Angouleme 2018 – the Grand Prix
On Tuesday last, the organisers of the Angoulême Festival announced the three creators that are in the running for the Grand Prix, the lifetime achievement award with which the Festival wants to honor an original voice in comics world-wide. As is custom, the winner of the Grand Prix is invited to serve as Président of the Festival’s next edition the following year, which means that he or she can steer the general thematics or events of the Festival in a certain way. The manner in which Art Spiegelman turned the Festival into a celebration of the history of American comics in 2012 has become the stuff of legend by now.
During the week of January 8th, 1230 registered creators were invited to vote for their favorites on a long list of candidates. Based on their votes, three nominees were announced : Richard Corben, Emmanuel Guibert and Chris Ware.
Born in 1940, Corben rose to fame as a contributor to numerous horror and science fiction magazines for Warren Publishing, contributing greatly to the success of titles like Eerie, Creepy and Vampirela. He was a pioneer of airbrush techniques in comics, developing an extremely recognisable, ultra-realist style. In the eighties and nineties, Corben published a number of series that also made him popular in France, such as Den or Son of Mutant World. Recently he worked for all the big comics companies, with a celebrated run on Hellblazer for DC, and issues in numerous running series, as well as his own series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations for Marvel. For Dark Horse, Corben created the art for The Crooked Man, my personal favourite Hellboy story.
Emmanuel Guibert started his carreer with Brune, a definite treatise on the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s, that took him seven years to finish. Since then, he has created a quite sizeable oeuvre, either on his own or working together with Joann Sfar, Mathieu Sapin and others, the amazing biblical story Les Olives Noirs (with Sfar) and the space pirates comics Sardine (with Sfar and Sapin). His La Guerre D’Alan (Alan’s War) and Le Photographe (The Photographer) met with great critical acclaim, the latter winning the Micheluzzi Award at the Naples Festival, and the Eisner Award in 2010. In 2017 Guibert won the first Prix René Goscinny at the Angoulême Festival for his entire work.
After his work was published in the seminal magazine Raw, Chris Ware created his series Acme Novelty Library, which developed into graphic novels as Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On Earth and Rusty Brown. Ware became well-known for his dazzlingly detailed page layouts and extravagant book design, which stands in stark contrast with the timidity and fragility of his protagonists. Outside the world of comics, Ware became renowned for his contributions to such magazines as The New Yorker and Wired, and his animations for This American Life. His most recent work questions the traditional comic book format, with Building Stories presented as a big cardboard box containing numerous pamphlets, and his Monograph, an oversized book containing numerous smaller ones hidden in the pages.
The jury is now invited to vote a second time, after which the final winner will be announced at the beginning of the Festival. And indeed, there are no women in this short list of luminaries. Whether that is because the professional jury turns out to have favoured three male cartoonists, or because certain nominees refused their candidacy, will probably never really be divulged, except after one to many beers late at night on the terrasse of Le Chat Noir…