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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Momma Brings Her Dawgs To France: Angoulême Recap

So I went to Angoulême last week and stayed in the same fabulous 15th century manor le Logis de Puygâty that I stayed last year with Tom. Not surprisingly, it's not as fun to stay in a romantic countryside hotel without your husband baby daddy coworker. This is the view from the door of my room.

Staying with me at the Logis is my American colleague Mark Smylie of Archaia and his girlfriend, the very talented photographer Monika Broz. They are good people who I needed to go all the way to Angoulême to meet last year. They drove me into the city the first night with Mark's coworker, Mike Kennedy and his wife Elizabeth. Here they are all in Angoulême.

I was very excited for dinner because I was meeting my colleagues at éditions Cornélius and L'Association. I mean how great is that? No need to explain right? Pictured is Carmela with her L'Asso coworker Louis.

Pictured is Hughes, Guillaume and Jean-Louis.

Well, I did explain last year on the blog how Cornélius is very similar to Drawn & Quarterly, and there are many parallels between their publisher, Jean-Louis, and the Chief Chris Oliveros. Here's a shot of my dinner partners for their pre, during and post dinner smoke. (Smoking is when I feel VERY american, though to be fair Guillaume of Cornélius does not smoke either)

Afterwards, they took me to a bar, that had a long long table set up for all of the L'Association artists, founders, and employees to drink. How fabulous is this? I had my "fangirl on" I admit. For North Americans, L'Association is positively legendary. D'accord.

North Americans, we'll always have our Picadilly, San Diego, 2006.

I have to say that the best part of the night was talking to Carmela and Emilie. It's funny that I have to go all the way to France to find two peers that do the almost exact same thing as me. It's no secret that independent and mainstream North American comics is male dominated (no need to even point out the obvious). But the roles that Carmela, Emilie and I have are so blurred and cross so many departments: from foreign rights, to editorial, publicity, contracts, office matters, artist relations etc etc. But Emilie and Carmela take it further, Emilie also translates, and when I mean translate, people, she translates Marc Bell. That's no easy job. And Carmela was instrumental in last year's reorganization of L'Association. I basically am in awe of these two.

Sadly for the international comics community, Carmela is leaving L'Association in March. Here she is with Jean-Louis. We'll miss you, Carmela!

I am invited to Angoulême on a program that brings North American publishers to the festival to promote the rights sales of french comics. And it works. Last year, we bought several titles and became enamoured with Anouk Ricard. The program strives to invite a variety of publishers and this year I was joined by Image Comics' Todd Martinez, Lerner Publishing Carol Burrell, our incredible host Ivanka Hahnenberger of VIP Brands and Abrams Comic Art (and former coworker of mine from DC Comics) Charlie Kochman (and the aforementioned Mark Smylie and the not pictured Alex Bowler of Random House). All of us spend Thursday and Friday in back to back meetings from 9 am-7 pm with french publishers looking for the next Persepolis books to buy.

On Thursday, Alex and I were able to slip out to have lunch with Joe Sacco, Charles Burns, Guy Delisle, as well as the one and only Lewis Trondheim. It was a nice, quiet, relaxed lunch where we talked about World War One, the metric system and how great the word "tonnage" is. (MEN!)

What is the french word for Ink Studs? Chaud! (Does hawt translate to french?)

That night, les Américaines got to kick back at the VIP Cognac lounge before the opening ceremony. Charlie, photobombing my now annual cognac shot.

We attended the opening ceremony. Here's a shot from the opening film which played during a very appropriate live rendition of Porgy and Bess. I wondered what music Art would choose, and of course, it was genius and perfect, totally American.

Spotted! Joost Swarte and his wife.

Afterwards, Art, Francoise, Charles Burns and Joe Sacco were interviewed on stage. And it was charming to see the friendship, respect and adoration they all have for each other. Charles explained how he first met Art for RAW with his portfolio in hand and started to explain his comics and Art stopped him, saying "never explain" (maybe the best advice ever?) and then they turned to Joe who joked how he was turned down for RAW. (He was! The Chief pointed out that Chester Brown was as well--so you're in good company, Joe!)

Later that night, after all of the 9 pm dinners and 11 pm dessert cheese plates (la mort de moi
!), everyone ends up at the Chat Noir. This is where I found the soon-to-be-festival-award-winning-author, Guy Delisle, deep in thought.

