PREVIEWS: "Mighty Thor," "Star Wars," & More Marvel Comics On Sale February 17, 2016
Awards | Jeremiah creator Hermann has been selected as the winner of the Angouleme International Comics Festival Grand Prix. The Belgian artist, who was a finalist last year, will serve as president of the 2017 festival. The prestigious award was mired in controversy this year when the longlist of nominees featured the names of 30 male creators but no women. Hermann is well known in the French-language comics world; some of his work has been published in English by Dark Horse. [Le Monde, YouTube]
It’s all over now but the voting. After a whirlwind of controversy, commentary and boycotts, the organizers of the Angouleme International Comics Festival withdrew their all-male slate of nominees for the Grand Prix, the festival’s top prize (and one of the most prestigious awards in all of comics) and said the voters could choose anyone they want. All creators who publish works in France are eligible to vote
Franck Bondoux, the festival’s executive director, published a “mea culpa” in the French newspaper Le Monde, calling the omission of women from the list of nominees a “symbolic error.” He accused the media of confusing the Grand Prix, which looks at 10 years or more of a creator’s work, with the festival’s book awards, which recognize graphic novels published in the past year. In that regard, the festival is ahead of its time, he maintained, as 25 percent of the nominated books are by women, who only make up 13 percent of creators in France, and women are well represented in the festival’s exhibits and book awards.
But then he doubled down on the “no women in comics history” argument:
Comics | Wim Lockefeer translates and digests the annual report of the ACBD, the French association of comics journalists, which reveals that Asterix continues to rule the roost: The latest album had a print run of 2.25 million, dwarfing the next largest, Titeuf, with 550,000. Overall, sales are up 3.5 percent, but some of the old standards — like Asterix — are down from their historical peaks. Oh, and relevant to the recent debate involving Angouleme: The report lists about 1,400 active comics creators in France and French-speaking Switzerland and Belgium, of whom only 173 are women. [Forbidden Planet]
Passings | Spanish artist Luis Bermejo Rojo has passed away at age 84. Often credited as “Luis Bermejo” or just “Bermejo,” he began his career with Spanish comics in the 1940s and later was an artist for Warren Publishing’s Creepy as well as numerous British comics, from Girls’ Crystal to Battle Picture Library. “His work could turn the most banal of story lines into an absolute visual treat,” said fellow artist Ron Tiner. “His masterful grasp of narrative composition, his delicate ink line and consummate skill in the use of deep shadow endowed his story sequences with a bewitching, moonlit quality unmatched by any other artist-storyteller I ever saw.” [Down the Tubes]
Comics | Rob Salkowitz looks at the top five comics stories of the year, from the Charlie Hebdo shootings to convention consolidation. [ICv2]
NBM Publishing has announced its spring 2016 list, and if it seems a wee bit familiar, well, that may be because the publisher’s recent books received such an enthusiastic reception that it’s dishing up more of the same. But there are a few twists.
Let’s start with Paper Dolls, by the husband-and-wife team of Kerascoët, whose Beautiful Darkness (co-authored with Fabien Vehlmann) was nominated for an Eisner Award; NBM has also published their Beauty and Miss Don’t Touch Me, both created with Hubert. Their graphic novels are well-loved by critics, but what NBM is doing here is something a bit different: Paper Dolls is an art book, featuring a lot of extra touches and published in a limited edition of 1,000 numbered copies. The concept sounds extraordinary:
Magnetic Press got off to a good start last year, with two Eisner Award nominations (Best Publication for Teens for Tony Sandoval’s Doomboy and Best Graphic Album—Reprint for Dave Dorman’s Wasted Lands), and it looks like the publisher is doing its best best to avoid sophomore slump with the newly announced second-year lineup.
The new books are very much of a piece with the first season’s offerings: Full-color graphic novels that combine action and bold, confident art, much of it from European creators. The recent announcement of a partnership with Darby Pop should shake things up a little.
