Angoulême is a city located in southwestern France in the department of Charente about 100 km north of Bordeaux and is famous not only for its comics festival but also for the production of exquisite cognac. The historical part of Angoulême, which lies on a hill, was filled with comic books, posters and banners and the overall atmosphere was great.
The second largest festival in Europe and the third largest in the world has been organized since 1974. It is a great event which takes place over the course of four days. This year, the festival was scheduled to take place from 24 of January to 27 of January. It was visited by two hundred thousand visitors, among whom were seven thousand comic creators and approximately eight hundred journalists. Moreover, the event was visited by many students.
Angoulême is a hot spot for comic fans and collectors who have the unique opportunity to meet their favourite creators from whom they can buy the best comic books with a nice personal drawing. This festival has a powerful tradition in French-speaking countries and, therefore, it is visited by thousands of comic lovers.
The entire city was flooded with huge tents full of interesting books published by the most important bookshops in the world. The visitors had the opportunity to purchase books and get signatures from their favourite writers and artists. The festival is also open to smaller publishing houses, underground artists and students.
One of the most important tents was a roofed structure that sported the logo of the French railways which, based on the Jury's decision, awards the prize for the best comic album. Moreover, this tent is a place of a combat, the so called "buttle", which takes place between two winners from previous years. Another interesting part of this festival was a demonstration that was organised by professionals from the world of comic strips who expressed their frustration with the ever-increasing financial insecurity in their line of work.
There is a large comic strip museum in Angoulême. It is located across the river in the modern part of the city. In this museum you can find a permanent exhibition dedicated to the history of the comic strip, an exhibition prepared to celebrate the festival and a bookshop where you can buy brand new French and foreign works. Moreover, in the foyer of the building there was an exhibition contest of the youngest comic book writers competing in the category from 5 to 18 years of age. It was clear that all young creators are the masters of this art, since they managed to create such great illustrations.
In the opposite building, there was a large exhibition dedicated to the famous French comics artist Emmanuel Guibert (author of Allan's War, Allan's Childhood, Photographer, Professor's Daughter, and of works he created together with Joann Sfar). The author exhibited diverse parts from the above-mentioned works, free drawings, works from his travels to Japan and acclaimed children's art.
We visited a lecture given by the German author Ulli Lust who is originally from Austria but lives in Germany where she belongs to the best comic authors. Lust presented her latest album which was nominated for the best comic album of the year. In her latest book, the author describes her life at the time when she was preparing for talent tests and lived with two men, one them Afro-American. Her novel reveals different traditions of different cultures which can lead to male violence. Lust belongs to those authors who enjoy reading books and drawing erotic scenes. Her drawings are highlighted by great skills and style.
This year's festival celebrated not only French comic artists, but also those who create in Japan. The artwork created by the most famous creator, the founder of modern Manga, Mr. Osamu Tezuka were presented in a retrospective exhibition which was held in the Ethnographic Museum. As part of the festival, some of his books were published, including a small book on his life entitled Ma vie Manga.
The second living phenomenon of Japanese culture is Naoki Urasawa, an interesting, lively guy whose Masterclass was held in a theatre that couldn't be missed. Did you know that Manga was the main driver used to arouse outrage between the Japanese and the Chinese? The legendary comic strip tells a story about a cat gang that fought incapable piglets - the Chinese.
The above-mentioned Masterclass captivated the attention of all visitors. It was not an introduction to the world of Manga, as everyone expected, but an unexpected musical recitation of Urasawa's songs sung in Japanese in Bob Dylan's musical style.
The premises of the theatre hosted also an exhibition of Urasawa's works, specifically his portraits of men, something between a real drawing and caricature, and samples of comic pages or strips. For his artistic contribution, Naoki Kurosawa was awarded the main prize of the festival.
The main prize is a statuette of a black and white comic book cat which could be found on stickers, badges and posters hung all over the city. This statuette was awarded to every winner of each category. The highlight was the golden statuette awarded for the best comic album. The winner of this category was a young Frenchman whose life, as he said, is closely related to Angoulême, because when he was eight years old, he won his first prize for children's comics in this town, he met the love of his life here and now he won the main prize. Final results can be found here.
In conclusion, it is necessary to emphasize one crucial thing. The promotional materials and comic strips are only in French. Comics are sold in French, the invited foreign authors are translated from English to French, and even the programme of the entire festival is written in French. French is simply the most important language of this international festival.
During our stay, we were accompanied by members of the Rotary Club Brno which is the organizer of the CS.KOMIKS competition. We were allowed to see the world through the eyes of the French members of this association. It is a club of wealthy people who are trying to enable others to experience things they otherwise could not because of the lack of financial means. We would like to express big thanks to Mrs. Věra Staňková, the member and PR spokeswomen of the Rotary Club Brno, namely for the fact that she founded the competition CS.KOMIKS in 2011, which we managed to win four times, and for her helpfulness and assistance during our journey to the festival.