The sun came out today. Angoulême looks great, and this year’s festival is a great pre-spring distraction in this time of recession. The crowds are moderate today, making perambulation pleasant and breezy with sufficient bustle to make you buzz with excitement about comics and their culture. It’s not like everything’s great in French-language comics or anything, but let’s just stay in the moment here.

I cannot recall ever having felt as pressed to visit the festival exhibitions as this year. It’s just a smorgasbord of interesting art on display. One of the remarkable symbolic shifts since I was last here in 2006 is that what used to be called the ‘Espace Franquin’ and sported a huge mugshot of Belgian mainstay Gaston Lagaffe, is now called the ‘Manga Building’ [pronounce with French emphasis]. Talk about a cultural sea change…

The Shigeru Mizuki show, at said ‘Building’, was the one I was most excited about seeing, but unfortunately it featured no originals and was manned by staff incredibly fuzzy about copyright concerns, eager to explain why you hurt the artist’s feelings if you photograph their work with a pocket camera. I’ve been told that the organisers experienced a lot of trouble and frustration setting it up, and it shows, unfortunately. Anyway, it did an OK job of presenting Mizuki’s work and achievements as an ambassador to the mythological yokai world. There’s also a small show of the work of another of the great old men, Hiroshi Hirata — it’s small, but features exquisite originals. Well worth a look.

Visiting the newly re-christened comics centre, now the Cité Internationale de la Bande Dessinée et de l’Image, was a pleasant experience this year. It seems that, with work apparently finally starting on their long-projected extension across the road, the place has been given a much-needed cash injection. It’s still pretty squalid, but it looks better than it has in a long time. And it houses no less than three interesting shows at the moment. The Kiriko Nananan exhibition is short and sweet, featuring a selection of her judiciously organised and superlatively designed original pages. The showcase of the South African Bittercomix group show is kind of small, but still features great examples from the groups mainstays, with Anton Kanemayer leading the pack with his viciously crass satire.

Apparently, the CIBDI’s new director Gilles Ciment decided to remove three pages of his from the exhibition, to protect potential innocents from harm. This seems to me slightly prissy, considering a doorman was manning the entrance and could easily have warned minors against the possible harm of entering, as well as the fact that a large poster of a white woman taking a king-size black penis, exclaiming “Viva Nelson Mandela, Viva the ANC!” is immediately and assertively obvious upon ingress.

But whatever, the main attraction there has got to be the big Dupuy-Berberian retrospective, showcasing the work of this year’s presidents. Besides presenting a generous selection of their work, from humble beginnings to mature routine, it was peppered with an Rube Goldberg-style D-B drawing automaton, polystyrene penguins, and a blackboard to be covered in chalk drawings at the duo’s whim. There’s no doubt these guys know their shit and are generally impressive specimens, but jeez, their entire career consists of pastiche, of imitating styles past and perpetuating clichés, parisian as well as international. They were a breath of fresh air in the early 90s, but today they are hopelessly anachronistic.

More fun were the dirty peepholes provided by Ruppert and Mulot in their — apparently controversial — red velvet padded cell, allowing intrepid visitors to follow the escapades of their rag-tag coterie of cartoonist peers in the Maison Close.

All in all a good day. There’s more to say, but downtime’s here.
Pictures from the Rupert/Mulot Maison Close show, and from the Bittercomix exhibit.


  1. A little clarification: the Bittercomix show had indeed been under the threat of censorship, until the local newspaper (la Charente Libre) got wind of it including a declaration from the curator. While that subject had been under the radar up to that point, it suddenly blew up and soon became a serious matter — until the Festival’s Artistic Director indicated in a chat with National newspaper Le Monde that they had found a way to accomodate everybody. Hence the security guards and the warning messages at the entrance.

  2. Ah, ok, that makes more sense, and explains the enormous phallus. The guards were a good solution and I feel much better now, knowing I didn’t miss any shocking imagery 🙂

    Thanks for straightening that out, Xavier. And thanks for a fine festival!

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