Every year, it’s the same ritual. As soon as the titles in competition at the Angoulême International Comics Festival (FIBD) are announced, readers, authors and professionals from the publishing world are surprised by the presence or absence of this or that. such comic strip. This time, no less than 84 titles are divided into five selections: 45 in the official one (the most prestigious), 7 for Éco-Fauve Raja (comic strip which addresses environmental issues), 7 in Fauve Polar SNCF Voyageurs, 7 in heritage, 18 in youth. And again, without counting the sixth selection, that of alternative comics. Phew!
To unearth all these rare gems, three selection committees share the work: the general committee (responsible for stories in a single volume, the famous “one-shots”), the series committee and the youth committee. Renewed marginally every year, each committee has seven members from diverse backgrounds* but related to comics: journalist, bookseller, author, artistic and cultural education project manager... “The strength of these committees, “is to be made up of varied personalities, with very different perspectives and centers of interest,” estimates Marguerite Demoëte, new artistic director of the festival and member of the general committee.
“We need hard-working people who have a great capacity for reading and work, people who are available, open and rigorous,” specifies Fausto Fasulo, deputy artistic director of the festival in charge of Asian programming and member of the series committee. “If you knew the hours, the nights, the months we spend there…” confides Marguerite Demoëte. She estimates that the general committee read around 500 comics between June and October 2023.
Anxious to sweep the production of comics as a whole, the Angoulême selection committees aim for “a form of exhaustiveness”, affirms the artistic director of the festival, who says she met “many many” publishers and carried out a very big collective monitoring work so as not to miss any important outings.
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To be eligible, each comic, regardless of its geographical origin, must have been published in French between December 1, 2022 and November 30, 2023, and be available in French-speaking bookstores.
Any comic, even the most hybrid? “Concerning the object and the graphic treatment, there are no borders,” says Marguerite Demoëte. Formal experiments are welcome but must be at the service of a story: "We are attentive to innovative forms of narration in the relationship to sequentiality, in the text-image relationship, and at the same time we can appreciate modes of more traditional narration but which draws us in with the richness of a scenario.”
“The idea is to select works that seem unique to us, not to go towards choices that are too obvious, without playing the card of counter-programming in a way that is too expected,” says Fausto Fasulo on the subject of the series committee. This year, the latter selected volume 11 of the comic book Saga and two volumes 13, that of the manga The Fable and his compatriot Chainsaw Man, which may come as a surprise. Why highlight such an advanced series? “When we have an overall vision of a work, we are able to say ‘this is the moment’,” explains Fausto Fasulo, and we must see these choices as a form of validation of the series as a whole (the volume in question is not necessarily the best taken in isolation).
Each title is chosen independently of the reputation of its author – beginner or established – or its publisher. A publishing house can absolutely have two titles in selection, as long as they are not too similar. Or even three, as is the case this year from the Swiss Atrabile, with Les Daronnes, Emkla and A Straw Childhood. To those who regret the weak female presence, Marguerite Demoëte responds: “We would like them to be as present as the men but we are also a reflection of the production of the publishers.” However, the artistic director makes sure to promote them in the festival programming, particularly in terms of exhibitions.
To find your way around, each committee works with an “Excel table” type system to list and note the comics read, or even add small comments. A way to gradually visualize the titles that stand out from the crowd. Since the cold arithmetic of the points awarded is not everything, the members meet regularly (once or twice a month for members of the general committee, for example), by video or in person, to defend their favorites and debate verbally. “Live exchanges are infinitely more stimulating and allow a more dynamic circulation of words,” believes Fausto Fasulo. Everyone has their own tastes, their tropisms, their affinities, their obsessions… We end up identifying the personalities of the members after several meetings.”
The subjectivity of individuals does not prevent us from trying to move towards a certain collective objectivity, in order to arrive at a consensus. The deputy artistic director of Angoulême assures that the members of the committees “make the difference in what deserves to be selected and what is a personal preference”. In the event of a conflict of interest, for example if someone wrote a preface or translated a title, exclusion from the debates occurs naturally. The publishing houses are not aware of the discussions: “The committees are hyper independent, there is no pressure from the publishers,” assures Fausto Fasulo. It’s protected, no one can put their nose in the final selection, not even the general delegate of the festival.”
Once the selection is publicly released, disappointment pushes some professionals to pull out their phones: “We sometimes receive calls to the office from furious publishers because they did not have their book in selection,” says the artistic director. deputy.
Once their official selection has been published, the committees hand over to the various juries who will be responsible for awarding the long-awaited awards. The grand jury, chaired this year by Thomas Bangalter (ex-Daft Punk), will have the difficult task of awarding the prize for best album (Fauve d'or), that of best series, the special jury prize, the prize revelation and the price of heritage. The youth grand jury, chaired by Aïssa Maïga, will award the prize of the same name. Independent juries will distribute the other awards: Éco-Fauve Raja, Polar SNCF, Konishi (best manga translation), alternative comics, three discovery prizes (high schools, middle schools and schools), Fauve from high school students and Fauve from the France Télévisions public. See you Thursday January 25 and especially Saturday January 27 to meet all the lucky ones. As for the Grand Prix, crowned by his peers, it will be known this Wednesday evening.
* For the curious, the complete list of the 21 members of the three selection committees is available here (at the very end of the document)