Once a year this magical thing happens in a far away place. I suppose at its core it's essentially the same as what goes on here at North American comics festivals, but, people, there are some very key differences, the most important of these being that everyone smells fine (good even!) and is well dressed. Oh, and you're in a historic French town surrounded by idyllic countryside—beauty that cannot really be rivalled by Bethesda (sorry, Warren!). So, in the most succinct way possible (yes, this will be very, very long), here's what Julia and I got up to the past two weeks in France. I'll try to leave the vacation blogging to a minimum, but I can't promise anything.
Above is a shot of the main drag of this stunning little town at the peak of the fest on Saturday afternoon.
But before I get too deep into the festival proper, I just need to talk for a sec about this majestic little fifteenth century farmhouse that Julia and I stayed at. As soon as we found out we were staying at the Logis de Puygaty, it seemed inevitable that our little French work trip was going to turn into a grand romantic adventure. How could Julia and I not fall in love while sharing a cognac on a sheepskin rug by the fire? Would I tame a horse and teach Julia to ride side-saddle with me into the sunset? Questions like this filled our minds as the trip approached.
In the end Julia resisted all of my advances, and we ended up just having a really nice time. But mostly breakfast. A lot of breakfast. This might have been my favourite part of the festival. Homemade yogurt, jams, fresh fruit, and baked goods, all waiting for the sleeping beauties when they rolled out of bed. I've never felt more like a princess, and I generally feel like a princess.
Okay, festival time. It was less of a fairytale and more of just a really good comics show. We started things off on Wednesday night with the jetlag dinner. Hosted by the lovely Ivanka Hahnenberger, who takes care of all us foreign publishers who come in seeking European titles to publish. Starting on the left and looping around, Jenny, James's very lovely hubby (I'm sorry Jenny! This is the best photo I have!), James Lucas Jones from Oni Press, our Canadian brother Andy Brown from Conundrum, Emma Hayley from SelfMadeHero, Ivanka, heading the table, Carol Burrel from Abrams, Chris Ryall from IDW, and Chris Teather from Titan. Not pictured was Mark Smylie from Archaia and his hubby Monika Broz. Thank you, Ivanka, for organizing this really nice dinner, and also for everything over the past few months leading up to the festival/during the festival. You did an impeccable job!
The next morning the festival began, and we were dropped off in town right in front of this movie theatre. I was pretty thrilled to see the signs for the Aya movie, and it immediately became very clear that comics are something very different in France than they are in North America.
And then it was straight into the Rights and Licensing Market, where we spent the majority of our days, making deals, wheeling, dealing, numbers, business, etc, etc.
And here's Julia and Ivanka at our tiny little stand. Boy was it a nice change not to be tabling.
Later that day was the vernissage for the Flemish show, La Boite a Gand, curated by Brecht Evens and featuring himself, Brecht Vandenbroucke, Hannelore van Dijck, Sarah Yu Zeebroek, and Lotte Van de Walle. Above are bosom buddies Red Brecht and Brown Brecht, celebrating the success of the show. Later Brecht Vandenbroucke would be celebrating the success of his debut book White Cube, which really was the talk of the show, selling over 160 copies by mid-day on Saturday.
The Wrong Place originals. Boy were they stunning.
And because one has never seen enough pictures of Brecht signing, here's another. Though I think Asaf Hanuka's rendering really captures what's really going on here more accurately.
This jam drawing puts all other jam drawings to shame (sorry every other artist who's ever done a jam drawing). This Flemish crew has serious chops!
That night we had a quiet dinner with Anders Nilsen and Genevieve Castree. It was my first time getting to hang out with Genevieve, and it was a real treat. And of course getting to spend time with knock-out Anders was a pleasure as always. (Just look at Julia's smile! I've certainly never put that expression on her face... sigh. You win this time, Anders, you heartthrob.)
And after our quiet dinner/break from it all, we slapped ourselves together and headed to the Chat Noir, where we very quickly found some familiar faces. Pictured above is everyone involved in British comics. Starting on the left (and skipping a few along the way...sorry) is Tom Oldham from London's great comic shop, Gosh Comics, Simon Hacking from the Nobrow shop (who, with Tom, makes up Breakdown Press), Philippa Rice, Sebastian Oehler from Reprodukt talking to Luke Pearson, with Sam Arthur of Nobrow in the back, and Alex Spiro of Nobrow talking to the incredibly warm/kind/charming Jon McNaught. And then me looking very lonely up front.
The next day we had many many more meetings with foreign publishers, but I managed to sneak away to catch Genevieve Castree talking about her new book, Susceptible, which is already out in France and due out in North America very shortly. (Peep her tour schedule here!). My French is atrocious, but I managed to understand the part where she praised our dear publisher Chris Oliveros, and my cold heart warmed.
And boy was this a familiar sight! Seeing Chester Brown signing on top of a stack of boxes somehow always makes me feel at home. Chester was received very warmly at the festival, with long lines for the signings of both the French editions of Louis Riel (La Pasteque) and Paying for It (Cornelius).
And here's Sarah Glidden eating a sandwich. You know when you meet someone and it feels like you've known each other for years? Sarah is the best. THE BEST.
And here's Andy Brown taking a much needed break, reading a Till Daniel Thomas comic and looking very fine. I'm thinking about leaving comics to start taking professional head shots. There's money in that, yes?
And here's Caroline Brasseur from the festival with her very helpful team of refreshment providers. North America, free beverages make every festival ten percent better. Caroline: Thank you thank you thank you for all your hard work!
And here's Sarah again eating some free meat. That's right: FREE MEAT. We were booth hopping this night, first to the Finnish stand to stuff reindeer down our gullets, then over to Les Requins Marteaux for some very tasty sausage and...
