The webcomics blog about webcomics

The Programming Is Not As Heavy As Usual

The world is slowly returning to in-person experiences; granted, the word world is doing some heavy lifting there, as COVID-19 decides to create new waves in various parts of the world. Some have not yet had the chance to vaccinate, and others steadfastly refuse to do so, which is an idiocy I will never understand. As long as I live, that will never make any godsdamned sense.

But in places where it’s safe¹, comics fans are again gathering. Or, in the case of Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin, bandes dessinées fans. Here, then, is his report from this year’s Lyon BD festival.


I can’t remember who said it at the table outside the café where we had gathered at the invitation of Shetty Saturday afternoon, but I think it best captures the feeling on how Lyon BD took place in 2021.

I had this feeling from the outset of the professional day Friday (which I did attend this year): besides the area where artists could present publishers their projects and portfolio for feedback (or more), it was pretty much a one-track conference, far from where the main event would take place (so no access to exhibitions, in particular). No need to even switch rooms between two events! So following the program that day was a no-brainer; in fact, the only challenge of the day was finding a place in the vicinity that would sell me food to go without forcing me to go inside where diners were exchanging their gross lung air².

There was some more to do for the main event, Saturday and Sunday, but even then there was no place for improvisation. Indeed, when I bought my ticket, I had to choose right away (this was printed as part of it) in which 5-hour-long time slot I would be allowed into the festival main space: I wouldn’t be allowed in at ay other time (I chose Sunday afternoon). Moreover, I also had to choose right away which events I would be able to attend, and the attendance cap prevented me from registering to some I was interested in.

So, yeah, the organizers took their job seriously.

As for the official parts, there were some, but mostly exhibitions: no LGBTI+ comics event, for instance. However, all signings occurred as official events, in bookshops, outside the festival main space.

So while I was still busy for most of Saturday and Sunday morning visiting exhibitions and the like, for once I had time to stop a bit and enjoy the renovated Place des Terreaux (which I had never seen in it usual state: neither in renovations nor covered with tents) around beers with Shetty and crew.

In the end, unfortunately, not much that intersected with online and indie comics. Except for one theme: comics in Africa, which were the subject of a few roundtables. Here is what I learned, in no particular order:

  • For much of the local public, comics are these outreach/teaching aid pamphlets from NGOs that these distribute for free, so it is hard to convince potential customers that comics are worth paying for.
  • While the vision of subsaharan Africa as shithole countries is ignorant and based on debunked stereotypes, there are some challenges to producing there: notably, some creators are taking advantage of the phenomenal advances in smartphones to directly create on these devices, which allows them to create even during the power outages, whether planned or unplanned, that are common occurrences in some parts of the continent.
  • In French-speaking Africa, in particular, the public gets inundated with media coming from France such that it is sometimes hard to develop local channels. Moreover, that means local creators have to challenge the ideals these French-based media convey, aesthetic ideals in particular.
  • Representation, as everywhere else, matters; one creator in particular mentioned that if she had to be the one creating stories about people like her, then by golly, she was going to do it herself.
  • And it’s not just about what people physically look like. The same creator mentioned being influenced by one of these rare creators of comics she had access to who can and do draw credible afrodescendant characters, anatomically speaking: neither color-swapped white people nor fat-lipped caricatures. But she was surprised to learn of this creator being white, and that led her to look for the unique perspective she could bring as a black woman creator.
  • Comics publishers based in France and Belgium have started showing interest in comics from Africa, but have only published them for the local market and not brought them to Europe so far. Even then, there is still pent-up offer, and some creators there are turning to crowdfunding in order to self-publish. In fact, there was a general agreement in the need to build up skills in the whole of the book chain so as to reduce dependence on established actors.
  • Black Panther has not such much ushered a new wave of afrofuturism than brought it to the mainstream, with many viewers looking for more after that, which means they can discover creators who were doing that all along, such as Reine Dibussi.
  • Since bound books are considered expensive, fan ‘zines have found some success, and some conventions have sprung up, even if they look more like North American comic cons than European comics festivals given how audiovisual media has been more able to penetrate local households (cosplay was mentioned as being a big thing there).

In other news: after failing at the last round in previous years, Chris Ware won the Grand Prix at Angoulême — the only event left of the planned, then scrapped, summer edition of the comics festival.

And Iron Circus has announced having obtained the English publishing rights for Cy’s Radium Girls (previous coverage), with a release planned for 2022. The creator only commented: Who is proud? ME.), while the publisher let us know this came as a result of their presence in the 2020 edition of the Angoulême comics festival.

So, if any comics publishers are reading me, could I suggest that they … get there? January 27th to 30th, 2022). Chris Ware will be president. You can land at Charles de Gaulle, then take a high-speed train directly to Angoulême. Do it.


As ever, we at Fleen thank FSFCPL for his endeavours on behalf of our readers. He’s a good dude.

Spam of the day:

Mining farm for Chia coin

Unless the farming results in a coin base upon which grows actual Chiapet style chia, not interested.

¹ And, tragically, many places where it is not — looking at you, Missouri. When you’re done with your little muh freedom temper tantrum and your healthcare professionals are so traumatized at how you chose to abuse them that they leave and never return, I am going to be hard pressed to have sympathy. On behalf of my colleagues, fuck you.

² I believe that FSFCPL is here using gross in the English sense of disgusting rather than the French sense of large, although honestly it works either way. — Ed.

You know, at this point most French-speaking people have forgotten that this is a verb in the first place: for instance, properly conjugating it by writing “vivent les BD”, while still technically correct, has been completely out of common usage for decades. Only time capsules such as “Tintin au Congo” and “Le Tour de Gaule d’Astérix” today remind us such an usage ever existed.

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