For the first time ever, the final nominees for the Grand Prix d’Angouleme are all women. Pénélope Bagieu, Julie Doucet, and Catherine Meurisse were chosen by a jury of their peers—literally: All comics creators whose work is published in France are eligible to vote for the nominees.
The winner will be announced on March 16.
Bagieu is the creator of Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World, which won an Eisner Award in 2019. She got her start with Ma vie est tout à fait fascinante, a diary webcomic about living in Paris, and her first long-form work was Exquisite Corpse which was published in 2010 by First Second. She is also the author of California Dreamin’, a beautifully drawn graphic biography of singer Mama Cass Elliot, and most recently, she adapted Roald Dahl’s The Witches into a graphic novel. Her first autobiographical work, Les Strates, was published in French late last year but has not yet been translated into English.
Doucet, who was born in Montreal, is known for her mixed-media work that incorporate comics, drawing, and collage. She is the creator of Dirty Plotte, which started as a photocopied zine and was later published by Drawn and Quarterly; in 2018, D+Q published a collected hardcover. Her other works include My New York Diary, 365 Days: A Diary, and The Madame Paul Affair. Anne-Elizabeth Moore’s study of her work, Sweet Little Cunt: The Graphic Work of Julie Doucet, also won an Eisner Award in 2019.
Meurisse is less well known to English-speaking readers, as none of her work seems to be available in print in English, but Europe Comics has been translating it and making it available via digital services. She was a member of the staff of Charlie Hebdo and escaped the fatal attack on their offices in 2014 only because she was running late that day; she arrived after the attack began and took shelter in a nearby office. She depicted her life after the attack in Lightness. Her most recent work available in English, The Young Woman and the Sea, is a meditation on art and landscape.
The Grand Prix d’Angoulême recognizes a creator’s work over their entire lifetime. The winner presides over the following year’s festival, and a special exhibit is dedicated to their work.
Today’s announcement is a far cry from 2016, when the initial list of 30 nominees included no women at all. Franck Bondoux, then the executive director of the festival, defended this at the time by saying “Unfortunately, there are few women in the history of comics. That’s the reality. Similarly, if you go to the Louvre, you will find few women artists.” This … didn’t go over well. After many of the nominated creators withdrew their names, the organizers came up with a second list and then just threw up their hands. But as I wrote at the time, the fact that the male creators rejected the single-sex slate and recognized how wrong it was shows how far we have come.