So there's this dinky little comics convention that happens in a horribly unattractive town in France every now and then. Hardly anyone attends. I mean, the French just hate comics — I never met a nation less interested in the medium.
And the food, guys, the food is awful.
Oh, ha ha ha, I'm so funny! It's opposites day! Or possibly I'm just really jet lagged and still a little bit hung over!
The organizers of the mighty Angoulême International Comics Festival very kindly invited a number of American, Canadian, and British editors to attend this year's show, to see what all the fuss is about and meet our European counterparts.
It's a remarkable show.
The festival takes over this cute little southern town completely — tents are set up throughout the public spaces of the city and local institutions like the city hall and pretty much every bar and restaurant are co-opted by the fans and professionals attending the event.
The obvious question on everyone's minds was "how does it compare?" How does the French comics scene compare to the English-language comics scene? How does Angoulême compare to San Diego? Everyone has a different answer to this, but I guess as far as I can tell, it's mostly a question of scale. The ratio of dreck to the sublime seems to be about the same in both industries; but there's so much MORE of everything in the Franco-Belgian scene. More dreck, but also more — and a greater variety — of the really good stuff.
There are certain respects in which Angoulême and San Diego are eerily similar, however:
Like the big shows that I've been to in the US, this show was a lot of work: many, many meetings; lots of running around; technology always malfunctioning; constantly being late or lost; lots of social events; lots of booze; almost no sleep. And like the big shows in the US, it was exhilirating. What a pleasure, always, to be surrounded by enthusiastic hoards who share your idiosyncratic passions.
And let's not forget the nightlife. Ben Hatke, this one's for you:
Stumbling through town at about midnight on Saturday, we came across this young lady fire-dancing and fire-breathing to an accompaniment of charming French accordians and drunken hollering from the crowd. Nobody got incinerated, but it wasn't for lack of trying.
I would have been more impressed, but I had just spent the evening in the company of a group of wonderfully talented cartoonists, editors, artists, and writers, including two First Second creators, Molly Crabapple and Tanitoc.
First Second has always had a strong emphasis on the global aspect of our list: bringing great graphic novels from all over the world to American readers. To me, now, that mission seems both more vital and more daunting: having experienced firsthand the enormous wealth and richness of the comics culture in Europe, I feel a little lost in the abundance of beauty.
Also, I met Moebius.
Well, no post about a trip to a charming European town would be complete without some gratuitous "look at how charmingly European everything is!" photos, so here are two for your delectation.