In the early ’00s, Angouleme, in south-west France, declared itself to be la cité internationale de la bande dessinée et de l’image – the international city of comic books and the image. It underlined this claim by hosting a winter comic book festival rivalled in size and attendance only by San Diego’s Comic-Con – although San Diego doesn’t go as far as having excerpts of famed French comics painted on the high walls of its buildings (and, ask anyone, Angouleme’s content is a deal smarter and more adult).
It’s also the home of the world’s first and most comprehensive museum of comic book art, La Musée de la Bande Dessinée. Opened in 2009, on the banks of the picturesque Charente river, the glass and steel structure houses over 8,000 artefacts ranging from early, original Asterix and Tintin panels to drawings and paintings by Jean Giraud (a.k.a. Moebius) and drawings by Art Spiegelman. “It is our ambition to show that comic books are a reflection of their time and society,” says Ambroise Lassalle, the museum curator. The exhibits contrast the parallel development of the art form in France, Belgium, the USA and Japan.