Angoulême International Comics Festival opens

The 42nd annual Angoulême International Comics Festival kicked off this morning with extra security, as is to be expected just three weeks after the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices.

The president of last year's festival, and the winner of the previous year's Grand Prix d'Angoulême, was Willem, a staff cartoonist at Charlie Hebdo. He didn't like to attend staff meetings, so he wasn't in the office on Jan. 7 when two gunmen killed 12 people, including another Grand Prix winner, Wolinski.

“The 2015 festival will be a time to remember but we also want to demonstrate that life goes on,” said festival director Franck Bondoux. The commemorations include a special exhibit on Charlie Hebdo, a virtual album with contributions by artists from around the world, and a new award, the Charlie Prize, which will be awarded posthumously to the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists this year, and in future years will recognize creators who have fought for freedom of expression. The town of Angoulême will also festooned with posters of Charlie Hebdo covers.

The Charlie Hebdo attacks overshadowed what should have been the major story of the festival, the Bill Watterson exhibit. The creator of Calvin and Hobbes was awarded last year's Grand Prix, but he declined to attend this year's festival, as is the custom. Instead, he designed the poster for the show and sent an exhibit of his work. This year's exhibits also include a Jiro Taniguchi retrospective and an exhibit on the Moomins.

Tom Spurgeon highlights some of the things he'll be watching for at this year's festival, including discussion of the difficulty of making a living as a comics artist in France and the increasing presence of North American creators and publishers.

ComiXology has been a major presence at Angoulême for the past three years, and the digital platform will be covering the festival on its many social media platforms, including Twitter and Tumblr. And if all this whets your appetite for some Euro-comics, Amazon is featuring a selection for Kindle, and comiXology is highlighting its newly added Humanoids titles.

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