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I was an art student in 1979 when Germaine Greer’s The Obstacle Race was published. As it happened, most of the art majors that year were women, and we all read the book and spent late nights in our studios discussing it. Women had been completely absent from our art history courses, and Greer’s book opened our eyes to that fact and the reasons behind it — not a lack of talent, but a lack of recognition and encouragement — and often the deliberate placement of obstacles.
That wasn’t difficult to believe. The university I attended had only admitted women for five years and limited them to 25 percent of the student body at the time.
Angouleme International Comics Festival this morning responded to mounting backlash to its men-only pool of nominees for the Grand Prix with a revised shortlist that included six women creators — only to promptly remove it. Now organizers have announced they won’t propose any names for the festival’s lifetime achievement award, and will instead allow academy members to vote for whomever they like.
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nominees, including Brian Michael Bendis, Chris Ware, Milo Manara, Daniel Clowes, Bill Sienkiewicz and Joann Sfar, had withdrawn their names from consideration for the prize.
Ten comics creators have withdrawn their names from consideration for this year’s Grand Prix d’Angouleme, in protest that the list of 30 nominees doesn’t include a single woman.
As of this morning, Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, Charles Burns, Riad Sattouf, Joann Sfar, Milo Manara, Pierre Christin, Etienne Davodeau, Christophe Blain and Brian Michael Bendis have indicated, personally or through their publishers, that they are joining the boycott launched by the French group BD Egalite.
Meanwhile, Franck Bondoux, executive officer of the Angouleme International Comics Festival, defended the choices in the French newspaper Le Monde, saying the Grand Prix is a lifetime achievement award for artists who have reached a certain age. “Unfortunately, there are few women in the history of comics,” he said. “That’s the reality. Similarly, if you go to the Louvre, you will find few women artists.”
The French group BD Egalite is calling for a boycott of voting for the Grand Prix d’Angouleme because not a single female creator is included on this year’s list of 30 candidates. Cartoonist Jessica Abel provides a translation, and some context, on her Facebook page.
The Grand Prix is a lifetime achievement award, and the winner is named president of the following year’s Angouleme International Comics Festival. In the event’s 43-year history, just one woman, Florence Cestac, has been awarded the Grand Prix. Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis) and Posy Simmonds (Gemma Bovery, Tamara Drewe) have been among those nominated in years past.
The 43rd Angouleme International Comics Festival takes place next month, and the organizers have released their list of nominated works in four categories: the Sélection Officielle (the general category), Sélection Jeunesse (young people), Sélection Patrimoine (classics and reprints) and Sélection Polar (mysteries and thrillers).
These graphic novels are eligible for the juried prizes at the festival, and they also make a pretty good reading list that spans the range of graphic novels being made today in Europe, North America, and Japan. As is usually the case, many have been published in English, so I’ll include the English titles, where they are different from the French titles, in parentheses.
When Akira creator Katushiro Otomo was announced as the winner of the Grand Prix d’Angoulême earlier this year, it was a notable moment because he’s the first Japanese artist, and one of only five non-French creators, to be honored with the Angoulême International Comics Festival’s top prize.
Part of the award is an invitation to serve as the president of the following year’s festival. Although the previous winner, Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson, didn’t make the trip to France, it was announced Friday that Otomo will not only come to Angoulême but will star in a two-and-a-half-hour presentation, alternating interviews with audio-visual presentations, on the making of Akira.
Manga | The 72nd and final volume of Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto, released in Japan on Feb. 4, topped the weekly sales charts, with 874,120 volumes sold in its first week. [Crunchyroll]
Conventions | With 10 fan conventions coming to Indianapolis this year, David Lindquist takes a look at the business of comics-themed entertainment, with interviews with Wizard World CEO John Macaluso and Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture author Rob Salkowitz. [Indianapolis Star]
The Greek gods are well-known for inserting themselves into the lives of mortals like you and me, but never quite like this.
During the Angouleme International Comics Festival last week, French artist Boulet created a comic in a 24-hour span pitting Zeus and Hades in a war of words and power that’s interrupted by a meager elderly widow. Titled The Gaeneviad, the comic brings this supernatural struggle down to eye level, featuring an infectiously warm woman and some unique behavior as the Greek gods try to woo her to their side.
