At the Angoulême Festival, the “comics world” takes up residence

Pushed in the back by the success of the manga and the graphic novel, and by a general atmosphere turned towards deconstruction, the foreign comic strip, outside Japan, Europe or the USA, settles more and more on the stalls and in the charts . The proof at the 2023 edition of the Angoulême Festival.

This is called a full box. Editions Here and Therelaunched in 2005 by Serge Ewenczyk, and exclusively dedicated “adaptations in French of foreign comics intended for a teenage/adult audience”, had, for this 50th edition of the International Comics Festival in Angoulême which was held last weekend, no less than four books in the running for prizes (i.e. a third of their annual publication, which its publisher wishes to cap at twelve titles). He won three, including a second Fauve d’or in a row, the supreme award for an album, with The color of things Swiss Martin Panchaudone year after the coronation of Listen, pretty Marcia by Brazilian Marcello Quintanilha (of which we find a drawing on the cover of this issue). A feat in the image of one of the major trends emerging from the biggest comic book event on the planet: the “world comics”, as we spoke of “world music”, has gone beyond the fad. It is firmly established in the comic strip landscape, and less and less in the shadow of the three great empires and markets of the 9th art which are Japan, Europe and the United States. And if the manga now reigns supreme in Angoulême – as is already the case in bookstores (57% market share according to the 2022 figures revealed by GfK) -, with three exhibitions and two Fauve d’honneur alone, he is no longer the only one to push the good old Franco-Belgian comic strip to its limits: the authors of today and tomorrow now come from all over the planet.

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Of the nine exhibitions officially organized by the festival, one was entirely devoted to Marguerite Abouet, the Ivorian screenwriter ofAya of Yopougonand another, Worldwide Comicsto ten emerging authors from, for example, Taiwan, Norway, Finland, Thailand or South Korea (also from Belgium, with Mathilde Van Gheluwe). Among the stands of publishers, many were those strictly devoted to foreign comics (Poland, Canada, Germany, Middle East, Africa, etc.). As for the International Rights Market, according to the festival itself, it has become “the unmissable meeting of the profession”, a space that is gaining in volume and participants every year, which sees the signing of hundreds of contracts for the transfer of rights, and in which the massive soft power of countries such as Taiwan or Hong Kong alone proves that these States have decided to make culture and comics a real political toolas Japan or South Korea did before them, with the deployment of enormous public resources intended to spread their authors and their words far beyond their borders – words themselves most often rooted in reality and its socio-economic contexts.

A board of Naphtaline from Argentina Sole Otero, visible at the Worldwide Comics exhibition in Angoulême. – © here and there

The alternative, driver of change

It’s obvious that things have changed a lot since the creation of Here and There, Serge Ewenczyk, the Peter Gabriel of comic book publishing, commented to us, even before receiving a second consecutive Fauve d’or, he who had hesitated, when he launched himself after years spent in animation and audiovisual, between the DVD business and the comic strip... At the beginning, I was the one who had to go find people and see what existed outside of Japanese manga, Franco-Belgian comics or American superhero comics, and by drawing inspiration from what was going on. in literature than in comics, with houses like Actes Sud or others who were developing their “foreign domain”, and for which, as a reader, I had a real appetite. Today, I receive two projects a day, literally. But this openness is also, above all, due to the emergence of alternative comics, begun long before me by houses like Cornelius, L’Association and others. A comic strip clearly turned towards the authors, towards the graphic novel, the intimate comic strip, the autobiography, the documentary… A comic strip both alternative and anchored in reality which already has many more authors for example, but also open testimonies and “different” views. A comic strip that also brought in a new readership, coming again from literature more than from comics, and who already read easily from the “foreign domain”.

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Winner of the Fauve d’or for the best album in 2022, the Brazilian Marcello Quintanilha is one of the faces of this “world comic strip”.

The Brazilian Marcello Quintanilhawho releases today his new and formidable album public soulsa collection of short stories rooted in the naturalism and daily life of contemporary Brazil, that of the slums and “little people”, does not say anything else: “At the start of my career, more than 20 years ago, I was always told the same thing, almost like a mantra: “It’s very interesting, but we don’t know what to do with it, there’s nothing comparable on the market…”. It started to change when I was still living in Brazil (Marcello Quintanilha has been living in Barcelona for 20 years now, editor’s note)but I am convinced that the share of foreign comics will further increase over the years: them comics have always been a reflection of society. Gold it changes, radically, for the better.

And in fact, one cannot help but see in the rise of “world comics” also the expression of an even broader deconstruction: comics, like almost everything else, have always been and apparently for too long a space of expression reserved, with all due respect, to heterosexual white males alone. For a few years now, she has been much less male, much less heterosexual, and logically now, a little less “white”.

Doucet, Quebec slap

Impossible to leave the 50th edition of the Angoulême festival without remembering the main one, namely the unfortunately flash exhibition dedicated to the Quebecer Julie Doucet, elected Grand Prix last year by his peers (and who is succeeded this time by Riad Sattouf). The crowd crowded into the far too cramped two floors of the Hôtel Saint-Simon to admire the very alternative trait of the author, but also to become aware of her incredible avant-gardism and her impact on her peers. Formal research, autobiography, dream stories, societal criticism, radically feminist approach: Julie Doucet was an incredible innovator and still is, if you take a good look at his most recent works based on collage, or the recent Total Suicide, the 20-meter leporello here unfolded on the walls but no less asphyxiating. A high priestess of alternative and black and white whose succession of originals, often badly printed as it should be for proto-punk fanzines, brings out her immense talent and freedom of tone here. It remains to be hoped that other -Belgian?- operators will have the guts to reschedule it elsewhere. Nothing was recorded at the time of closing the festival.

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