One of the world’s biggest comic-book festivals has bowed to pressure to add women to its lifetime achievement award shortlist after a raft of major comics artists pulled out in protest at the all-male selection.
The Angoulême comics festival in France said it would add some women’s names to its shortlist after protests over the perceived sexism.
Three of the world’s biggest comic-book artists had pulled out of the running for a lifetime achievement award at the Angoulême comics festival in France in protest at the all-male shortlist.
Daniel Clowes, who was Oscar-nominated for the screenplay adaptation of his series Ghost World, joined the French graphic novelist Joann Sfar and the award-winning French-Syrian Riad Sattouf in demanding their names be removed after a campaigning collective called for a boycott. Another seven artists swiftly followed by announcing their withdrawal.
In a statement, the festival claimed that there had been few female artists in comic-book history but agreed to add some to its list.
The absence of women from the 30-strong shortlist had sparked a row in France, which has a long tradition of comics, graphic novels, satirical cartoons and caricature, and boasts of the scale of the Angoulême gathering.
The grand prix is a lifetime achievement award at the festival, and the winner is named president of the following year’s event. In Angoulême’s 43-year history, just one woman – the French artist Florence Cestac – has won.
The few women nominated in the past include the French-Iranian Marjane Satrapi, creator of the acclaimed Persepolis series, and the British artist Posy Simmonds, who created Gemma Bovery and Tamara Drewe.
Before this year’s event, which starts on 29 January, the high-profile Women in Comics Collective Against Sexism called for a boycott of the prize.
The collective complained of the “total negation” of the growing number of women in comic-book art. “It all comes back to the disastrous glass ceiling; we’re tolerated, but never allowed top billing,” they wrote.
Sattouf announced his withdrawal from the shortlist, writing on Facebook: “It turns out the list is make up only of men. That annoys me because there are lots of great women artists who deserve to be on it.”
Clowes, who is American, also withdrew his name, saying in a statement: “I support the boycott of Angoulême and am withdrawing my name from any consideration for what is now a totally meaningless ‘honour’. What a ridiculous, embarrassing debacle.”
Sfar wrote: “I simply don’t want to be part of a ceremony that is so disconnected from the current reality of comics art.”
Several French government ministers tweeted their support of the boycott. Fleur Pellerin, the culture minister, said the lack of women shortlisted was abnormal and a little perturbing.
The row echoed the protests over the absence of female directors from the shortlist for the Palme d’Or prize at the Cannes film festival in 2012.
Questioned by Le Monde, Franck Bondoux, of the Angoulême festival, said: “The concept of the grand prix is to reward an author for their whole oeuvre. When you look at the prize list, you can see the artists on it have a certain maturity and a certain age. Unfortunately, there are few women in the history of comics art. It’s a reality. If you go to the Louvre, you’ll equally find very few women artists.”
This explanation was rejected by commentators and female artists, who cited increasing numbers of acclaimed women in the industry.