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Angoulême 2006:

The International BD Festival

On the morning of Saturday January 28th, the snow was starting to fall on the hilly, cliff-face town of Angoulême in France, home of the 33rd International Comics Festival. By the afternoon, some six inches had settled and by the evening all shuttles, buses and taxis were cancelled.

Surprisingly, this is the first substantial snow I’ve seen at the festival in over 20 years of going each January. While it added a magical atmosphere to the event, it threatened to hamper the public as they navigated round the city finding where the various marquees for manga, manhwa, alternative comics, children’s BDs, the Chinese pavilion, merchandise, etc, had been relocated. Normally, nearly everybody is inside one of two gigantic marquees in the centre of town, but the big Champs de Mars square was unavailable this year due to rebuilding works converting the space underground into a new car park. Not the best time to be doing this.

Still, Angoulême is always a delight, meeting, greeting, visiting publishers’ booths, artists’ talks and demonstrations, all sorts of  live events and exhibitions, discovering the latest albums and enjoying some first-rate and affordable French food and wine. This year there seemed to be even more going on all at the same time than before, so I sadly missed Andi Watson in conversation with Dupuy & Berberian, and the ‘Concert de dessins’ where artists draw live accompanied by musicians. US guests included Mike Mignola, Jim Lee, Ted Naifeh, Eric Shanower, Charles Burns, Paul Hornschemeier, Anders Nilsen, Ben Katchor, Jeffrey Brown, while Bryan Talbot, Charlie Adlard, Paul Peart, Gary Spencer Millidge, David Lloyd, Metaphrog and talented first-timer James McKay were among the British contingent.

I picked up some great new publications including two award-winning graphic novels, Les Mauvaises Gens by Etienne Davodeau (Delcourt), a tense village drama in rural France, and Aya de Yopougon by Clément Oubrerie and Marguerite Abouet (Gallimard), about the author’s African girlhood. The rebellious Association and others in the avant garde boycotted the official venues and set up their own “Literatures Pirates” programme of events elsewhere in the city. L’Asso launched Eprouvette, a provocative book-format magazine, put out twice a year, over 250 pages jammed with essays and comics examining the medium.

It was nerve-wracking honour at the Thursday night ceremony for me to announce on stage the Patrimoine (or ‘heritage’) Award, given for the first, long-overdue substantial translation of Jaime HernandezLocas (Seuil) into French. Of the exhibitions, I enjoyed the Buzzelli and Martin Tom Dieck, but the revelation was the Japanese genius Kotobuki Shiriagari, so far practically unknown in the West (he has a cover shown full-page in my Manga book) but a true original, who drew a wall-sized “graphic performance” each day.

I’ll leave it there but suffice to say, this is a fantastic four-day feast of global comics culture like no other.

Posted: February 26, 2006

The original version of this article appeared on the news blog web site of Comics International, the UK’s leading magazine about comics.

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Featured Books

Les Mauvaises Gens
Les Mauvaises Gens
by Etienne Davodeau

Aya de Yopougon
Aya de Yopougon
by Clément Oubrerie
& Margeurite Abouet

L'eprouvette
Eprouvette
published by
L’Association

Locus
Locas
by Jaime Hernandez