UPDATED: Jan. 6, 2016, 5pm
Daniel Clowes announced Tuesday that he is pulling himself from a list of 30 nominees for a prestigious comic award in support of a boycott of the contest over the fact that all the nominees were men.
Clowes, the Oakland-based comic artist described by the New York Times as being one of today’s most successful and respected graphic novelists, posted his decision on his publisher Fantagraphics' website after the nominees were announced Tuesday morning.
“I support the boycott of Angouleme and am withdrawing my name from any consideration for what is now a totally meaningless ‘honor.’ What a ridiculous, embarrassing debacle,” Clowes is quoted saying on the blog post.
The centerpiece of a gigantic, 42-year-old comic festival in France, Grand Prix d’Angouleme could be considered the greatest honor a comic artist can receive. The winner's work is celebrated by a festival that attracts 200,000 people a year. At special exhibits about the honoree's process, the artist is invited to draw comics live for thousands of spectators in a recreation of his or her studio. And then the winner even becomes president of the jury that selects the following year's nominees.
Though this year's list had more international artists than usual -- the majority of the award's recipients have been French -- not one nominee was a woman. Also, in the festival's 42-year history, only one woman, Florence Cestac, has received the prestigious honor. (Though according to Wikipedia, Claire Bretécher received a similar honor of the 10th anniversary of the festival.)
A group of women cartoonists calling themselves BD Egalite ("Comics Equality") have publicly denounced the list and, because the winner is chosen by the comics world at large, they are calling for an artist boycott on voting for the award.
From their online statement (seems like the webpage is down), translated by Google:
"It is no longer tolerable as renowned designers, whose career is recognized by everyone, are absent from the nominations of this Grand Prix. If autrices and authors select a trio in a list decided by the FIBD, this list must always be truly representative of what comics today. The autrices are also literary references in this field. "
Clowes is not the only artist pulling his name from consideration: French cartoonist Riad Sattouf announced on his Facebook page that he too was dropping out, and he even provided some examples of female cartoonists that could be considered for the prize.
UPDATE: The Guardian is reporting that the organizers behind the Grand Prix d’Angouleme are bowing to pressure and will be adding women to the shortlist of names. At the time of the announcement, 10 artists on the list had asked to be removed from consideration.
Though the festival organizers didn't acquiesce without causing more controversy: Franck Bondoux, the head of the festival, defended the list to the French newspaper Le Monde by stating that the award honors an artist's total body of work.
“Unfortunately, there are few women in the history of comics,” Bondoux said. “That’s the reality. Similarly, if you go to the Louvre, you will find few women artists.”