Asterix and Angouleme

Asterix Tops the French Best-Sellers List; Angouleme (FIBD) Delayed

First, The Good News

Asterix and the Griffin cover for Asterix v39

“Asterix et le Griffon” was the best-selling book in France in 2021.

No, not the best-selling comic book or bande dessinée.

The best-selling book.

The book sold just over 1.5 million copies in France, alone. France has a total population of about 67 million people. On a per-capita basis, Asterix would have to sell over 7 million copies in the United States to equal France. Those are numbers beyond even “Dog Man”.

Meanwhile, in America, the best-selling book in America in 2021 was the new “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” Here’s a fun and dubious stat: Wikipedia shows “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” as the sixth best-selling book series of all time with 250 million books sold. But that chart doesn’t show Asterix at all, which is said to have sold over 370 million books in its (granted, much longer) lifetime. With those numbers, Asterix would be the second best-selling series, only behind the unstoppable Harry Potter juggernaut.

This leads us into another ages-old debate we can grind our teeth just thinking about: That list says it doesn’t include “comic books.” However, it includes “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and “Captain Underpants,” but not “Dog Man.” Where are they drawing the line on this, exactly?

The final twist: “Asterix and the Griffin” went on sale October 21. That means it only had two months to sell those numbers. The second top seller was a novel with under a half-million copies sold.

Impressive.

Incroyable.

The Inevitable News: FIBD “Delayed”

Angouleme FIBD Logo

The Angouleme Festival (Festival International de la Bande Dessinée) has been delayed again due to COVID issues. They are not canceling it, but they don’t have any final plan yet, either. I like the way they phrased it in the announcement (see the bold-faced portion):

Initially scheduled from 27 to 30 January 2022, the Festival will be postponed to a period more favourable to its smooth running. Following the government’s statement on Monday 27 December (establishing a minimum of 3 weeks of gauges) and the evolution of the Covid pandemic over the last few weeks, there are too many uncertainties regarding the organisation of the Festival at this initial period. 

New dates for the event will be defined shortly and you will be informed immediately. The spring period is being considered in order to ensure that all the components of the event are present (the authors, the programme and the exhibitors…).

Official FIBD Announcement

In 2021, you may remember, the festival was split into two parts. The first was a virtual aspect that ran for a few months. A later and smaller in-person gathering planned for June 2021 was called off in April. The announcement of that cancellation anticipated a celebratory renewal of the event in January 2022.

Sadly, that is now not going to happen, either.

The 2021 awards still happened in January, though. You can watch the entire presentation on the FIBD YouTube channel. The announcement of the Grand Prix winner was put off to June, though, where Chris Ware took home the cherished prize.

Frame from a video teasing the Chris Ware exhibit at Angouleme

Ironically enough, the same day the 2022 show was officially postponed, the FIBD YouTube channel posted this teaser video of the Chris Ware exhibit for Angouleme 2022.

As things stand now, the big return to Angouleme is rescheduled for whenever it will be a good time to do it. That sounds like a logistics nightmare, but the Angouleme Festival is a very special event that, despite the usual annual protests of things, is well-supported by the amazing comics community in France. Also, the French Ministry of Culture stands behind the festival, ready to help however it can:

This is why its organisers welcome with relief the words of the Minister of Culture and Communication, Roselyne Bachelot, who has immediately responded:

“I would answer that on all the struggling sectors, and indeed the postponement of the Angoulême Festival will entail costs, we will be there to help them as we have always been there to help the cultural sector, culture continues in all its forms; and the Angoulême Comics Festival, and comics is a cultural sector, must be protected and it must be promoted.”

From a translation by The Beat

Also, Angouleme stays busy all year hosting gatherings like Angouleme, on various scales. You can see a listing of them on Absolument-Angouleme.fr. Still, FIBD is huge and takes over the whole town. I guess the other events are being postponed or canceled, also, so some of the comics installations can stick around until the show is ready to go on.

Fingers crossed that it does!

Two Meta Notes on “FIBD”

Everyone in North America who knows that France exists and has a pretty good comics culture refers to it as “Angouleme” or “The Angouleme Festival”. It’s a simple shorthand. It makes sense. We refer to lots of comic shows of all types by their cities. (Nobody goes to “Comic-Con International: San Diego”. They go to “San Diego” or, maybe, “Comic-Con.”)

But I like saying both “FIBD” (as /fib-dee/) and its full name, “Festival International de la Bande Dessinee.” To my ear, it is the most pleasant sing-song bit of French to say out loud. It flows so perfectly.

Something else that comes up often in my travels into the world of BD: What are the French rules for using title case? That is, when is it right to capitalize the first letter in each word of a proper title? I see it all the time in book titles, where only the first word has its initial letter capitalized.

The full expansion of “FIBD” gets capitalizations sometimes (like on the official site) but not always (like on this Council of Europe site).

It drives me a little nuts, just because it’s something that’s been drilled into me since I was single digits years old. When I do quote the original French title to a book (as I do in the credits of my reviews now), I convert it to title case.

What do YOU think? (First time commenters' posts may be held for moderation.)

2 Comments

  1. it’s not unusual that acronyms after a while become nouns if they have the right combinations of vowels and consonants. See Radar for example, or Scuba. Spelling, punctuation and calligraphy rules are now gone the way of the dodo I’m afraid. Just ask my 12-year old niece.
    You are right to make the distinction about Angoulême since it also hosts a Movie festival later in the year, so confusion is possible.
    I was gearing up to go this year but I suspect that postponement will end up being a semi-cancellation like last year, we’ll see after the 12th wave and the umpteenth variant…
    Also, should I know what Dog Man is ?

    1. Title case is more like the first letter in every word (like in a headline) getting capitalized. “Man Bites Dog” instead of “Man bites dog.”

      Angouleme definitely keeps itself busy by being the host city to all sorts of events. It’s like Las Vegas, but much nicer and less neon. 😉

      “Dog Man” is a series of books aimed at kids that sell in the millions over here. That one and “Captain Underpants” are both by Dav Pilkey. Then there’s the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series by a different author. They have various amounts of prose and comic pages. Every now and then, a fight will break out online as to whether “Wimpy Kid” is a comic book or not, since it’s heavily illustrated prose. Come to think of it, “Dog Man” might be a full comic book format, but I don’t own any to fact check.