Angouleme festival: Graphic novel prize forced into climbdown after all-male shortlist sparks sexism row

Nine graphic novelists pulled out of the prestigious prize after not a single woman made the 30-strong list

The organisers of Europe’s biggest graphic novel awards have been forced into an embarrassing climbdown after a sexism row prompted almost a third of the lifetime achievement prize nominees to pull out. 

Nine graphic novelists asked for their names to be removed from the 30-strong list drawn up for the Grand Prix at the Angoulême festival, one of the biggest comic festivals in the world, as not a single woman had made the cut.

Emma Hayley, managing director of independent graphic novel publishing house SelfMadeHero, told The Independent: “It is surprising that none of the 30 nominees were women. There are many incredible female artists out there who should be on a list like this.” The response of the nominated artists pulling out was “overwhelming,” she added.

Those who pulled out included the award-winning graphic novelist Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, Christophe Blain and Riad Sattouf, leaving the organisers red-faced and vowing to add some women to the list.

Clowes, who was nominated for an Oscar for the screenplay adaptation of his Ghost World graphic novel, said the prize was now a “totally meaningless ‘honour’.” Sattouf said he would rather cede his place on the list to a woman. His suggestions included Rumiko Takahashi and Marjane Satrapi, author of Persepolis.

Others pointed to a wealth of female graphic novelists who could make the list including Posy Simmonds, author of Gemma Bovary, Chantal Montellier and Alison Bechdel.

Chris Ware weighed in yesterday, saying: “While I am flattered to be nominated for the Angoulême Grand Prix, I support the reasons for Mr Sattouf’s boycott and withdraw my name from consideration, as well.” 

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The ‘Persepolis’ author, Marjane Satrapi, should have been on the shortlist, it was claimed (Getty)

Paul Gravett, who is co-curating Comix Creatrix: 100 Women Making Comics at the House of Illustration which opens next month, said: “The whole process of selecting the prize has been a real mess. It’s not going to look good however they handle this.”

He added that people had questioned whether his exhibition about women in comics was necessary. “This fiasco shows obviously we do need it. People simply don’t know enough about the history or the current contribution women are making.” The Grand Prix is awarded for a graphic novelist’s body of work at the awards Emma Hayley described as “the Cannes film festival of comics”.

In 43 years of the lifetime achievement prize, only one woman, France’s Florence Cestac, has won. The lack of women named on the list released on Tuesday prompted BD Egalité, or Women in Comics Collective against Sexism, to call for a boycott. 

The group released a statement saying: “It is no longer tolerable that renowned female creators, who are well known, are absent from the nominations of the Grand Prix” and bemoaned the industry’s “glass ceiling”.

The Angoulême festival organisers released a statement last night that said “without removing any other names, we will add some other new names of women authors to the list”.

In its statement, they said the festival “loved women… but could not rewrite the history of the graphic novel”.

Wallis Eates, who is working on her graphic memoir Mumoirs and is part of the group Laydeez Do Comics, said: “This has been a real cock-up. The positive angle is that women have spoken up and it has changed things.”

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