International Comics Festival Faces Backlash After Release of Male-Only Lifetime Award Nominee List

The Angouleme International Comics Festival has backed down, promising to add women to a nominee list already 30 strong.
Marjane Satrapi's 'Persepolis'   |   Marjane Satrapi/Pantheon
The Angouleme International Comics Festival has backed down, promising to add women to a nominee list already 30 strong.

The Angouleme International Comics Festival is dealing with a significant backlash from comic book professionals and readers following the announcement, earlier this week, of the 30 nominees for this year's Grand Prix d'Angouleme award — which recognizes lifetime achievements in the comics medium — all of which were men.

As of writing, a full third of those nominated for the Grand Prix — Brian Michael Bendis, Christophe Blain, Charles Burns, Pierre Christin, Daniel Clowes, Etienne Davodeau, Milo Manara, Riad Sattouf, Joann Sfar and Chris Ware — have withdrawn their names from consideration for the prize, with many criticizing the list of nominations for its lack of women creators.

Writing for The Huffington Post, Joann Sfar explained that he "simply [does] not want to participate in a ceremony that is at this point disconnected from the reality of the current comics world," calling that lack of female creators "a slap at those who have devoted their lives to creating or living comics." In a private Facebook post shared by Metro News, Davodeau argued that the list "helps fuel the worst cliche, the argument that the art of comics is essentially non-feminine."

Sattouf also posted on Facebook, suggesting that his place on the list be offered to "Rumiko Takahashi, Julie Doucet, Anouk Ricard, Marjane Satrapi [or] Catherine Meurisse," before joking "I'm not going to list all the people that I like!"

The Grand Prix d'Angouleme has been in existence since 1974, yet only one woman has ever been awarded the prize (Florence Cestac, in 2000); previous female nominees have included Marjane Satrapi and Posy Simmonds.

The International Comics Festival that the Grand Prix is attached to has been in existence for the same amount of time, and is an annual festival that takes over the city of Angouleme, drawing thousands of attendees — including an estimated 7,000 professionals — each year. For those looking to contextualize this outside of a comic book reference, imagine it as the Cannes Film Festival for comics.

Following the announcement of the nominees, French collective BD Egalite called for a boycott of the award, via a statement that said in part, "What is the message sent to women cartoonists and those in the process of becoming such? We are discouraged from having ambition, from continuing our efforts. How could we take it otherwise? […] It is no longer tolerable that renowned female creators, known by one and all, are absent from the nominations of the Grand Prix."

The issue has even received notice from the French government, with Minister of Culture Fleur Pellerin commenting that she found the exclusion of women "surprising," adding that she was "a little disturbed" by their absence.

Franck Bondoux, the CEO of the Angouleme Festival, has responded to calls of sexism in the press, saying that this year's list of nominees merely reflects the industry. "The concept of the Grand Pix is to celebrate an author for all his work," he explained. "Unfortunately, there are few women in the history of comics. That's the reality. If you go to the Louvre, you will also find few women artists."

As of writing, the official site for Grand Prix voting is "temporarily closed," with a newly released statement reporting that new creators — presumably female — will be added to the nomination list in the near future.