Crime | Artist and collector Jim Wheelock talks about the loss of his comics collection, which was stolen from a storage unit in Brattleboro, Vermont: “I remember where I was and what I was doing when I bought or read many of [the comic books]. Later, when I worked in the financially rickety world of a freelance artist, knowing the books were in Vermont gave me a sense of security, a retirement nest egg. This is what the culprit robbed me of.” Vermont-based cartoonists James Kochalka and Harry Bliss weigh in on what such a loss would mean. Wheelock’s thousands of comics included extensive runs of The Incredible Hulk, The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil and The Fantastic Four, in some cases beginning from the first issues. [Seven Days]
Crime | The Wow Cool Alternative Comics store in Cupertino, California, has been burglarized for the second time in two months, and it looks as if it was the same crew both times. The thieves took cash and pretty much every minicomic and digest in the store, as well as a box of Marvel and DC comics. [Wow Cool Comics]
Political cartoons | Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, who’s facing sedition charges in his home country, has been invited to speak at a United Nations forum next month in Geneva, Switzerland, titled “Defending Artistic Expression — Time for the UN to Act.” “In my speech, I will reaffirm my stand that freedom of expression for artistes including cartoonists is paramount and cannot be compromised,” he said, and he will also criticize the UN’s lack of commitment to the issue, which has “given more power to corrupt regimes and extremist bigots to be more repressive toward artists.” [The Rakyat Post]
Auctions | A restored copy of Detective Comics #27, which marks the first appearance of Batman, is expected to bring in more than $100,000 in a Feb. 20 sale held by Heritage Auctions. According to the company, this would be only the second restored copy of that issue reach that milestone (several restored copies of Action Comics #1 have broken $100,000). A CGC-graded 4.5 copy of Batman #1 is expected to fetch more than $65,000 in the same auction. [Antique Trader]
Passings | Cartoonist Joseph Farris, whose work appeared in The New Yorker and other publications for almost 60 years, died last week at his home in Bethel, Connecticut. He was 90. Farris served in the Army during World War II, and he later wrote a memoir, A Soldier’s Sketchbook, that included drawings he did while on the front lines in France and Germany. He recently completed another memoir, Elm Street, about growing up in Danbury, Connecticut. Farris once described his work as “subtly political,” adding that his goal was to make the reader laugh, then stop and think “Wait a minute. What did he say?” [The News-Times]
The Angoulême International Comics Festival ended today, and while the winner of the Grand Prix d’Angoulême, Katsuhiro Otomo, was announced on Thursday, the closing ceremony brought the announcements of the official prizes of the festival.
The prize for the best comic of the year (Fauve d’or/Prix du meilleur album) went to Riad Sattouf’s L’Arabe du Futur, the first volume of an autobiographical trilogy about his childhood, which was spent in France and Syria. Chris Ware’s Building Stories was recognized with a special jury prize, which is not given every year, only when the jury wants to draw attention to a work of special merit. The best series prize went to Last Man, which First Second will be releasing beginning in March. And there was a special Freedom of Expression prize, Prix De La Liberté D’Expression, which honored the five Charlie Hebdo cartoonists who were slain on January 7; this prize will be awarded in future years to creators who have advocated for freedom of speech.
Here’s the complete list:
Conventions | At a press conference Thursday to kick off FanXperience, the Salt Lake Comic Con spinoff event, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker declared Jan. 29, 2015, as “Salt Lake Comic Con’s Day of Heroes.” Organizers, who have capped ticket sales for the second annual event at 70,000, say they expect a sellout. The Deseret News also looks at the origins of Salt Lake Comic Con in a profile of founders Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg, who were introduced to comic conventions not as fans but as entrepreneurs. FanX continues through Sunday. [KSL.com]
Festivals | Reporter Alex Turnbull files a video report from the Angoulême International Comics Festival that includes segments on the tributes to the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, the Belgian cartoonist Hermann, and a 24-hour comics challenge. [France 24]
Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo has won the Angoulême International Comics Festival’s Grand Prix, marking the first time a Japanese artist has received the event’s top honor. Just five non-Europeans have earned the award.
Jeremiah artist Hermann and Watchmen writer Alan Moore were also finalists for the award, presented annually in recognition of lifetime achievement to a living comics creator. The winner traditionally serves as president of the jury for the following year’s festival.