Strippers? No, just dancing cops. FRANCE. We kept waiting for them to strip but it never happened so we made our way over the the L'Association booth where there was rumoured to be free wine. (Photo swiped from Andy Brown's Angouleme wrap up. THANKS ANDY!)
But on the way we had to stop to marvel at the Cornelius booth. We usually just throw scraps of garbage over our booth to protect our books at night, but I guess this does the trick, too. Then again, we also don't have ironed tablecloths and lamps. Well done, Cornelius, well done.
And here's Étienne Lécroart, Anouk Ricard, and Guy Delisle at the L'Association booth. Shortly after this Guy tried to talk business but I was having none of it.
Beautiful Julia and Anouk, catching up.
And then we popped into the Cornelius flop house (read: very nice apartment in the center of town) on the way to dinner, picking up Chester on the way. Cornelius has some sort of giant Epson printer that makes very nice things, so they printed off this poster for Chet's book (Twenty-Three Prostitutes!). They also had some beautiful prints of Anouk's work, and I'm regretting not buying one.
And then it was dinner with Cornelius. Basically Cornelius does a really good job of everything, and dinner was no exception. Thanks, Jean-Louis, for letting us tag along. Here's Guillaume Traisnel (money-man) on the left, Hughes Bernard (production), and Benoît Preteseille (artist); all kings amongst men.
Chester, Ancco, and Emilie Le Hin. Emilie is the publicist at Cornelius, but she also translates from English to French, so she did the work on Paying for It. We've said it on this blog before but I don't think it can be said enough: Emilie! We adore you!
The next day Julia and I wrapped all our meetings early, so we got to explore the festival and take in some of the panels. Here are Anders Nilsen and Adam Hines in discussion with Bill Kartalopoulos.
And Anders again, signing at the L'Association booth, adopting Chester's signature box-signing setup, with Marie Chesnais in the fore.
And then we were off to spend the rest of the afternoon at the F OFF fest, a renegade zine fair that takes place outside of the fest proper. I grabbed this picture (and the two to follow) from Sarah Glidden and she must have arrived early because they've got all the beer cans from the night before piled up outside. There was noisy music/many many drinks consumed here. Everyone was very hip and young and beautiful and Europe, I love you.
The day closed with a party in what was rumoured to be someone's house, and if it was in fact a house party, it was certainly not a house party like we have here in Canada. I didn't take any pictures and any that I could find on the internet were a blurry mess, and I guess that says it all now doesn't it?
I'm short of pics from the last day of the festival because I was struck down by the flu and spent most of the day drinking mini-bar orange juice while feeling very sorry for myself. But I made it into town for the closing ceremonies. Pictured here is Jean-Louis Gauthey of Cornelius giving a very hammy acceptance speech on behalf of Willem, who won the Grand Prize. Hallelujah! (Please note the live band present during the ceremony. FRANCE!)
And then we were off to Paris. This is not related to comics at all, but we went to a hunting museum, La Musee de la Chasse, and it was incredible. I'll leave the vacation blogging to Anders. He went previously and recommended that we check it out and now I'm going to start a gun collection and my great-uncle Jack is going to be very proud.
I don't really know the order of anything that follows, but I don't think anyone's reading this anymore anyway so that seems okay. But Julia and I did the following comics related things in Paris and it was pretty fun:
Drinks with L'Association! Louis Lauliac is a true gentlemen and kept us entertained while in his fair city. We went to a different bar first where there was a resident cat that came and slept on our laps while we drank wine and ate cheese and I could not have been happier. We switched bars after and Philippe Piard and Marie joined us. Past beloved intern Julie Morrissy was also along for the ride. (She lives in Dublin so I made her come visit me, because the bossing doesn't end with the internship.)
We felt extremely lucky to be invited to lunch at the Cornelius office. Peggy blogged about visiting the office a few years back and Julia and I have been dying to check it out ever since. They're in a new space now, but everything was just as perfect. We try really hard around here to keep a nice office, have lunches together, but somehow after a visit to the Cornelius office I feel like we might be doing it wrong.
Giant Kitaro statue shipped from Japan: check.
Little Paul figurine made by Guillaume? Check.
Beautiful vintage cabinet filled with very cool shit? Check.
Floor to ceiling shelves packed with their always immaculately designed titles? Check.
Collection of vintage needle-point? Check.
From left: Hughes, Julia, artist Hugues Micol, Guillaume, Jean-Louis, and Emilie. Thank you, Cornelius, for making Julia and I feel very welcome both in Paris and in Angouleme. Again, I know we've talked before on the blog about how crazy it is to hang out with Cornelius because we have so much in common, but when talking with them after lunch this really hit home again. They are a company that loves their artists and always puts them first, and this was really nice to witness firsthand.
And of course, while in Paris, we visited many many bookstores. It's always exciting to see D+Q books in the wild, but somehow seeing them in famous French bookstores was extra special. Pictured above are the first three editions of Nipper, all together, so I suppose there is some organization at Regard Moderne after all. Pro tip: If you're hormonal and struggling to get over the flu and don't want to cry, don't try to take photos of books you've designed at this book shop. You will get yelled at and then tisk, tisk, tisked out the door and then you will be very sad for the rest of the day because you're a baby. BE WARNED. The
And I'll leave you with this photo of Julia and I (swiped from Sarah) because it seems appropriate. We make a really lovely couple, don't we? (Hi, Julia!)
Thanks again to everyone in France who was so so nice to us. You really made the trip even more magical than it already was. And thanks again to everyone at the festival for organizing such an incredible event. I'm already looking forward to next year!