Latest Posts

Oldies but still Goodies

Angoulême 2012

This weekend saw our third trip to Angoulême, France. Why Angoulême and why three times, you ask? Good question.

Angoulême is a sleepy little town on a hill by a river that is famous for having been a paper mill town. But famous now as being the host for 39 years now of Europe’s largest comics convention. The difference between this and other conventions in the States is that this one is properly about Comics, whereas cons in the states are about using Comics as a foothold into other media and striking Christopher Nolan/Dark Knight silly money.

Here however — in a town where the street signs are done as speech bubbles, whole buildings are festooned with cartoon murals, and there’s an enormous bust of Tintin creator Hergé on a main pedestrian thoroughfare — people are still just coming for the comics. And each year, estimates are that this lovely little town greets up to 250,000 attendees. Impressive.

Tintin's daddy checking things out in 3D.

This year was unique in two respects: in the first, as I was working with my editor at Myriad Editions to see what kind of interest French publishers might have in “Trailer Park…”. Nothing to report now, but it felt like a good trip regardless. In the second, I am in the final sprinting stretch of a really great freelance project helping a friend out on a documentary. More details on both of those when I get the chance. But what it meant for both was getting up at 4 am each morning to work, then heading out to meet editors and publishers. What it didn’t mean was anytime to shop. So this is the first time I’ve not come back with a suitcase full of comics.

I did however get a chance to go to some talks by some comics world luminaries: Art Spiegelman (Maus), Craig Thompson (Blankets & Habibi), Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets).

Spiegelman was frankly underwhelming. He was sat in conversation with a young editor whom he’s been working with on “Metamaus“, his 20th anniversary re-issue of his grand oeuvre. Throughout the interview, he was cranky and petulant. He’s famous because Maus is famous, but he’s weary of it in much the same way I imagine the Stones probably don’t get any satisfaction from singing “(I can’t get no) Satisfaction” for the bajillionth time. At one point, a young spanish man asked him a question he’s no doubt heard more times than he has hairs left on his head — why Mice and Cats — but his response was venomous and ungracious. He accused the young man of being a citizen of a country that was complicit in the Holocaust, deaf unfortunately to the fact that the young man was Spanish and not French. He also dropped an F bomb on the poor kid (“I did it to make you people F***ing see!”). My only hope for Mr. Spiegelman was that the team who were simultaneously translating chose to burnish the edge off his anger.

Craig Thompson, on the other hand, was a joy to listen to. He was humble and articulate, kind and gracious. That man has worked his ass off and produced three of the best looking comics in the last 15 years, and an amazing travelogue, and yet he spoke with a humility and an earnestness that made everyone in the hall want to buy him a drink, have a deep and meaningful conversation with him and give the dude a hug! Favourite quote on writing fiction: “in the midst of a pile of lies, you have to excavate a kernel of truth.”

I listened to half a panel conversation with Brian Azzarello who, though a little cantankerous himself, was still interestingly articulate about what he does — and the craziness of what he does (“Why do superhero parodies? Men in tights fighting crime is a parody as is.”).

Paul Gravett, with whom I’ll be talking about my book at the Apple Store on Regent Street in London, also did an admirable job speaking in French on the differences between the French and UK editions of his imposing “1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die.”

All in, it was a wonderful visit to a great town for a festival that puts reading and creating comics above marketing, video games and lunch boxes — not that there’s anything wrong with that…

Comments are closed.