Here’s a look at what’s on deck for next year:
Manga | Kentaro Miura’s action-fantasy manga Berserk has 35 million copies in print — 27 million in Japan, and 8 million overseas — Hakusensha’s Young Animal magazine announced today. Miura returned to the series this week after a 10-month hiatus. The manga, which centers on a pair of mercenaries in a medieval Europe-inspired fantasy world, debuted in 1989; 37 volumes have been released to date. Dark Horse holds the license to Berserk in North America. [Anime News Network]
Crime | Russell Brandom and Colin Lecher describe a fascinating case in which comics figured in two types of crimes, money laundering and theft of evidence. Along the way, they explain the importance of grading, how slabbing works, and why it’s pointless to steal a really valuable comic that’s already known to collectors. [The Verge]
Graphic novels | The National Arts Council of Singapore has withdrawn a $8,000 publication grant for Sonny Liew’s graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, a biography of the Singaporean comics pioneer that depicts some tumultuous events in the nation’s history. “We had to withdraw the grant when the book The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye came out because its sensitive content, depicted in visuals and text, did not meet our funding conditions,” said Khor Kok Wah, senior director of the literary arts sector of the NAC. He did not specify what the “sensitive content” was, but the book makes satirical references to Singaporean politics and history. The publisher, Epigram, will return the $6,400 that was disbursed already and will cover the NAC’s logo on the book cover with a sticker. The book will be published next year in the United States by Pantheon. [Straits Times]
Anne Goetzinger’s Girl in Dior, out this month from NBM, is as much art book as graphic novel. While there is a narrative thread to the story, it often looks very like fashion illustration, with models arrayed across the page, posing in careful contrapposto to show off the graceful curves of the dresses. Even panels that aren’t part of the fashion show often use this same format, with a gaggle of fashion writers or Dior employees filling the panel, each one with a single comment in a word balloon.
The plot is slight and beyond implausible, a mere pretext to bring us into the world of Christian Dior: Clara, a young girl who has just been hired as a reporter, covers Dior’s first show, is fired after a disastrous photo shoot, and ends up being hired as one of his models. She’s a pretty standard-issue character—young, smart, spunky—who exists mainly as a lens through which we get an insider’s view of the Dior atelier. Indeed, the book focuses as much on the life of the people who make and model the dresses as on the designer or even Clara herself.
That doesn’t mean it’s not a great story, though. Goetzinger brings us into the world of Dior on the day of his first show, which galvanized the fashion world. It was 1947, and although World War II had been over for two years, rationing was still in place and the French were still feeling the hardships of the war and its aftermath. Dior’s “New Look” (as it was christened by fashion writer Carmel Snow) swept that aside, replacing the practical shapes and short skirts that were the result of fabric rationing with long, flowing skirts and graceful wasp-waisted silhouettes. Goetzinger shows us the action behind the scenes as well as the buzz of the crowd, but most important of all are the dresses themselves, which she renders in loving detail.
The president of last year’s festival, and the winner of the previous year’s Grand Prix d’Angoulême, was Willem, a staff cartoonist at Charlie Hebdo. He didn’t like to attend staff meetings, so he wasn’t in the office on Jan. 7 when two gunmen killed 12 people, including another Grand Prix winner, Wolinski.
“The 2015 festival will be a time to remember but we also want to demonstrate that life goes on,” said festival director Franck Bondoux. The commemorations include a special exhibit on Charlie Hebdo, a virtual album with contributions by artists from around the world, and a new award, the Charlie Prize, which will be awarded posthumously to the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists this year, and in future years will recognize creators who have fought for freedom of expression. The town of Angoulême will also festooned with posters of Charlie Hebdo covers.
Last week, when I was packing my bags to go to the Angoulême International Comics Festival, I kept having to explain to people — even comics people — what it was.
Now that I’m back, it’s not a problem any more.
This year’s selection of Bill Watterson as the winner of the Grand Prix d’Angoulême, and the president of next year’s festival, has put Angoulême on the map for more U.S. readers — or at least, it has sent the cartoonist’s fans scurrying to the map to see where it is.
What follows is a series of first impressions from my first trip to Angoulême; check out Publishers Weekly (which provided me with a press badge) for more solid coverage, and of course no one can capture an event like Heidi MacDonald.
There are a lot of reasons to go to Angoulême — the international array of creators and publishers who are there, the opportunity to get the hottest new BDs and of course, French food, scenery and wine all spring to mind — but to me, the most impressive thing about it was that I was in a place where comics really mattered. Comics aren’t a niche product in France; they are available everywhere, they are widely read, and they are taken seriously. In my previous sojourns in France, long before I was a comics journalist, I was accustomed to seeing a rack of hardcover, full-color comics at the grocery store, train station, and bookstore.
