Yesterday the thirty nominees for the Grand Prix d’Angouleme, a French-Belgian equivalent of the Will Eisner Awards for talented modern cartoonists, were announced. Amongst the thirty nominees, not surprisingly, none of these were women.
Comic books have held a “boys club” stigma since their inception and the idea that “women don’t read comics anyway”, an archaic outlook of where women’s interests may lie, doesn’t hold true. Though there are few sophisticated resources to track trends of women’s interest in comic books, it can be assumed that where there is talk of women’s issues, there will be women readers. And there are more female readers than ever before. A 2014 Facebook market research study of comics-related “likes” concluded that women make up 46.67% of comics fanbase.
In 2011, a study of DC Entertainment comics-sector found that only 1% of their staff included women. This was a drop of 12% from before the rebranding for their “New 52” launch. With women making up half the world’s population, an outcry of female readers formed a petition enlisting for DC to shake up their staff. They pointed to writers such as Gail Simone (Red Sonja) and cartoonists such as Fiona Staples (Saga). And DC answered. “We are extremely proud to provide a creative platform for female writers and artists,” says Diane Nelson, President and Chief Content Officer of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment this year in an interview with Variety. “DC is home to some of the most powerful female superheroes in the world and our characters like Wonder Woman, Supergirl and Batgirl are proving that they can save the day in terrific stories that both our male and female fans are reading.”
Yet, despite this inclusion of female voices in comics art and scribe, credit has not been given where credit is due where Grand Prix d’Angouleme is concerned. Not just a lifetime achievement award, but a career, the winner of such an honor serves as president of the following year’s Angouleme International Comics Festival. Since its inception 43 years ago, only one woman, Florence Cestac, has been awarded the Grand Prix.
With zero out of thirty female nominees this year, Daniel Clowes, creator of Ghost World, withdrew his name from consideration citing, “I support the boycott of Angouleme and am withdrawing my name from any consideration for what is now a totally meaningless ‘honor.’ What a ridiculous, embarrassing debacle.” Since removing himself, nine other nominees have joined in the boycott, including Chris Ware, Charles Burns, Riad Sattouf, Joann Sfar, Milo Manara, Pierre Christin, Etienne Davodeau, Christophe Blain and Brian Michael Bendis. The boycott, BD Egalite, says in their mission statement, “we protest this obvious discrimination, this total negation of our representation in a medium practiced by more women every year. We simply ask for a consideration of the reality of our existence and of our value.”
Image via Florence Cestac.