The nominations for The Grand Prix d’Angoulême, one of the highest honors a comic book artist could possibly be awarded, were recently announced. Much to the chagrin of the entire comic book community, of the 30 artists nominated for a lifetime achievement award not a single one was a woman.
According to Vulture: "past honorees have included Will Eisner, Art Spiegelman, R. Crumb, and Calvin and Hobbes's Bill Watterson — but since its inception in 1974, only one woman (French creator Florence Cestac) has taken home the prize."
Prominent male artists have proposed a boycott of the award in solidarity with the countless women who were snubbed. Industry legend Brian Michael Bendis wrote the following on his Tumblr: "as i drifted off to sleep last night ... i thought of my daughters. my smart, strong willed daughters who will STILL have to fight for their equal rights and how they will STILL have to fend off some men treating them as objects before they can see them as individuals and how insane it seems to me." Ghost World cartoonist and fellow comic book icon Daniel Clowes offered a similar opinion: “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." Nominees Riad Sattouf, Joann Sfar, Milo Manara, Pierre Christin, Etienne Davodeau, and Christophe Blain are also onboard with the boycott.
Meanwhile, organizers of the festival at which the award will be given are doubling down. "Unfortunately, there are few women in the history of comics. It's a reality. If you go to the Louvre, you will also find quite few female artists," said Franck Bondoux, head of the festival. A statement released by organizers reads: "The Festival cannot remake the history of comics ... it's objectively much easier to count female authors (almost on the fingers of a hand) than male authors."
The idea that influential female comic book artists don't exist is simply incorrect, a myth perpetuated by the industry's widespread sexism and prominently on display in this whole debacle.
Here's our roundup of five (of many more!) women in comic books who deserve recognition for their lifetimes of considerable, important work.
1) Alison Bechdel
Lesbian activist and influential artist Allison Bechdel is the brain behind groundbreaking books like Dykes To Watch Out For, Are You My Mother?, and Fun Home (recently adapted into an award winning musical). Her work examines gender and sexuality and is openly political in its support of LGBT individuals and queer culture. Bechdel's evaluation of the lack of female voices in contemporary culture led to the coining of the Bechdel Test, by which movies can be evaluated for the presence (or lack thereof) of female characters.
2) Gail Simone
The world of superhero comics has been historically thought of as a boys club. Although female writers and artists are slowly gaining more prominence, few have achieved as much in their careers as Gail Simone, who has worked on franchises including Batgirl, Red Sonja, Secret Six, Welcome to Tranquility, The All-New Atom, Deadpool, and Wonder Woman.
3) Marjane Satrapi
Author of the autobiographical series Persepolis (later turned into a successful animated film), Satrapi's work has highlighted the immense personal drama of the political turmoils of the Middle East.
4) Tove Jansson
Creator of the beloved children's series Moomin, Jansson passed away at the beginning of the new millennium. Imminently important to the entire artform, her work dealt with the whimsy of childhood. She often commented on how her work was used to help her escape from the horrors of World War 2. Later in life, Jansson would go on to discuss her lesbianism, making her an important figure in LGBT history.
5) Naoko Takeuchi
We all fondly remember the brightly colored adventures of the Sailor Scouts from childhood, but nostalgia for the TV series based on the books shouldn't taint the historical importance of Takeuchi's literary work. Defining an entire genre of comic books, Takeuchi's masterpiece, Sailor Moon, has influenced the past two decades of manga, anime, and even contemporary art.