Last year, I visited the comic book equivalent of Shangri-La: The Angouleme Festival, the largest comics convention in the Western world. Absolutely amazing. The comics culture in Europe is very, very different from its American counterpart. Their storytelling traditions, their popular genres, even the production pipeline of their books all give a glimpse to a totally different world. Despite the differences, though, underneath it all flows the same love for stories told through doodles.
The 2009 festival is happening RIGHT NOW, but deadlines, family, and other worthy commitments are keeping me on my home continent. Still, I'm able to experience a small piece of the excitement through theAngouleme iPhone/iPod Touch App! This app lets you download sample pages of all the Official Selections of Angouleme 2009. It's like having a digital bookshelf of the very best European comics in your pocket. Awesome!
... But short of that, I'm following Bart Beaty on the Comics Reporter, with his moment by moment recounting...
... which started out with the 25 things he plans to do while in Angoulême—item number 3:
3. Attend a lecture. American cons have panels, Angouleme has "meetings." This year's schedule is one of the richest in many years, with numerous opportunities to listen to the world's best cartooning talents. Here's what you're missing by not being here. Friday has talks by Milo Manara, Hiroshi Hirata, and Vittorio Giardino. Saturday features Posy Simmonds (expect to see me there for sure), Adrian Tomine, Dan Clowes, James Kochalka, Melinda Gebbie and Jose Villarubia, and South Africans Conrad Botes, Joe Daly, Joe Dog and Karlien de Villiers. Sunday "only" has Marjane Satrapi and Chris Ware and David Heatley. I defy you to find a better line-up of cartoonists talking anywhere.
It really is a phenomenal festival, as more and more Americans have come to realize.
Derek Kirk Kim posts about this on his blog, beginning thus:
"This past Monday, on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, on the eve of Barack Obama's inauguration, I discovered that the casting of the four leading characters for the upcoming live-action movie, "The Last Airbender" (based on the TV show, “Avatar: The Last Airbender”) had gone entirely to white actors. I want—no, need—to say something about this."