From Our Continental Correspondent – Angoulême, day 1

Published On January 30, 2009 | By Joe Gordon | Comics, Continental Correspondent, Conventions and events

And now it’s over to La Belle France for the first of some very special Foreign Correspondent posts from Wim Lockefeer, who has braved French transport strikes and is currently mixing with the cream of European and World comics creators at the famous Angoulême BD festival – over to Wim:

La France Profonde, (no) Belgians and the Thompson Twins on video – a very exciting first day at the 36th festival of Angoulême

We arrived quite late on Wednesday in a drowsy Angoulême yesterday, after driving cross-country through France for nine hours, and encountering every kind of weather you can imagine (including a tiny flurry of snow around Orléans).  The coolest image I remember from the trip was a very impressive spray-painted Hellboy on the Périphérique in Paris, but traffic was too incessant to take a picture, and so I didn’t manage one.

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(downtown Angoulême welcomes the comics community from around the globe; click on the pictures to see the larger versions on the FPI Flickr Stream where there are more images from the Festival for you to browse)

One of the recent news items that even made it to the weekly gabfest that Salon puts up, was the new sculpture by the Czech artist David Černý in the European council buildings in Brussels.  This sculpture, representing Europe as a modelling kit with only cliches as parts, was met with enormous criticism when it turned out that Bulgaria was shown as a toilet, Germany as a Swastika-shaped highway and France was covered with a big sign saying it was on strike (Britain wasn’t even included on it, one wonders what we might have been if we had – a drunk man with a kebab?; check the BBC’s report on it here – Joe).  It was very ironic indeed that visitors to the Angoulême festival were met by France being, exactly, on strike.  That meant, no trains (so many last minute visitors had to come by car or bus), and a big manif blocking the entrance to the main festival halls.  We’re in France, baby.

Comics are everywhere in Angoulême.  Naturally, all the important streets are named after important cartoonists (most famously La Place Hergé, with the enormous head of the Tintin creator smiling benevolently down the street).  but there are also murals all around; even the local fast food joint was decorated by ligne claire giant Ted Benoit and all the shop windows in the city centre have been redecorated in a comics style (ranging from putting a stand-up Spirou near a set of hair products, to having all your mannequins reading quite recent books).  Newspapers, from the local Charente Libre to the national Libération, put cartoon art on their front pages (or, in the case of Libre, had cartoonists illustrate their entire paper – more on that later), and new books are advertised in the streets as if they were new albums by hot bands or Hollywood blockbusters.  If you need a sugar rush as a comics addict, Angou is the place to be.

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As a Belgian, I simply had to start my stay in Angou (I’m getting the hang of it now), with the Ceci n’est pas la BD Flamande exhibition (These are not Flemish Comics) which I mentioned a few weeks ago in the City Hall.  This overview of all the important Flemish comics auteurs was really a sight to behold, as all artists had been asked to design their own exhibit.  This ranged from simply enlarged imagery for some of the less inspired participants, to a life-sized Vicky waiting for a client by Pieter De Poortere, a comics-creating cockpit by Simon Spruyt and plasticine figures by Randall.C.  The exhibition and the lush booth at the publishers’ halls representing Flemish comics were both in high contrast with the Brussels Centre du BD booth, which, well, was empty.  Yes, this festival is a game of contrasts…

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(Randall C – who will be published later this year in English by Blank Slate Press – had his plasticine sculptures decorating the Flemsih creators exhibition; click for the bigger version on the FPI Flickr stream)

In the afternoon everybody rushed to the CIBDI, the Cité Internationale de la Bande Dessinée et de l’Image (International City of Comics and Imagery; whatever you do, don’t call it a centre) for a presentation by Nick Rodwell, president of Moulinsart and sole governor of the Hergé estate.  Rodwell had brought along illustrator and cartoonist Joost Swarte to talk about the new Hergé Museum, which is slated to open on May 22nd, at Hergé’s anniversary, in the city of Louvain-La-Neuve, and for which Swarte is currently creating the scenography.  Judging from the artist’s renderings that were shown (as the actual museum is currently very much under construction), it will be a very beautiful building, with a sizeable permanent exhibition and rotating selections covering all aspects of Hergé’s vast body of work (80 % of which is still in the possession of Moulinsart). After the presentation, Rodwell had a little surprise for the very large crowd: a video salute by Stephen Spielberg and Peter Jackson.

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Dressed as the Thompson Twins (well, sporting bowler hats and a cane), and looking impressively fit, the Tintin movie producers and directors were happy to announce that shooting for the movie will start on Monday.  They confirmed that it will be a motion captured 3D film in English, based on the Secret of the Unicorn story cycle, and featuring (amongst others) Jamie Bell, Anthony Serkis and Daniel Craig.  Not a word about veteran Tintin actor Jean Pierre Talbot, though.  The two looked very eager to get started after the long build up (Hergé gave Spielberg a green light for doing a film of his books in the early eighties), so we all have something to look forward to in 2012…

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(Pieter De Poortere’s display for the Flemish comics exhibit – Vicky, or ‘Hoerke’ as she is known in the Netherlands; click on the picture to see the larger version on the FPI Flickr Stream where there are more images from the Festival for you to browse)

Some short notes to close off for the moment:

Best image of the day: Moulinsart head honcho Nick Rodwell walking down the Angouleme main street, carefully carrying a cardboard Spirou cap (at least Spirou is at the festival – I didn’t see any Tintin books lying around).

Best new book: Ferme 54 (Ca Et La) by the Israeli siblings Galit and Gilad Seliktar, chronicling life in Israel in the late seventies (more on this in a later post, but it suffices to say that these two were the nicest people I met today, and their book may be the most topical on the Sélection Officielle).

Personal triumph: I managed to get the sixth copy of the new Plunk book, Génération Plunk (Dupuis), autographed for my son by creator Luc Cromheecke (it was the only reason my family said  I was allowed to even come here).  Luc also told me that talks are well under way to get Plunk finally published in the US.

More, as they say, as it happens, stay tuned.

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About The Author

Joe Gordon

Joe Gordon is’s chief blogger, which he set up in 2005. Previously, he was professional bookseller for over 12 years as well as a lifelong reader and reviewer, especially of comics and science fiction works.

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