Angoulême is The Best

A visit to the International Comics Festival

By Vasco Valentim
Creative at VBAT

Angoulême hosts every year around January the Festival International de la Bande Dessinée (FIBD), or, as any non-French speaker would simply put it, the International Comics Festival. Angoulême is a lovely village close to Bordeaux, France, motherland of the 9th Art.

This year I made sure to attend the convention and it was absolutely brilliant. The festival lasts for a full weekend with plenty of conferences, exhibitions, book releases, workshops, etc.

After a 7 hours drive from Barcelona, we arrived to Angoulême in the early morning, the sun was still hiding. From the station, you could already see hundreds of people walking up the hill towards the city centre. The city was bursting with excitement.

Last year’s Grand Prix was attributed to the Belgium master Hermann Huppen, one of the living geniuses de la Bande Dessinée française. I would dare to say he is nowadays for comics, what Scorcese is for cinema.

Hermann (right side) receives the Grand Prix 2016 from the hands of Katsuhiro Otomo © Christophe Magick! Ribot

Being the 2016 Grand Prix winner he had a full exhibition dedicated to his career spanning now for 50 years.

Seeing his originals hanging up on the wall, I was truly amazed with this guy’s skills. I am an avid collector of his work and read plenty of his books, and to see his works before me was just thrilling.

Later that day, I was fortunate enough and got the chance to meet him and talk a bit about his work — a really inspiring person.

Old_Pa_Anderson_Page8 ©Hermann
Manhattan1957 ©Hermann
Watercolored page of Caatinga, by Hermann ©Hermann
Comanche, Les Sheriffs, page 4. Indian Ink ©Hermann
Original page from Jeremiah T22 and Les Tours de Bois-Maury; Rotring pen. ©Hermann

After a well deserved lunch we headed north, to the Kazuo Kamimura (1940–1986) exhibition, in the City Museum. Another huge name that had a superlative showcase at this year’s Festival, for the first time in France.

It was interesting to see Kamimura’s work, after visiting Hermann’s — a bold juxtaposition of styles, languages and graphic approaches that naturally resonates with their cultural backgrounds. This illustrator, made famous in the 70’s, a close collaborator of Osamu Tezuka, is one of the most iconic references in Japan. He is the author of the excellent manga Lady Snowblood (1972–73, later on adapted into a motion picture), a revenge saga of epic proportions from which Quentin Tarantino took great inspiration to direct his pastiche film Kill Bill. To contemplate his originals, so elegant, poetic and awesome, was a great privilege.

One of the many fashion illustrations Kamimura did in the 1970’s ©Kamimura
Original cover for volume 3 Lady Snowblood (1973) ©Kamimura
Young Kamimura at work ©Kamimura
Kamimura did some work for the cosmetics brand Shiseido ©Kamimura

Another stunning exhibition worth to take a closer look was the retrospective dedicated to Will Eisner, at The Museé de la BD d’Angoulême. Creator of The Spirit comic-strips, Eisner is also the name behind what is nowadays generally known as graphic novel. This exhibition showcases a remarkable collection of his oeuvre, from his younger years as a caricaturist in the Army magazines until his late works, such as A Contract with God or A Family Matter.

Will Eisner’s The Spirit — poster from the exhibition
Will Eisner at his desk
Will Eisner exhibition
Will Eisner

Afterwards, we strolled through the permanent collection of the Museé, and it’s really worth the visit, whether you are 7 or 77.

Finally, and to wrap up the day in full glory, we went shopping for novelties and rarities to the massive fair that was spread trough four huge pavilions, an experience in itself.

Statue of Hergé ©Vasco Valentim

Angoulême is a great Festival indeed, with plenty to do, see and admire. 
I will most definitely be back next year.

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written by Vasco Valentim
Creative at VBAT
edited by Connie Fluhme