I’ve recently written about the International Comics Festival that takes place each year in France and the controversy that marked last year’s event. At issue was the glaring absence of female nominees for the festival’s celebrated Grand Prix. The coveted Grand Prix is considered by many to be the most prestigious award in Franco-Belgian comics. Many comic strip artists and enthusiasts, have been wondering if this year’s event will better recognize women’s contribution to the world of comics and graphic novels? Several days ago, I went to the festival’s website to check out this year’s list of Grand Prix nominees, but I could find no information about the Grand Prix for 2017.
After several google searches in both French and English turned up nothing, I wondered if festival organizers had decided to cancel it, but that seemed implausible. The Grand Prix has a 40-year history of recognizing cartoon artists for the entire body of their work. Recipients are honored for both the quality and abundance of their creative output over a period of many years. Deciding to no longer confer a Grand Prix at Angoulême is a bit like canceling the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Oscars.
This year’s Angoulême website focused on a different award, the Fauve D’Or (Golden Wildcat). This prize recognizes the best album or graphic novel from the prior year. As has been customary with the Grand Prix, the festival provided a long list of Fauve D’Or nominees. The 2017 list contains 42 works, published in 2016, from artists around the world. Thankfully, the list is not exclusively composed of men. Seven of the 42 albums are by women.
Today, as I was wrapping up this post, I visited the site one last time and suddenly noticed that there is a Grand Prix Laureate for 2017. While the official start of the festival is tomorrow, earlier today, organizers announced this year’s male winner, Bernard Cosendai, known as Cosey. Other than naming the 2017 winner, the Angoulême site gives no information about the process employed to choose Cosey. However, an article on the French news site, 20 minutes, indicates that he was one of three male nominees and was chosen by a vote of his peers.
I do not question this Swiss author’s worthiness for the prize. Having launched his cartooning career at the age of 16, Cosey has authored more than 30 albums and is lauded by other industry greats. But, I’d like to know more about the new selection process. How did they arrive at 3 nominees? Did they start with a long list, as in years past, and then narrow it down? How many other artists participated in the voting process and how were they chosen? If this information exists somewhere, I haven’t been able to find it.
From where I sit, it seems like festival organizers are trying to dodge any further discussion of last year’s controversy. I think they’d be better off providing people with more information about this new selection process. They could have many excellent reasons for overhauling the decades-old system. But the surprising lack of information leaves me skeptical.