The Angoulême International Comics Festival was founded by French cultural ministers Francis Groux and Jean Mardikian, and comics scholar Claude Moliterni. Moliterni served as co-organizer of the festival through 2005.
The four-day festival is notable for awarding several prestigious prizes in cartooning. The awards at Angoulême were originally called the Alfred awards, after the pet auk from Zig et Puce by Alain Saint-Ogan. In 1989, the name changed to the Alph-art awards, honoring the final, unfinished Tintin album by Hergé. In 2003, the Alph-art name was dropped, and they are now simply called "The Official Awards of the International Comics Festival" (le Palmarès Officiel du Festival international de la bande dessinée). The prizes were reorganized in 2007 to create a pool of 40-60 albums, called "official selections," from which are awarded the "Best Album" prize, five "Angoulême Essentials," one "Revelation Essential" (given to rookie creators), and one Essential chosen by the public. The Heritage Essential (for reprinted material) and Youth Essential are selected from separate nominee pools.
Additionally, the Grand Prix de la ville d'Angoulême is awarded each year to a living creator honoring his/her lifetime achievement, and the Grand Prix winner becomes president of the next year's festival. Traditionally, the president heads the prize jury of the next year's festival, illustrates the festival poster, and is given an exhibition of his or her work. (So far, only one woman, Florence Cestac, has ever won the Grand Prix.)
In 2007, Lewis Trondheim (2006 Grand Prix winner) created a mascot for the festival, Le Fauve (The Wildcat), and since 2008 the prize winners have received wildcat statuettes, with the Best Album statuette coated in gold.