It was Day Three of our séjour amongst the bédéphiles in Angoulême, and we want to call it “Vox Populi”
For this third day, I left the exhibitions and interviews and all the quality stuff, and headed down to the Big Tent, where the commercial publishers showcased their wares. You have not seen an angry mob if you have not yet been witness to the distribution of signature vouchers, the little slips that are handed out at random to visitors and which give the recipient the right to one sketch in a book he buys. Judging from the long rows in front of the dédicaces stands (where celebrated authors sign their books, quite often with a little sketch), the current economic crisis is not really hitting this segment of the economy (at least from the collectors’ standpoint).
But what was on offer at the major publishers? How do they arm themselves against the coming onslaught? It would seem that three strategies are being followed: manga, translations and the intégrales. The rise of manga (and its Korean, Chinese and Taiwanese counterparts) may have diminished slightly, but every booth still has its fair share of original or translated manga, and younger readers especially still reach for them. Next to translated manga, nearly every mid-sized commercial publisher (as opposed to the “literary” publishers, who had their own tent), has translated US or British comics in its portfolio, ranging from Josh Howard’s Dead@17 to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen.
But the neatest trick up the sleeves of the older publishers (Lombard, Glénat, Casterman) are the integrals; these collection of comics that were published separately before. You could compare them to the trade paperbacks collecting previously published comics issues that are quite common in the UK and the US, but while these collect so-called pamphlet comics, the intégrales collect bandes dessinées that originally were published in a quite luxurious format themselves. Glénat is currently celebrating its fortieth anniversary with collections of its most celebrated miniseries (kicking off with Giroud’s Décalogue), while Casterman, Dupuis and Lombard (the original big three) publish collections of nearly all their classic series, from Michel Vaillant over Ric Hochet to Johan Et Pirlouit. Quite often these collections have been re-scanned, and re-coloured, resulting in bright new editions of classic comics.
But of all these books, which ones really matter? If you want to dip into the bédé-pool, where do you start? Instead of asking the publishers, the reviewers or the artists, we went to the booth boys, the people manning the publishers’ stands, and asked them, “If you could choose one book from your stand that really should be translated into English, that the UK and the US should get to know, what book would that be?” And these are the results:
Laurent from Editions Carabas (above; click the pics for the larger versions on Flickr) picked La Colère d’Achile (Achilles’ Anger) by Legendre because it is one of the best adaptations of the classic story of the Iliad, which the whole world should know.
Dorothée from Casterman had a very personal choice: La Cellule (The Cell) by Guillaume Long and Fabienne Costes, which deals with a commonplace theme (the gradual loss of love) in a very personal, intelligent and above all honest way.
We also spoke with Emmanuel from Editions Paquet, who wants you to read Tony Sandoval’s Le Cadavre Et Le Sofa (The Corpse and The Settee) not only because the author is a friend of his, but also because it manages to combine the macabre with the beautiful.
For Thi at Dupuis, all eyes should be on the special collected edition of Emmanuel Guibert and Frédéric Lemercier’s Le Photographe (The Photographer), which tells the story of the French photographer Didier Lefèvre (1957-2007) who travelled through Afghanistan in the 1980′s and photographed life in a war-ridden country.
Sandrine and her friend from Le Lombard would like the world to enjoy Cybil, La Fée Cartable (Cybil, The Backpack Fairy) by Rodrigue, Dalena and Razzi, which should appeal to younger and not-so-young girls alike.
Meanwhile Djé and his buddy from Glénat picked a new collection of short stories by Christophe Chabouté about witches, woods, farmers and stupidity – la France profonde, quoi!
For Bertrand at Dargaud, the subject matter should be familiar to an English-speaking public, and so he picked Long John Silver, a very atmospheric story about pirates, swashbucklers and the supernatural by Xavier Dorison and Matthieu Lauffray, of which two episodes have been published to date.
And finally, Richard from Akileos, who happened to be the only publisher in the bunch, showed us Rendez-Vous, a fresh collection of original short stories that he commissioned from twelve illustrators and animators, creative people who only now took their first steps into comics.
So, there you have it, dear English-language publishers: you know what to look for. Oh, and my own selection? I’m afraid I have to pick one from the other tent, namely Pinocchio by Winshluss, published by Les Requins Martaux, but I’ll talk more about that in a later post. After all, since this book won the Faufe D’or for the best book of the festival, a translation should not be too far off.