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The Angoulême International Comics Festival is just around the corner, and the shortlist for the Grand Prix de la Ville d’Angoulême was announced on Tuesday:
Binet, Christophe Blain, Charles Burns, Pierre Christin, Daniel Clowes, Richard Corben, Bernard Cosey, Étienne Davodeau, Nicolas de Crécy, Edika, Emmanuel Guibert, Hermann, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Manu Larcenet, Milo Manara, Lorenzo Mattotti, Alan Moore, Katsuhiro Otomo, Quino, Marjane Satrapi, Joann Sfar, Jiro Taniguchi, Jean Van Hamme, Chris Ware et Bill Watterson.
The prize is awarded to a living comics creator, and traditionally the winner serves as president of the jury for the following year’s festival; previous honorees have included Robert Crumb and Art Spiegelman, but the award usually goes to someone working in French-language comics.
There was a bit of controversy last year when juror Lewis Trondheim leaked the finalists on Twitter: Alan Moore, Katsohiro Otomo, Akira Toriyama, Chris Ware, and the eventual winner, Willem, who is well known in French-speaking countries but less so in the rest of the world (the poster above is his work). The Grand Prix winner is chosen by a combination of votes from French creators and a jury of past winners (l’Académie des Grands Prix), and the word on the street last year was that Toriyama was the creators’ choice but the jury overruled that and went with Willem. Toriyama was given a special prize commemorating the 40th anniversary of Dragon Ball.
If I’m reading the French article right, the process will be different this year, with the list being narrowed down to three names in a preliminary round of voting and the winner being determined by a second round in which the creators and the jurors will have an equal say.
Conventions | Although convention organizers rolled out an altered name — WonderCon Anaheim — and logo when they confirmed two weeks ago that the event will return to Anaheim, California, again next year, they insist they haven’t close the door on San Francisco. “We still want to get back to the Bay Area. […] We are in touch with [the Moscone Center organizers] fairly regularly and we have an open dialogue,” says David Glanzer, director of marketing and public relations. “They haven’t given up on us, either.” The convention was uprooted from the Moscone Center in 2012 first because of remodeling and now because of scheduling conflicts. WonderCon Anaheim will be held April 18-20. [Publishers Weekly]
Digital comics | I spoke with Archie Comics Co-CEO Jon Goldwater and iVerse Media CEO Michael Murphey about the new “all-you-can-eat” digital service, Archie Unlimited. [Good E-Reader]
Last week, we noted that comiXology had added a major French publisher, Glénat, to its lineup. The other shoe drops today with the news that the digital-comics giant has signed 12 more French publishers: Aelement Comics, Akileos, Ankama, Éditions Ça et Là, I Can Fly, Indeez Urban Éditions, Los Brignolès Éditions, Panini Comics, Sandawe, Soleil Productions, Wanga Comics and WEBellipses.
Together with Delcourt, which comiXology brought aboard in January, this group represents 40 percent of the French comics market and more than 400 titles. You can find the French-language comics here; if you were thinking it might be a little classier to read Kick-Ass in French, well, here’s your chance. All the French comics released today are available in French-speaking European countries, and most of them are available in the United States as well.
This is a logical move for comiXology; as CEO David Steinberger observed at SXSW, 40 percent of the company’s sales are outside the United States, and this expands the market even further. In keeping with this, comiXology has included a French-language navigation option in the latest release of its iOS app, version 3.3, and Android users will soon get that option as well.
Several French-language news sites are reporting that French publisher Glénat, whose properties include Titeuf and The Little Prince, has signed with comiXology and will begin releasing comics on the digital platform this month.
This is the second big score in France for comiXology, which opened a European branch in Paris in January and a few days later announced it had inked a deal with Delcourt, the largest independent publisher in France.
Glénat is the second-largest comics publisher in the French market, with a catalog of over 4,000 titles. Its properties include Le Bleu est une couleur chaude (Blue is the warmest color), whose film adaptation won the Palme d’Or in Cannes last month, as well as a range of French and Belgian comics. It’s also one of the big players in the French manga scene (although it’s unlikely any of the manga will make it onto comiXology as the licenses are usually country-specific). The number of titles to be released through comiXology has not been announced.