Britain's Posy Simmonds on Wednesday won the Grand Prix at the Angouleme comics festival in France, considered the world's most prestigious awards for graphic novelists.

A pioneer of the form, her gentle but spicy humour has long charmed the world of graphic novels, even if she is better known as a press cartoonist in Britain.

The top prize at the Angouleme International Comics Festival, widely seen as the industry's most illustrious event, rewards her entire body of work which includes several children's books and more adult fare such as "Gemma Bovery" and "Tamara Drewe", both cheeky reworkings of 19th century novels.

Simmonds, 78, is a long-time francophile who studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, but she continued to live in Britain despite its relative lack of love for graphic novels.

She is one of the few women to break through in the genre from Britain, starting as a press cartoonist for The Sun and later joining The Guardian.

Simmonds won press cartoonist of the year in 1981, when she also won international acclaim for "True Love", an avant-garde graphic novel that was a sort of precursor to the Bridget Jones novels.

"We didn't yet call it a graphic novel," she said in an interview with the Pompidou Centre in Paris for a retrospective opening on April 1.

"I told myself I was going to write a romance... but my vision of love is quite ironic."

- Reimagining classics -

Simmonds, whose real name is Rosemary Elizabeth, grew up surrounded by books in the English countryside.

"Comics weren't really approved of at home, but my parents allowed them as long as we continued to read novels," she said.

"Gemma Bovery" (1999) is considered an iconoclastic masterpiece, with a complex plot delivered in very dense text, reimagining the bored heroine of Gustave Flaubert's "Madame Bovery".

"Tamara Drewe" (2007) similarly transposed Thomas Hardy's "Far from the Madding Crowd" to the modern day, while "Cassandra Darke" (2018) was a retelling of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens.

In Britain, critics often treat her as a literary novelist, despite her protestations that graphic novels are a distinct art form.

In France, one of the most avid comic-consuming nations in the world, she has long been a star and she chaired the jury at the Angouleme festival in 2017.

The Grand Prix is chosen by fellow writers and artists, who create a shortlist of three artists.

For the fifth time, France's Catherine Meurisse made the shortlist without winning.