Comic-Book Festival Nominates 30 Men—and Zero Women—for Lifetime Achievement Award

Both male and female artists announced that they would boycott the convention.

From left: Comic-book artists Daniel Clowes, Riad Sattouf, and Joann Sfa. (Photos: Dan Tuffs/Getty Images; Pierre Duffour/Getty Images; Foc Kan/WireImage)

Jan 6, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

Fans of comic books and graphic novels are used to female characters getting the short end of the stick when it comes to silver-screen adaptations and merchandise. But it seems women working behind the scenes are also suffering from a lack of recognition.

This week, the Angoulême International Comics Festival—one of the largest and most prestigious comic conventions—released a list of 30 artists who will be considered for a lifetime achievement award to be bestowed later in January. All of the nominees are men.

The short list drew ire from the activist group Women in Comics Collective Against Sexism. It wrote an open letter asking colleagues to boycott the event, which kicks off at the end of January in Angoulême, France. It’s not just women who are protesting—several male comics nominated for the award have asked to be removed from the list.

Ten nominees announced that they wanted their names to be withdrawn from consideration for the Grand Prix, The Guardian reports. Among them are American artist Daniel Clowes, known for the series Ghost Writer, and French Syrian creator Riad Sattouf, whose memoir The Arab of the Future won in the best graphic novel category last year.

The Grand Prix is awarded to one artist annually; the winner goes on to serve as president of the festival the following year. Such recognition can also lead to financial success, with the acclaim garnering media attention and fueling sales. The Women in Comics Collective Against Sexism argues that being blocked from such prestige can have a negative impact on working and aspiring female artists.

“We are discouraged from having ambition, from continuing our efforts. How could we take it otherwise?” the letter states. “It all comes back to the disastrous glass ceiling; we’re tolerated, but never allowed top billing.” The collective noted that in the festival’s 43-year history only one woman— Florence Cestac—has won the honor and that only a handful of women have been nominated.

Franck Bondoux, CEO of the convention, defended the festival’s selection, telling French newspaper Le Monde that there simply aren’t many women who qualify. “Unfortunately, there are few women in the history of comics,” he said. “That’s the reality. Similarly, if you go to the Louvre, you will find few women artists.”

But those who dropped out of the competition, such as artist Joann Sfar, say otherwise. Sfar wrote in an op-ed for The Huffington Post that a list without women is “disconnected from the reality of the current comics world.” Sattouf suggested five female artists he feels are qualified to take home the Grand Prix.

As more nominees asked to be dropped, the festival executives announced Wednesday—in a statement titled “The Angoulême Festival loves women…but can’t rewrite the history of comics”—that they would add two female creators to the list.