder that some people so chosen for the honor are ‘boy’cotting the event for not being more egalitarian in its choices…

Frankly it makes Angoulême seem as much of a ‘Boys Club’ as the American comics scene of yore. (Along with the xenophobic commenters of today?)

Making the cut because the judges decide they have to have a woman… If I were one of the creators they decide to select, I’d be insulted. My pride couldn’t handle it. A lot of people will see this as a victory but they should understand that things like this do not further the cause of feminism. Instead, they hinder the cause by reinforcing the idea that women cannot achieve when held to the same standards as men, and must be given a handicap.

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