Well, maybe not so deep in thought, here he is moments later with Brecht Evens, fellow contender for the festival prize. I like to think that Brecht is stroking the back of Guy's head and they both are very happy.

On Friday, I caught up with Vincent Berneriere at a charming little restaurant. Vincent is the editor of OUTSIDER at Delcourt--the French publisher for Jason Lutes, Adrian Tomine, James Sturm, Gabrielle Bell, Seth, and more. He ate tripe, so french! And had many fascinating stories. International man of mystery, this one.

While there I bumped into Clement Oubrerie of AYA fame! New revamped formatted book out this July.

I spent Friday afternoon in the Nouveau Monde tent. Have you been to San Diego? Do you know the ONE aisle you walk down, and you can visit Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, Giant Robot, and D+Q and maybe a few others but definitely less than 6 or 7 indy pubs? Well, take that aisle and multiply by it by 50. This tent was hopping the entire weekend!

The most important point on my agenda for Angoulême was to find out just how the french market is. You hear a lot of stories across the ocean with adjectives like "glutted" and "terrible." But talking to our peers, it sounded very much like independent publishing, except that perhaps ten years ago, there weren't approximately 300 INDY PUBLISHERS vying for a slice of the pie, so now to get that slice of pie is more work than ever. I believe this "stat" was shared with me by the extremely nice and affable Serge of the very good publisher Ca et La, pictured above with my partner in crime at the festival Alex Bowler.

But because of all this competition of so many publishers, there seems to be a lack of traditional competitiveness in the best way possible as most everyone in France seems to genuinely like each other, and are happy for each other. Take for example, Thomas Gabison from Actes Sud, he adores BIG QUESTIONS, but is genuinely happy that L'Association is publishing it. Incidentally, he publishes 6 graphic novels a year (including the french editions of Rutu and Brecht) and here, I thought I was lucky by "only" doing 24 annually!

I spotted some D+Q authors in the Nouveau Monde tent! R. Sikoryak debuting MASTERPIECE COMICS en français for Vertige Graphic!

And holy shit! french SKIBBER BEE BYE at the Cornélius table!!!! And translated by Emilie. See people? She's clearly a genius. As is Ron, OBVS. SKIBBER BEE BYE is a very sentimental book for me, as it is the first Highwater Book I became completely enchanted with, and well, you all probably know the rest of that story.

And the one and only charming Eddie Campbell at Ca et La. (Yes, yes, not American I know) But who doesn't love a good Eddie photo? Who doesn't love Eddie?

After my day of meetings, I went over to the mainstream tent to pick up Joe and Charles after their signings. Joe signing GAZA 1956, which has done extremely well in France by publisher Futuropolis, an imprint of Gallimard.

Les inkstuds at the Delcourt table, encore. Very long lines followed these men wherever they signed.

And Charles Burns signing for an adoring fan. Here's their conversation, Woman: "BLACK HOLE est mon histoire d'amour préférée!" Charles: "D'accord." Ha, ha, just joking, I'm sure she asked him to sketch David Bowie or something.

Then I lost Charles Burns, but found Charles Berberian. Score! We all then went to the Chat Noir and on the way Charles told us about his obsession to sing Elton John at any moment.

At Chat Noir, les Americains celebrated what we Americans call "happy hour". Pictured here is Paul Karasik and the esteemed academic Hillary Chute. How can this moment get any better? Well, maybe if I was able to talk to Hillary for longer than 30 seconds, it would be better. One day Hillary, you and I will be able to talk at length, ONE DAY!

Well, and then Craig Thompson stops by to make love to the camera. Come hither, indeed. Momma hears ya.

But the real surprise was Rutu Modan! Rutu's in the house! From Tel Aviv!

And sadly, this is where the photos end because my camera decided to spend the day without me on the one day I wasn't "working" - Saturday. So I'll have to share my thoughts with you, Spurgeon Random Style ...

*I woke up early to go to Spiegelman's exhibits so that I could avoid the crowds. As all of the reports indicated, these exhibits are first rate. FIRST RATE! What astonished me is that they put these two shows together in less than year. Hats off to everyone involved, especially Rina Zavagli-Mattotti and Bill Kartalopoulos.

