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ANOTHER DIVERSITY WAR: PART 1

McIntyre poster AngoulemeNo Women at Angouleme

The diversity wars broke out last winter in Angouleme, France. Just as the most recent Oscars was marred by the failure of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to include any people of color among the acting nominees for the golden statuette, so has Europe’s most prestigious festival of cartooning failed to come up with any women among the 30 cartoonists nominated for the Grand Prix. And so up went the boycott barricades.

Usually, reported Laurenn McCubbin at theguardian.com, there are “at least a few women on the long list for the Angoulême International Comics Festival (known in French as the Festival international de la bande dessinée or FIBD).” This year, nothing. But the previous year, the list included only Marjane Sartrapi. “In fact, in the festival’s 43-year history, there has only been one female Grand Prix winner: Florence Cestac, who got the prize in 2000.”

Not even Claire Brétecher, pillar of the 9th Art, has ever received the Grand Prix. She was awarded the “10th Anniversary Prize” in 1983 (a prize which does not prevent its winner from qualifying for the Grand Prix as well).

But this time, McCubbin said, “there was a swift reaction” to the snubbing of women cartoonists.

Inspired by the French group BD Égalité, or Women in Comics Collective Against Sexism, some nominees on the list immediately protested by dropping out of consideration. Bestselling French cartoonist Riad Sattouf (The Arab of the Future) was the first to demand that his name be withdrawn from contention, reported Calvin Reid at publishersweekly.com. Other French cartoonists — among them Milo Manara, Joann Sfar, Pierre Cristin, Etienne Davodeau and Christophe Blaine — quickly followed. A number of American cartoonists who were also nominated, such as Chris Ware, Charles Burns and Dan Clowes, joined the French boycott and asked to be removed from the list.

Sattouf on Facebook listed a number of female cartoonists he would "prefer to cede my place to", including Rumiko Takahashi, Julie Doucet, Anouk Ricard, Marjane Satrapi and Catherine Meurisse.

Said Clowes in a statement released by his publisher, Fantagraphics: “I support the boycott of Angoulême and am withdrawing my name from any consideration for what is now a totally meaningless ‘honor.’ What a ridiculous, embarrassing debacle.”

The Grand Prix d’Angoulême is the festival's lifetime achievement award, and highest literary honor. With the prize comes the distinction of being president of the festival the next year with a full exhibition of one’s works, extensive media attention and, in most cases, a boost in big book sales. American honorees include Will Eisner, Robert Crumb, Bill Watterson and Art Spiegelman.

Angouleme posterIn response to the boycott, festival organizers initially offered to add six women to the list of nominees. Then the FIBD withdrew the list completely, declaring that academy members could vote for whomever they chose, and the festival would “submit to the absolute free will” of its members. The new nomination process did little, though, to halt the chorus of voices that spoke out against the prize.

By the time the FIBD convened at the end of January, three artists had been named as finalists — Hermann Huppen, renowned comics writer Alan Moore, and the much-admired if lesser-known illustrator Claire Wendling. All initially declined to accept the award. Hermann, who has been nominated multiple times for the award, was ultimately persuaded to accept the prize, Reid reported, though the entire episode seems to have devalued the award's standing. In the U.S., Hermann’s post-apocalyptic science-fiction series Jeremiah is published by Dark Horse.

Reid continued: “Aside from the troubles the show had with the Grand Prix, Angoulême remains an extraordinary show. Taking over the historic medieval-era city of Angoulême completely, the programs and exhibitions seemingly occupy every venue in the city. And, unlike American comics conventions, Angoulême is a monument to book publishing. There are no blockbuster movies, video games, or transmedia projects on display, and virtually no American-style periodical comics. It’s all books at Angoulême — hardcovers and trade paperbacks — from more than 300 publishers.”

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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