The Grand Prix d’Angoulême is one of the most prestigious prizes that can be awarded to a comics creator, and in the past 36 hours, it’s come under heavy fire from the international comics community for one glaring reason: Of the 30 people nominated for the title this year, none are women. That omission is, of course, completely bonkers. The Grand Prix is a lifetime achievement award, given to someone whose work has changed the course of comics history — past honorees have included Will Eisner, Art Spiegelman, R. Crumb, and Calvin and Hobbes’s Bill Watterson — but since its inception in 1974, only one woman (French creator Florence Cestac) has taken home the prize. On Tuesday, BD Égalité (“BD” standing for the French term for comics, bandes dessinées), a French organization that fights misogyny in comics, called for a boycott of the Grand Prix, and just a few hours later, American comics creator Jessica Abel introduced the campaign to English speakers on her Facebook account. The response has been overwhelming.
A rolling wave of men who were nominated have withdrawn their names from consideration and tossed vitriol toward the Angoulême International Comics Festival, which runs the Grand Prix. A statement from Eightball and Ghost World cartoonist Daniel Clowes read, “I support the boycott of Angouleme and am withdrawing my name from any consideration for what is now a totally meaningless ‘honor.’ What a ridiculous, embarrassing debacle.” Acme Novelty Library creator Chris Ware also pulled out, as did Black Hole mastermind Charles Burns, whose French publisher tweeted, “Charles Burns wrote to tell us that he refuses to be included in a list of nominees which has no women.” Superhero comics titan Brian Michael Bendis wrote on his Tumblr that he decided to make a stand “as i drifted off to sleep last night,” when “i thought of my daughters. my smart, strong willed daughters who will STILL have to fight for their equal rights and how they will STILL have to fend off some men treating them as objects before they can see them as individuals and how insane it seems to me.” Nominees Riad Sattouf, Joann Sfar, Milo Manara, Pierre Christin, Etienne Davodeau, and Christophe Blain are also onboard with the boycott.
Making matters worse, Franck Bondoux, head of the festival, turfed out in a statement to Le Monde, saying, “Unfortunately, there are few women in the history of comics. It’s a reality. If you go to the Louvre, you will also find quite few female artists.” The festival released a statement in French that doubles down on that sentiment, saying, “the Festival cannot remake the history of comics,” and that, when it comes to comics that have changed that history, “it’s objectively much easier to count female authors (almost on the fingers of a hand) than male authors.” Pointing out how wrongheaded that claim is would be a waste of time.
Update: On Thursday, the festival announced on Facebook that it’s getting rid of the nominee list altogether for this year’s award; instead, everyone on the voting committee can write in a vote for whomever they want.