Since receiving the ‘mantle’ (or indeed the slightly cheesy-looking cloak) from previous incumbent Dave Gibbons at the 2016 Lakes International Comic Art Festival, UK Comics Laureate Charlie Adlard has not rested on his laurels. Carole Tait reports…
The Comics Laureate is an ambassadorial and educational role for the comic medium and aims to raise awareness of the impact comics can have in terms of increasing literacy and creativity. The appointment is made biennially to a distinguished comics creator, writer or artist in recognition of their outstanding achievement in the medium.
Working closely with the Lakes International Comics Art Festival, the Comics Laureate – a post which counts Lancaster University as its main sponsor – champions the role of comics in improving literacy through a programme of educational visits, workshop events, guest appearances and conferences. A key focus will be working to increase the acceptance of comics as a creative art form in schools, libraries and throughout the education system.
Charlie Adlard, who picked up the baton from Dave Gibbons last October, is the artist behind the highly successful The Walking Dead comic series, now a popular TV series and video game. He’s also worked on many other comic projects including 2000AD, Mars Attacks, The X-Files and X-Men.
Having worked with a team of comics experts including Paul Register, Dave Gibbons, Mel Gibson, Bryan Talbot, Ian Churchill, Gemma Sosnowsky and Peters’ Books, Charlie’s first job of his tenure was to help produce the updated Comics Laureate Reading List, recommended graphic novel reading lists for children aged 8-11, teenagers aged 11-16 – and suggestions for comic readers over 16.
The lists include titles such as Bunny Vs Monkey and Hilda the Troll, Charley’s War, Jem and the Holograms, and more adult-leaning fare such as V for Vendetta, Watchmen, The Walking Dead and The Tale of One Bad Rat.
This was closely followed by Charlie’s first educational/ambassadorial appearance at Peters’ Books in Birmingham. During this Comics Laureate launch event in March 2017, he gave a presentation to two groups of educators – primary and secondary teachers and librarians. he talked about his own background and what got him hooked on comics, and the sessions went on to discuss the importance of comics as an aid to literacy, and included some fun workshop activities as well as a lively Q&A session.
Charlie’s next appearance was his first overseas outing, as keynote speaker at the Toronto Comic Art Festival’s Librarian and Educator Day. Charlie kicked off the day by giving a presentation to more than 150 educators, explaining the aims of the UK Comics Laureate, his motivation for taking up the role, and the describing some of the activities he would be undertaking to spread the word about Comics as an aid to literacy. The debate was lively and informed and some interesting ideas were put forward by the attendees.
Charlie’s next appearance as UK Comics Laureate was at the 22nd Amiens Comic Art Festival in July. He made two appearances: a presentation in English about the work and aims of the Comics Laureate, followed by an interview about his career as an illustrator. Both were very well attended and Charlie enjoyed the novelty of speaking via a translator!
On 10th October 2017, Charlie resumed his Comics Laureate appearances in the UK – with two events taking place in Lancaster.
Hosted by Lancaster University, he gave a joint presentation at the Storey Gallery. The event was attended by a wide range of educators and community team leaders interested in the comic form on the role of the Comics Laureate and comics as an aid to literacy, with Doctor Natasa Lackovic, a lecturer and Educational Researcher from the University.
This was followed by a public event at the town’s Grand Theatre, an interview with Dr Andrew Tate about the life and work of an illustrator.
Charlie’s final appearance of 2017 was another double header, with a presentation to students at Dundee University on Friday 10th November, followed by a public interview about his career as an illustrator; the latter event was attended by approximately 150 people.
2018 promises to be another exciting year for the Comics Laureate with a busy schedule of appearances already being lined up, starting with an appearance at the Angouleme Festival (45e Festival de la Bande Dessinée d’Angoulême) at the end of January.
In February, Charlie will give a talk to students at The Woodlands Centre, a special school in Shropshire; and will be giving a presentation to students at East Ayrshire Schools, Kilmarnock, in May.
In September he’s appearing as Comics Laureate at the Finnish Comics Festival in Helsinki, and will be involved in events at next year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival and other Lancaster University Comics Laureate events.
More events are in the works, both in the UK and abroad.
Says Charlie: “It’s been a great honour to be the Comics Laureate. The first year has been very fulfilling in terms of objectives achieved, people I’ve met, and places I’ve visited.
“I’m so very glad to have been given this opportunity and hopefully I’ll be able to carry the knowledge gained from year one into my next year. I can’t wait!”
• More about the Comics Laureate on the Lakes International Comic Art Festival web site | The Lakes International Comic Art Festival returns 12th – 14th October 2018. Web: www.comicartfestival.com
• For information on the Comics Laureate’s upcoming appearances please contact the Lakes International Comic Art Festival
The Comics Laureate post main sponsor is Lancaster University, supported by Peters Books and Crescent Purchasing Consortium. Thanks also to Bryan Talbot for his support