*So sure, you have seen "history of comics" shows before. But did that show have a whole room dedicated to a Justin Green comic? 'Nuff said.

*It turns out that if you braved the crowds of the Nouveau Monde tent, and went deep into the tent, you would stumble upon the Denoël Graphic table where you'll find ADVENTURES OF HERGE writer Jean-Luc Fromental, sitting there with Aline Kominsky-Crumb, ALINE KOMINSKY-CRUMB! Be still my feminist heart. Speaking of which, Aline suggested to me in order to practice my french, to read La Causette, a "french feminist HUMOR magazine" Only in France people, only in France. She was signing her latest book by she and Robert, and may be the finest looking book ever. Denoël also published the new Joost Swarte book, IS THAT ALL THERE IS? that Fantagraphics has just released. Gorgeous books all around.

*I tried to confirm my dinner plans with Brecht Evens only to realize that I was one of many people who asked him to dinner. I was not surprised. Instead, I just made him swear that he would not end up in a Tijuana jail cell this July when he is a special guest at SDCC.

*As reported elsewhere, I ran into a 6 foot tall Garfield many times. I like to think this is the universe playing a cruel trick on us Americans.

*I admit when I did talk about business with my independent colleagues I felt VERY VERY American. but I think there's a lot to learned from sharing information. Like, Cornélius sells the same number of units at Angoulême as D+Q does at San Diego. That it's hard times for all of us, but we all have managed to have some of our best selling titles ever in the past few years. I think I got the stink eye, when I told someone to "have a good year, and make a lot of money!" I was joking! I swear! Who is in this racket for the money?

*I met J-C Menu for the first time in all places…the foreign rights tent...on Saturday at the Reprodukt tent. We talked about his new venture L'Apocalypse, and the book that we will both be publishing: SUSCEPTIBLE by Genevieve Castrée. Our edition comes out this Fall.

*Who is the most popular person in all of french comics? From my view point, it is Anouk Ricard. She's been nominated for an award at Angoulême each of the fours years she has attended. And in that great french way, is published by everyone. Well, ok, just three publishers: Gallimard, Sarbarcane and soon to be by Cornélius. When I was in Paris, I asked a store for their best kids comic, and they gave me ANNA & FROGA, which we are publishing this Spring. You don't know Anouk? You don't know ANNA & FROGA? We sent an advance to Ben Jones who said: "I nominate Anouk Ricard to redraw all of reality itself; so that we may live in a world where every line and every sentiment convey beauty, humor, and/or insanely cute perfectly designed dogs."

*After Anouk's Q+A in front of an adoring audience, she and I went over to the L'Association table to drink some post show vodka and toast Carmela on her birthday, and her last birthday to be spent at Angoulême. At this postclosing cocktail party, I met David B! As soon as he said his name was David, I felt pretty silly. Of course, it was David B. Of course!!!! I think I made some pretty embarrassing small talk.

*Anouk came out to dinner with me, my colleagues Benjamen Walker & his friend Mathilde Billaud who works for Villa Gillet, Rutu Modan, two of Rutu's friends whose names escape me right now, and L'Association cartoonist José Parrondo who lives in Belgium. It was a wonderful way to end the week.

*Of course, it didn't really end there did it? It ended at the Chat Noir where in a hazy recollection, I was leaving at 2 AM to catch what I thought was the last car, and Joe Sacco convincing Rutu Modan to stay and they would figure out the car later. Awesome. Speaking of cars, I thought they ended at 2 AM, but they ended a few hours later, probably for the best.

*My camera reappeared on Sunday just in time to catch a lovely 9:30 AM train ride with Jutta Harms of Reprodukt and Florent Ruppert.

*The one comic book store, le Mont-en-l'air , I went to Paris on Sunday, was suggested to me as the Paris version of the Librairie D+Q, and I very much agree. People, bookmark it. Nice friendly staff, great selection of comics, art, prose and kids books.

* I may have done A LOT OF shopping for kids clothes rather than shopping for Nobrow or Treasure-Fleet for our store and all other things you can't get in North America at the moment. But, people, it's the end of January in France, where the state REGULATES that all retailers have sales and everything is 50% off. Come on.

*OK, that's it, I'm packing this show up in Montreal and moving it to France. Can anyone say D+Q satellite office?

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