Abby Denson’s Impressions Of Angoulême

Abby Denson writes for Bleeding Cool;

With great pleasure, I attended Angoulême this year, exhibiting again with the Scarce group. Thanks for having us Xavier!

I started this trip with an early morning arrival into Paris. Since I had several hours to kill before meeting at the train station, I decided to check out the Catacombs. It was a really lucky circumstance, since it’s known for having huge lines, but I arrived just before it opened and got to explore right away by myself! The caverns and thousands of skeletons were such an amazing sight!

I’d definitely recommend it, but only for those not afraid of the dark, small spaces, and skeletons, of course.

Then I had some lovely crepes and eventually our gang met up and we made our way on the train from Montparnasse to Angoulême!

On the train we ran into some members of the London comics group, The Dessinators (including Francesca Cassavetti, Sally-Anne Hickman, Sean Azzopardi, Oliver Lambden, and Dan Lester).

So we were off to a fun start already (though I was pretty much exhausted from jetlag at that point, with my head down on the train’s tray-table).

After our arrival and settling in at Angoulême, we had a huge raclette dinner (now a yearly tradition) at La Calandrine!

The festival started on Thursday and there were a few things noticeably different this year. The security was very tight and everyone had to have their bags checked at each tent entrance. This caused long lines and delays at many points, especially on Saturday.  The security was increased due to terrorist threats in reaction to France’s actions in Mali. Aside from the extra security, the general mood was celebratory and the festival was as busy as ever.

This was the festival’s 40th anniversary and there was some grumbling since it didn’t seem that there were special events organized for it. There were 40th anniversary souvenir shirts and pins for sale, but nothing too extravagant.

Among the featured comics, I checked out the Taiwanese exhibit and attended a reception for the artists. I got to meet artists M2 and Nicky Lee at the event. Meeting international artists is a major appeal of Angoulême for me!  There was also an impressive exhibition of Korean art featuring many original pages. I always enjoy seeing original comics pages. It helps gain insight into the artists’ methods.

Another major exhibition was for Le Journal De Mickey (the French equivalent to Disney Comics). Very popular and kid-friendly, the exhibit featured enlarged comics pages, some interesting sculptural displays and paintings, and a movie theater. Carl Barks was featured and it was fun to see the European take on Scrooge.

The most colorful collection was the Flemish comics group show “la boîte à Gand”, curated by Brecht Evans. Lots of brightly colored comics and paintings were on display, a real treat for the eyes! Clearly, they have a very vibrant comics scene going on.

I was also excited to reunite with manga artist, Kaneko Atsushi, I met him at Angoulême last year and got to see him again at Japan’s Kaigai Manga Fest in November. A really friendly and talented artist!

The big Japanese guest this year was Leiji Matsumoto. I didn’t get to attend his talk, but I did see him in the pro lounge. Everyone comes through the luxurious pro lounge sooner or later. It’s a nice place to relax and enjoy free cognac cocktails. Or to have a private cheese festival! On Saturday, Xavier and I visited the local market and he picked out some nice cheeses, wine, and bread for us to lunch with at the lounge. It goes without saying that this really beats out the crappy American comic convention food options!

In other food news (I was researching for my dessert blog of course) one of my fave chocolate shops in Angoulême, L’Atelier Du Chocolate De Bayonne, closed. Boo! So sad. I hope they will reopen or move nearby. In good news, my favorite pastry shop, Parfums Sucrés, is still alive and kicking. It’s also a nice place to have lunch (and then dessert of course). Duceau Chocolaterie is also there with their lovely chocolates, so all is not lost when it comes to chocolate. In other good news, a coffee counter opened inside the market called Bistrot Bechalier. They have coffees, teas, homemade sweets (including canneles, apple tart, cookies, and moelleux chocolat). They also have oysters, wine, and cheese for the lunch crowd. It is a very nice addition to Angoulême’s food options!

All in all, it was another fantastic festival, and I’m so glad I attended!

 

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