Female comic book artists show opens after sexism row

The exhibition opened after a row in France when no women were shortlisted for a major prize at one of the genre's biggest festivals

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An exhibition featuring 100 female comic book artists from around the world opened in London Friday, after a row in France when no women were shortlisted for a major prize at one of the genre's biggest festivals.

Called "100 Women Making Comics", the exhibition features female artists from 23 countries and will run until May 15 at the House of Illustration gallery.

It is the biggest exhibition organised in Britain on the international history of female comic book artists, co-curator Olivia Ahmad told AFP.

"The exhibition recognises the extraordinary variety of comics by women. It spans genres from humour to surrealism, and fiction to autobiography and sci-fi fantasy."

It includes the work of pioneering comic illustrators, including by Mary Darly dating from 1775 and Marie Duval from the 19th Century.

Many of the works are being exhibited for the first time and are drawn from the artists' personal collections.

Among the modern-day illustrators on show are Posy Simmonds, who produces the weekly comic strip "Tamara Drewe" in the Guardian newspaper.

The work of fellow Briton Kate Charlesworth is displayed alongside works by US artist Audrey Niffenegger and France's Claire Bretecher, Florence Cestac and Chantal Montellier.

"Female comics have been present throughout the evolution of comics," said co-curator Paul Gravett.

"They have been a prolific minority, creating some of the most defining and provocative works of the medium."

Gravett said the organisers of the Angouleme comics festival in France, one of the world's biggest comics events, had blundered when they initially failed to include any women among the 30 nominees for the lifetime achievement award.

The event last month drew criticism, including from France's culture minister, while several nominees asked their names be withdrawn as an act of solidarity after some female authors called for a boycott.

"The most foolish statement was to say that there are no women in the world of comics. This exhibition is proof of the contrary," Gravett said.

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