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BD En L’Temps De La Coronavirus

Before we get started — this is nothing to do with webcomics, but check out what actor/director Mary Neely’s been up to on Twitter. Guaranteed to improve your mood. Now, as a reminder that we in the United States do not have the only severely challenging times (merely those most exacerbated by the greatest idiot possible), Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin joins us today to talk about how things are progressing in the land of bandes dessinées.


After a period of uncertainty regarding what could be planned beyond April, recently France was given more visibility (through the voice of president Emmanuel Macron): the lockdown is now targeted to end May the 11th. This means bookshops, among other retail points, will be allowed to reopen at that date, Glob willing, and that is obviously a relief for comics publishers, and consequently, for the creators they publish.

But the same announcement made it clear this would not be going to be a return to business as usual (and not just in the way retail points will have to adopt social distancing measures): no festival is to take place until mid-July, at the earliest¹. At that point, it was inevitable for both Lyon BD (set to take place in early June) and Japan Expo Paris (set to take place in early July) to announce their respective cancellations this year. This will of course impact our coverage here at the Fleen French headquarters, but will much more dramatically impact the livelihood of the many stakeholders of these opposite kinds of festivals.

As I see it, while many businesses will be able to wake after a period of hibernation and resume more or less as usual (there certainly won’t be as many parties centered around cake and other pastries at my workplace), it is clear many activities that relied on social events will have to reinvent themselves in order to survive the longer period where we will have to live with Covid-19.

First, we have the festival structures themselves: they no longer need to spend the money necessary to rent the congress center or to defray the various contributors or to spend for other various logistics, but (non-profit or not) they do still have to pay the salaries of the few permanent employees they have, as well as various fees, like the rent for organization headquarters, now without the money intake from exhibitors and attendees. Now, they happen to be in the same boat as the many, many live arts festivals (think Avignon for theater and the myriad of music festivals), and it is unlikely that authorities will allow this boat to sink, but that does not mean they will make it unscathed.

Then we have exhibitions and other various unmanned expositions, which are an essential part of comics outreach. Those will not benefit from a centered festival weekend and the publicity that comes with it, but will otherwise be able to take place more or less as usual, since most of those are set up to last a few weeks anyway, allowing visitors to space themselves out. In fact, Lyon BD organization has planned to set up such cultural activities starting in the fall.

Also essential for outreach are panels, but I am afraid those will have to take place online for the foreseeable future. This raises the question on how to make sure contributors would be paid for the trouble, as compensation for panels is an essential complement for some of them, allowing them to dedicate time to properly prepare them and provide quality information. Traditional pay-per-view video on demand seems ill-suited for such endeavors, however; relying on ongoing crowdfunding platforms such as Patreon may be a better starting point.

As for signings, those could take place in bookshops in the same way that many bookshops have always set up such signings year long, but with some additional care: line management is going to become a much pressing concern than it already was, and will probably preclude the most popular creators from even considering this solution. An alternative could be signing in local libraries, though this is more viable for self-published creators: the others apparently cannot normally retail their own books, as evidenced by the fact that a local bookshop would set up a small retail point in the library for the books of these creators when I attended such a library-hosted event.

Finally, as a replacement for anime cons which are often a significant source of encounters and income, I imagine some creators could experiment with local markets. Indeed, France has a healthy network of local markets, and even if they are dominated by foodstuffs, they have always hosted local businesses such as basket weavers, and creators, especially if they’re local, would not be out of place in such a setting. It’s worth remembering it is unlikely to sustain them as well as a market centered on cultural goods would, but it could be worth the attempt.

Besides, I’d bet a pretty penny that local markets are where the decorative face masks (that can no longer be retailed in the now cancelled anime cons) will end up being sold …


So, about like here, then, with the added complication that the rescheduled date for EmCity is 21-23 August, only a month after the now-shuttered SDCC. I wouldn’t hold my breath regarding SPX or Baltimore, either. Looks like there’s going to have to be a bunch more remote programs and (once restrictions start to lift) distributed pop-ups; regardless of official decisions, I don’t see anybody anxious to jump into a tens-of-thousands-and-up situation until testing, vaccination, and treatment are well perfected.

As always, we at Fleen are grateful to FSFCPL for his valued perspective.

Spam of the day:

Votre Site

Although it claimed to be sent by “Pierre”, I don’t believe that it was from our much loved and right trusted Pierre Lebeaupin. So into the bitshredder it goes! Helpfully, Google Translate offers up a suggestion for Other Pierre that I feel almost captures the necessary idiom: vous pliez tu sac à vent crétineux.


¹ Belgium is unlikely to be a recourse, seeing as it has been hit even harder by the disease, relatively to its population.

I see your (excellent) Mary Neely, and I raise my Michael Augusto: (it’s Tangled, so you should be able to swap with your soundtrack) and everything at

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