Angouleme 2018 – Counting down
It’s the New Year! And so everybody who’s even slightly interested in comics is either preparing to go to the French city of Angoulême for the 45th edition of the International Comics Festival, or finding bad reasons for not going. It will be four days of very intense international comickery, with exhibitions, publishers’ booths, small press hopefuls, discussions and interviews, and quite a few parties. And, of course, awards, lots of awards.
In terms of shows, all spotlights are, of course, on the main event : the great Cosey exhibition, celebrating the career of the winner of the 2017 Grand Prix. Born Bernard Cosendai, this Swiss creator made his mark with the start of his series Jonathan in 1975, a series of exotic adventures set in India, Tibet and Nepal. Adventure being the wrong word here, as Cosey’s title character preferred communication and art over action and violence, and much of the plot of his stories involve introspection and self-realisation. And even though he often focuses on the inner world of his characters, for Cosey their surroundings are at least as important, as he typically uses great vistas and impressive mountain ranges to contrast his character’s small preoccupations.
Angou has set his eyes squarely on the Orient, as two of the other main exhibitions focus on Japanese and comics. Legendary mangaka Osamu Tezuka is celebrated in the City Museum with an exhibition that will include no less than two hundred originals spanning his entire oeuvre (which counts more than one hundred and fifty thousand pages over four hundred volumes). The work of modern master Naoki Urasawa is the subject of a show in the venerable Espace Franquin, with examples from his books, including 20th Century Boys, Monster, Pluto, Master Keaton and, most recently, Billy Bat. The Quartier Jeunesse will focus on Fairy Tail, a typical 21st century manga shonen by Hiro Mashima, which will see its French debut in 2018. Singapore artist Sonny Liew’s work, finally, is shown in the exhibition halls of the Angoulême Theatre.
Even though it positions itself as an international festival, Angoulême takes great care not to forget its roots. This year, it will showcase the art of Jacques Martin, and more particularly of his historical series, Alix, with numerous documents and originals. The winner of the Prix René Goscinny 2017, BD writer Emmanuel Guibert is celebrated in the Vaisseau Moebius. Finally, popular science cartoonist Marion Montaigne, famed for her blog Tu mourras moins bête… mais tu mourras quand même ! (You will die less stupid… but you’ll die nevertheless) will have her own exhibition in the Alpha médiatheque.
In between these exhibitions, numerous interviews and conversations will take place with comics luminaries from Cosey to Gipi to Liew, masterclasses with Hiro Mashima and Naoki Urasawa and, of course, the Concerts Dessinés, in which music and comic art are combined. This year Rubén Pellejero will join singer Rokia Traoré and her band. This event will also be available on the internet, via the Culturebox platform.
I haven’t even covered half of the official programme here (there’s also the Jeunes Talents show, which every year is a breath of fresh air, there’s the off events, there’s…), but I’m going to leave it here. In a separate piece, I’ll be covering the various books and authors nominated for Angoulême’s many, many awards.