Several nominees led by the French cartoonist Riad Sattouf had announced this week that they would boycott the annual festival, and members of the Collectif des créatrices de bande dessinée contre le sexisme (Collective of Comic Artists Against Sexism) said that they would not take part in the vote.
Organisers initially responded to the outcry by promising to amend the list to include women, and pointed to the nominations of Iranian-born French graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi and British newspaper cartoonist Posy Simmonds in recent years.
They drew a fresh backlash, however, with comments that there have been few female artists in comic-book history and that “positive discrimination does not make sense in the arts”.
Festival director Franck Bondoux echoed that sentiment in an interview with French newspaper Le Monde: “If you go to the Louvre, you’ll equally find very few women artists,” he said.
The festival later said on its website that it would open the grand prize to a vote with no proposed shortlist. Cartoonists must be registered in France and verified by a French publisher.
The three-day festival in Angoulême, France begins on 29 January.