As busy and crazy as the alternative press hall was in Angouleme, it was no comparison to the major hall at the other end of town – the major publisher marketplace.
Where the alternative hall was a long, narrow hallway, this marketplace was wide, which gave the publishers room to set up trade show booths; this was appropriate because we were at a trade show. The major publishers had a couple hundred square feet apiece, which they filled with shelves; the exit inevitably led past the cash register.
There were six major publishers (based entirely on size of booth): Dupuis, Delcourt, Glenat/Drugstore, Le Lombard, Dargard and Casterman. Judging from the pile of books next to the computer, my go-to publishers were Delcourt and Casterman, although I have stuff from Dargard and Glenat in there as well.
In addition, there were about a dozen smaller publishers scattered along the periphery and in an adjacent structure. The back of this second structure was occupied by Soleil – a major publisher of high fantasy comics. The front of the structure contained Marvel Panini, the publisher that obviously has rights to Marvel comic books. Ironically, they also seem to have rights to the DC comics as well. It’s very interesting to see Stan Lee and Watchmen shelved next to each other, but also very amusing. (One American comic that we conspicuously did not see: Sandman. There’s probably a story there, but I don’t know it.)
Each of the major publishers had a section roped off for artists and/or writers who would be appearing later. All of these sections were filled with people in line, patiently reading their comics, secure in the knowledge that they will meet their heroes in due time. The Soliel portion of the building had a big series of tables set up in the back that was filled with artists – apparently, their artists are in demand.
But that was the closest I saw to an actual artist’s alley. In fact, I saw more artists signing in the alternative hall than I did in the major publisher halls. The major publishers were commerce machines. Each of them had a lady with a scanner, cash register and credit card machine – Delcourt had two. By this point, I had come to terms with the fact that I was going to have to learn to read French regardless, so I approached shopping with an open mind.
My wife found a Dave McKean comic in an anthology based on the songs of Bob Dylan. I found a copy of L’Homme Bonsai by Fred Bernard – about a man who is turning into a tree; it’s a pirate story. I also found Le Sourire des Marionnettes by Jean Dytar, a gorgeously illustrated book about Omar Khayyam and his encounter with Hassan ibn Sabbah – the so-called Master of Alamut aka the Old Man in the Mountain aka the master of the assassins.
As I said, by this time, I was well aware that I would be able to read these books in due time. With that in mind, it was easy to convince myself to buy these books. After all, I wanted to read the books at the festival. Taking them home and making the comprehension of another language the only real barrier to reading them would arguably be a good motivation to learn. If I was that serious about comics, I should be willing to make a leap of faith like that in order to expand my frame of reference properly.
So I did.
Next week, the Angouleme comics museum – the penultimate part of this twelve-part series.