If you follow comics news, you may have heard about the controversy over the nominations to the Angoulême Festival’s highest honor, the Grand Prix lifetime achievement award: Out of 30 nominees, there were 0 women. In fact, in the whole history of the festival, only one woman, Florence Cestac, has ever won the Grand Prix. (Although Claire Bretécher did win a special 10th anniversary prize. The first ever winner was André Franquin back in 1974, and among other Spirou creators, Jijé and Trondheim have also won it.)
This exclusion led to widespread protests and calls for a boycott, with 12 of the men nominated eventually withdrawing their names from consideration, led by Riad Sattouf and Daniel Clowes. The festival grudgingly relented and added some women to the list, including Marjane Satrapi and Posy Simmonds, while commenting that “The Festival cannot remake the history of comics” and that “positive discrimination has no place in the arts.” (They subsequently announced that they were doing away with the shortlist entirely, making the final vote open to any name, male or female.)
It’s absolutely false to suggest that there aren’t women who deserve a Grand Prix nominations, but it is true that women have long been underrepresented at many other levels of the industry as well. For example, these events reminded me of something I’ve been thinking about recently: Like with the Grand Prix, in the whole history of Spirou only one woman has ever worked on the series, namely Davine (Blanche Dumolin), who filled in (uncredited) for her husband Rob-Vel back in 1941. That’s compared to about 25 men. There are currently fifteen men working on known upcoming one-shots, and no women. The imbalance speaks for itself, and the idea that there are no women with the talent and wish to take on Spirou is not credible.
If Angoulême and the comics world is going to avoid similar embarrassing debacles in the future, there need to be more opportunities for women in comics. Letting some talented female creators have a go at a Spirou one-shot would be a good start.