Under fire, Angouleme will leave Grand Prix to the 'free will' of voters

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Sarah McIntyre's cartoon commentary on Angouleme[/caption]

Angouleme International Comics Festival this morning responded to mounting backlash to its men-only pool of nominees for the Grand Prix with a revised shortlist that included six women creators -- only to promptly remove it. Now organizers have announced they won't propose any names for the festival's lifetime achievement award, and will instead allow academy members to vote for whomever they like.

The announcement, which follows a widely criticized defense by the festival and controversial remarks by executive officer Franck Bondoux, calls the decision a final step in the democratization of the nomination of the Grand Prix." Organizers say they'll "submit to the absolute free will" of the creators.

The original longlist for the prestigious Grand Prix d’Angouleme, containing the names of 30 male creators but not a single woman, sparked an immediate call for a boycott by the French creators' organization BD Egalite. By Wednesday evening, the number of nominees who'd asked for their names be removed from consideration had grown to 12: Brian Michael Bendis, Christophe Blain, François Bourgeon, Charles Burns, Pierre Christin, Daniel Clowes, Etienne Davodeau, Milo Manara, Riad Sattouf, Joann Sfar, Bill Sienkiewicz and Chris Ware.

The festival released a statement on Wednesday saying it would add some women to the nominee list, without removing any of the the names already chosen. BD Egalite responded to the organizers' statement, accusing Bondoux of bad faith:

If for him, absolutely no woman in the world deserves to be included on the 2016 list of nominees, and that is a reflection of the reality of the comics world today, it is time for Franck Bondoux to change his job.

BD Egalite also posted an email showing that festival organizers had reached out to the group to supply a list of women creators to be added. The group refused to do so, pointing out that if festival organizers had done their job, they would have no problem finding women worthy of inclusion. In fact, they asked, who does select that list?

On Facebook, Paul Gravett provided an answer of sorts: The initial nominees are chosen by a group of three members of the festival's art direction team, two men and one woman, and those suggestions are passed on to the festival's top management.

While the selection of nominees comes from a small group, the festival has opened up voting for the actual award in recent years. Until a few years ago, the Grand Prix honoree was chosen by a jury of former Grand Prix winners. Now all creators whose work is published in France, including foreigners, are eligible to vote for the award in two rounds: First, voters selects their top three choices, then in the second round they vote for one of the top three vote-getters. Gravett estimates the total pool of voters at about 3,000 creators, of whom 85 percent to 90 percent are male.

Sarah McIntyre has a nice roundup of reactions on Twitter and the web, including her own comics about the festival, at her website.

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