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French comics world torn over author accused of promoting incest

Debate raged in France Tuesday over whether a star graphic novelist should be feted at a top comics festival despite work accused of evoking paedophilia and incest. 

Bastien Vives, 38, was long called one of the best young authors in France’s much-loved genre of graphic novels. 

Stories about a childhood romance (“A Sister”), or a young woman’s sexual awakening (“The Blouse”) had erotic elements, but were widely seen as moving and realistic. 

But other works — most notably “Petit Paul” about a 10-year-old with oversized genitals — led to accusations that he was promoting paedophilia despite absurdist themes. 

“Petit Paul” was pulled from bookstores after an uproar in 2018, while other work has been criticised for normalising incest — a hot-button issue in France after some high-profile scandals.  

The debate has reignited with the decision by the illustrious Angouleme International Comics Festival to honour Vives at its next edition in January. 

Vives has denied claims that the pornographic elements in his work relate to his own desires. 

“If it has to be said again, I’ll say it again: No, I’m not a paedophile and, no, it is not my fantasy. If you want to read my works honestly, you will easily realise that,” he told Le Parisien on Monday, adding that he was receiving multiple death threats online. 

His reputation has not been helped by previous comments that smack of deliberate provocation: “Incest excites me to death,” he told Madmoizelle magazine in 2017. 

More difficult to dismiss were comments made the same year on Facebook, hiding behind a pseudonym, against a fellow cartoonist, the mononymous Emma, ridiculing her work and calling for violence against her child.

She republished the messages on Monday and called his work “child pornography comics”. 

For now, the Angouleme festival has ruled out cancelling his appearance. 

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