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Monday, 1 February 2010

Pictures from France: Sarah McIntyre in Angoulême

angouleme_town_2010_mac.jpgdownthetubes may have one of the best Scottish comics correspondents in, er, Scotland, in the form of Jeremy Briggs, but we don't have a foreign correspondent: and yet, British comic creators regularly attend the biggest annual French Comics Festival, Angoulême (an event which draws in double the number of people who attend San Diego), which seems remiss.

Bouyed by positive response to the aforesaid Mr Briggs many reviews of Cinebooks collections of continental comics, and the growing British presence at what could be described as the French capital of comics culture - creators attending this year included Paul Gravett, Dan Lester, Oliver Lambden, Francesca Casavetti and Sean Azzopardi - we're grateful to ace comics creator Sarah McIntyre for giving us permission to cross post an edited version of her enthusiastic impressions of this year's festival. For more photographs from the event, check out her livejournal. Over to you, Sarah...

Earlier today, I posted my drawings and comics from the Angoulême festival, and here are some photos I took while we were in western France.

I'd never been to the festival of bande-dessinée before, so I went with Ellen Lindner and Stephen Betts (the latter one of the people behind comics translation site, Comixinflux), to see what it was all about.

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Angoulême is simply amazing. The whole town takes part in the festival and for a few days, everything is about comics. Almost every shop proudly displays bande-dessinée in their windows: for example, comics commentator Bart Beaty from The Comics Reporter took us into the local Quick burger joint to see the remarkable wall designs by... oh dang, I had it written down, a well-known French BD artist (Can anyone tell us who it is?).

A comics mural in a Quick burger joint


In fact, lots of wall murals peeking around corners, street art complementing no less than three amazing buildings across the river from each other, all housing comics exhibitions and libraries. I loved the reflections on this one, le Bâtiment Castro.

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angouleme_town3.jpgDifferent comic artists have made tiles in the past, displayed outside, showing their characters. (Most were Franco-Belgian or American, but Ellen and I spotted one by Posy Simmonds).

Inside, I was hugely impressed by the Museum of BD's permanent collection. I did my best to read some of the panels in French, but fortunately mon ami d'Internet w_o_o_d knew loads about BD and gave me a great tour of both the permanent collection.

Then we went through to the neighbouring exhibition, Cent Pour Cent, in which a hundred comic artists reinterpreted a page of another comic artist's work. It was pretty amazing, even to someone like me who's only really starting to learn about comics' history. I ran into Patrice Aggs, who was thrilled to see an old Popeye film she'd unsuccessfully been trying to find on DVD for years.

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I went to loads of the exhibitions, including one by Blutch, where Moebius was also having a good look. Really amazing drawings, which reminded me a lot of work by Paula Rego (but with a very different attitude toward women.)

Jochen Gerner posterAs we were going down the hill to the Castro Building with Paul Gravett and he stopped Jochen Gerner coming the other way. We went on to see his exhibition and for some reason I took more photos of that one than anywhere else. I liked his work: it was thoughtful and playful at the same time and a lot of the images were very simple and striking. This poster has a lot of comic artist names on it that I know and many I still need to look up. You can read some of this piece, Grand Vitesse online: it's a record of a train journey, with scenery sketches that get more and more streamlined as the train picks up speed.

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I couldn't resist making a little linocut print at the Match de catch à Vielsam workshop. (Spot mine above, among others made by visitors on the day. They seem to have spent much more time on theirs.)

A lot of people come to Angoulême to meet their favourite authors and often stand in queues for hours to get dédications in their books. I was tempted to queue for Sémpe's album of New Yorker drawings, but I ended up buying three books from German author Mawil, having become a fan from his book We Can Still be Friends, published in the UK by Blank Slate. I did go to an hour-long talk by Sempé, illustrator of the much-loved Petit Nicolas books, and I only understood maybe a third of the French, but it was still great to see his drawings of New York and see what he was like.

After he got very politely told he couldn't smoke in the hall, he spent much of the time making everyone laugh by teasing his two interviewers. The older interviewer seemed to be a friend of his, but he hardly talked to him except to rib him about his beard. Obviously a guy who's had a long, successful career and doesn't have to prove anything, but still fun to watch.

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In an exhibition of Russian comics, I was most impressed by Roma Sokolov's story, Kvas, drawn in felt-tipped markers. Many of the pieces were very nostalgic, for the Russian space age, old-time scenes like the elderly people queuing at the kvas truck, and Soviet-style packaging.

The festival also gave a lot of space to up-and-coming young comics artists, and their work was hugely impressive, better than most adult British comics artists. Which makes sense, since French-speaking children are allowed to stick with comics throughout their whole lives instead of the majority feeling they have to give them up when they're able to read books without pictures. I hope we get more kids in Britain making comics, these French kids are really pushing themselves.

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As well as the comics on offer, we ate well: here's the gang on our second night. You can spot John Aggs, his mum Patrice, and David O'Connell, and then Nick Abadzis peering intently at a fabulous cheese trolley!< baru_art_sample.jpgThere was so much going on at the festival that I missed lots of things, such as the talks by Joe Sacco, Emmanuel Guibert and Robert Crumb, or see Baru (Hervé Barulea) win the Festival's Grand Prix, meaning he will be the president at next year’s festival. But I think I saw as much as I could possibly manage, and learned a lot.

Thanks, Ellen and Stephen, for taking me along with you and showing me the ropes! I'm really looking forward to this festival next year, when I'll be selling my Vern and Lettuce book!

Read Sarah McIntyre's full Angoulême report and take a look at her many drawings inspired by the trip here.

Angoulême Award Winners
(For more information see the Comics Reporter story)


• Fauve d’Or (Best Album): Pascal Brutal #3 by Riad Sattouf (Fluide Glacial)
• Prix Spécial du jury (Special Jury Prize): Dungeon Quest by Joe Daly (L’Association)
• Prix de la série (Series Award): Jérôme K, Jerome Bloche by Alain Dodier (Dupuis)
• Prix Révélation (Newcomer Award): Rosalie Blum #3 par Camille Jourdy (Actes Sud)
• Prix Regards sur le monde (Global Award): Rébétiko by David Prudhomme (Futuropolis)
• Prix de l’Audace (Award For Audacity): Alpha by Jens Harder (Actes Sud / L’An 2)
• Prix Intergénérations (All Ages Award): Messire Guillaume – L’Esprit perdu by Matthieu Bonhomme et Gwen de Bonneval (Dupuis)
• Prix Jeunesse (Youth Award): Lou #5 by Julien Neel (Glénat)
• Prix Patrimoine (Heritage Award): Paracuellos by Carlos Gimenez (Fluide Glacial)
• Prix du Public Fnac-SNCF (Public Award): Paul à Québec by Michel Rabagliati (La Pastèque)
(Bleeding Cool notes this award has caused some controversy...)
• Prix de la bande dessinée alternative (Alternative Comics Award): Special Comics n°3 (Nangjing)

More Links

Bleeding Cool: Frédéric Mitterand Assures Future Of Angoulême

While there has been some doubt about the future of the Angoulême festival French culture minister Mitterand gave his word that Angoulême will continue and it considers it a massively important part of both French culture and commerce. (Rich Johnston has published several reports from the Festival over at Bleeding Cool, starting with this one)

Comic Influx: Steven Betts Angoulême Report
"The Angoulême Festival’s purple patch continues with Blutch’s turn in the presidential hotseat. A plethora of quality exhibitions ensure that 2010 will be remembered as a festival of the highest calibre."

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