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Pénélope Bagieu Winner of the Eisner Award for Best U.S. Edition of International Material

Credit: George Baier for Cosmopolitan France

French author and illustrator Pénélope Bagieu is the winner of the Eisner Award for Best U.S. Edition of International Material for her graphic novel Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World, published by First Second Books. She received it on July 19, 2019 at the San Diego Comic-Con.

It is not the first time that Pénélope Bagieu has been awarded for her work. In 2011 she received a prize at the festival d'Angoulême (France) for Exquisite Corpse, a funny and subversive fiction about the life of a young woman in Paris. In 2016 the won the Harvey Prize at the New York Comic-con for best European graphic novel for California Dreamin', a graphic novel depicting the life of Mama Cass, the remarkable vocalist of the folk group The Mamas & the Papas. On July 19, 2019, at the 31st Annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, she was granted the Eisner Award for Best U.S. Edition of International Material for her graphic novel Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World. The bestselling author in her native France is progressively earning international acclaim: The Eisner Awards, often compared to the Oscars in the comics industry, are considered the greatest international comics prizes one could get.

Her publisher, First Second Books (Macmillan Publishers), is the one with the most winners, with the Best Publication for Kids (The Divided Earth, by Faith Erin Hicks), Best Reality-Based Work (Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman, by Box Brown), and Best U.S. Edition of International Material (Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World, by Pénélope Bagieu).

The story behind Brazen

“I wanted to show that there were more notable women in history than just Joan of Arc.”

Outraged by the lack of women's representation in History, Bagieu created in 2016 the BD blog Les Culottées for Le Monde. She posted one comic strip a week for 30 weeks, each portraying the life of a strong, inspiring woman who has changed history, some world famous, some little known. In an interview for Frenchly in March 2018 she said: 

“Many of these women are everywhere but they’re not really the center of attention, they’re the background character in somebody else’s biography. Or the wife of someone. Or the mom of someone. Someone who did all the work but who was a woman so she wasn’t the center of attention. These women are worth books, and movies, and all sorts of things”

It was eventually compiled into book form and released in French in 2016 with the subtitle Des Femmes Qui ne Font Que ce Qu’elles Veulent (Women Who Do as They Please). In English it was published by First Second Books with the title Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World. According to the  AV Club "a major part of the book’s success is the variety of her subjects representing a wide range of experiences that takes readers from Ancient Greece to seventh-century Japan to present-day Afghanistan". Pénélope Bagieu for instance portrays:

Nzinga, Queen of Ndongo and Matamba, two African Kingdoms in present-day Angola in the 17th century.

Las Mariposas, Patria, Minerva and María-Teresa Mirabal, political dissidents, oponents of the dominican dictatorship in the 1950s.

Sonita Alizadeh, Afghan rapper and feminist activist of the 21st century.

Brazen has been translated into 11 languages and has been unanimously praised by the press:

"Bagieu’s pen transforms these true stories into something that has the tone of a personalized fairy tale. And in the end, this turns out to be just perfect."The New York Times

"The highest praise I can give “Brazen” is that it belongs in most every girl’s — and boy’s — hands by middle school. The book reminds you that too many great women’s stories have been lost to history — and that for the greater good, that must never happen again."The Washington Post

"Brazen spans centuries across the globe, with Bagieu using her signature drawings to bring various women’s indomitable spirits to life... the stories in this comic biography, told through vivid vignettes, may just inspire the next generation of rebel ladies."Entertainment Weekly

"The crisp, cartoony art is expressive and fun, and the short narratives will kick-start many a great presentation in social-studies class."Vulture

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu, translated by Diane Eberhardt, First Second, 2018

Originaly published by Gallimard in 2016 with the tittle Culottées : Des femmes qui ne font que ce qu'elles veulent.

The Eisner Awards are prizes given for creative achievement in American comic books. They are considered the greatest international comics prizes one could get. They are named in honor of the pioneering writer and artist Will Eisner, who was a regular participant in the award ceremony until his death in 2005.The nominations in each category are generated by a five- to six-member jury, then voted on by comic book professionals and presented at the annual San Diego Comic-Con held in July. The jury often consists of at least one comics retailer, one librarian (since 2005), and one academic researcher, among other comics experts. More information here.

The San Diego Comic-Con (Comic-Con International) is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to creating awareness of and appreciation for comics and related popular artforms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contributions of comics to art and culture.

Credits Photo: (1) Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked The World (First Second); (2) George Bayer for Cosmopolitan France; (3) Twitter Pénélope Bagieu; (4,5,6,7) excerpts Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked The World (First Second)

Article by Loïse Tachon