From our continental correspondent – the Great Angouleme Roundup
I’ve been back from Angoulême for a week now, and I’ve been meaning to give you my personal take on the festival. But so much has already been written that I could hardly find anything original to write. So, instead, I’m going to point you toward some quality resources that give you a much better idea of what those four days of comics mayhem were like, much more than I could do myself.
The best overall reporting on the festival, its programme and politics, can be found in the pieces by cartoonist Paul Karasik on the Comics Reporter. His observations on the events, but especially on the atmosphere of the festival and the town that hosts it, are spot on. I had the pleasure of meeting Paul a couple of times during my stay in Angou, and I must say, I learned a lot. If you are more interested in the low-down on the scandals surrounding the proceedings (more particularly the fact that SodaStream was one of the main sponsors (it’s not just Oxfam that had a problem with that company and Scarlett), or the ugliness surrounding the Korean exhibition), you may want to check out this overview on La Déviation (in French).
The various exhibitions all over town are the main official attraction of the festival (the other the just meeting loads of like-minded comics geeks without feeling awkward). French comics blog Bodoï has photo reports on the most important ones : the one about festival president Willem, the exhibition with Jacques Tardi’s First World War comics, the Mafalda show and the smaller expo on the work of Gus Bofa, a cartoonist from the first part of the 20th Century (and which was a real eye opener for me).
Incidentally, these shows confronted me with my own dubious attitude towards comics exhibitions. I simply refuse to accept photocopies of any nature in an exhibition about comics; I demand original art or original published material. If you are going to use copies, only use them as illustration material to make a point, to support or contradict the original art on show, but don’t give it the main spotlight. But by the same token, the sheer endless deluge of original pages in the Willem and Tardi shows had me gasping for some color, some context.
The Tardi show consisted of all the art of his World War I books, which basically consists of reams and reams of panels of the same oblong shape, with the same disparaging content. Similarly, Willem’s pages, typically published one at a time in news magazines, in the end all blended together in one big polonaise of images aimed at épater le bourgeois.
Outside the exhibition halls and the festival tents, the Festival was mainly represented by the posters that a sizable contingent of Dutch artists had plastered all over town, recreating the posters as news mediums during the French revolt of 1968. The French paper Libération has collected a large selection of the posters on its website. I particularly liked Hanko Kolk’s mashup of French president Hollande with Daft Punk, and Joost Swarte’s take on comics-related merchandise. The story behind the Atelier Hollandais (and other Angoulême antics) can be read in Dutch cartoonist Maaike Hartjes’ comic book diary on her Facebook page (login required). I do believe that somebody should start publishing English-language versions of her comics, which are at least amongst the cutest in the world.
Finally, some more comics. As ever, the festival kicked off with its own 24 hour comics extravaganza. Cartoonists had to create an original 22-page comic based on the 90 most recent pictures that diary comic giant Boulet had posted on Instagram. And even though this was news to him as well, Boulet did pull it off and created another amazing comic. However, do also check out the other contributions – some of them are quite awesome.
And so, it’s another year gone. What next year will bring, no-one can tell. The winner of the Grand Prize, as is well known by now, is Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson. Normally the winner gets to act as president of the next edition of the Festival, but rumour has it that Watterson is not really inclined to accept that offer. And so, after 41 editions, the mother of all European festivals will once again morph into something that is rather new, but nevertheless probably totally recognisable and comfortable like an old shoe. A la prochaine!