Cartoon Cats and Gormenghast too – British Library Comics and Art Events for autumn 2018

The list of talks at the British Library this autumn has been released and there are some great events for comics and fantasy novel fans, featuring some terrific creators from both the UK and Europe.

We’re Still At War front cover

We’re Still At War front cover

First up is “European Graphic Novels: Drawing Untold Stories“, chaired by author Paul Gravett on 16th October. The talk probes the whole area of how visual narratives can be used to tell personal stories, exploring how graphic novels are proving themselves the unlikely arena for European artists and writers to come to confront difficult and untold 20th-century experiences.

Joining Paul on stage will be Czech artists Tomas Kucerovsky and Toy Box (who will also be at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival over the preceding weekend), two of the authors of the collective project We’re Still at War. Also at the event will be German-American author and illustrator Nora Krug (Heimat), to find out what drew them to tell personal and collective stories in graphic form.

We’re Still At War sold more than 13,000 copies in the original Czech edition. The book features documentary comics in the style of Art Spiegelman’s Maus, combining oral history with high artistry and contains 13 testimonies by people who experienced a totalitarian regime, either Nazi rule or communism.

Heimat by Nora Krug is a powerful and deeply affecting graphic memoir that explores identity, guilt and the meaning of home for a post-war German. Nora documents her journey investigating the lives of her family members under the Nazi regime, visually charting her way back to a country still tainted by war.

This event is brought to the British Library In collaboration with the Czech Centre London and Karolinum Press, supported by CzechLit – Czech Literary Centre, a section of the Moravian Library. Presented in partnership with EUNIC and the European Writers’ Tour.

Prunesquallors from Gormenghast, courtesy of the Mervyn Peake Estate

Prunesquallors from Gormenghast, courtesy of the Mervyn Peake Estate

On Friday 2nd November there’s a celebration of the work of author Mervyn Peake, creator of Gormenghast.

Mervyn Peake, who died 50 years ago, was a prolific and astonishingly original writer and artist. Best known today for creating the tangled world of Gormenghast he was also an accomplished painter, playwright, illustrator and poet.

With readings by Miranda Richardson, this celebration of his life and work includes contributions by writer Neil Gaiman, currently adapting Gormenghast for the screen, author Liz Jensen, and illustrator and writer Chris Riddell.

The British Library is home to the Peake Archive and the event is at the Library in collaboration and with thanks to Clare Penate and Fabian Peake.

Alan Lee's cover illustration for “The Fall of Gondolin”

Alan Lee’s cover illustration for “The Fall of Gondolin”

Tolkien’s World with artist Alan Lee and others takes place on Friday 16th November.

Celebrating the stories of Middle-earth and their Anglo-Saxon connections, this year has seen the publication of JRR Tolkien’s The Fall of Gondolin, his tale of a beautiful, mysterious city destroyed by dark forces which The Lord of the Rings author called ‘the first real story’ of Middle-earth; a template for everything he wrote afterwards. It is expected to be the last of the series edited by Tolkien’s son Christopher.

Artist Alan Lee is joined by Tolkien experts Mark Atherton and John Garth to explore the grand sweep of Tolkien’s world, which has finally come into full view.

Tolkien was a Professor of Old English/Anglo-Saxon and Middle English language and literature at Oxford, and this literature, particularly Beowulf, influenced his own writings. Tolkien also based the people of Rohan, the Rohirrim, on the historical Anglo-Saxons giving them Anglo-Saxon names, customs, and poetry.

Mark Atherton is Lecturer in English at the University of Oxford. A specialist in Old English language and narrative prose, he is also author of There and Back Again: J R R Tolkien and the Origins of The Hobbit (2012) and Teach Yourself Complete Old English (Anglo-Saxon) (2010)

John Garth is a journalist and leading Tolkien specialist. He is author of the acclaimed biographical Tolkien and the Great War, winner of the Mythopoeic Award for Scholarship 2004 and the definitive study of Tolkien’s undergraduate life, Tolkien at Exeter College.

Alan Lee is a renowned British artist. He has illustrated numerous Tolkien books and calendars and together with John Howe was a concept artist for both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film series.

The talk will be followed by a book signing.

Cartoon Cats. Images © Gilbert Shelton and Posy Simmonds

Cartoon Cats. Images © Gilbert Shelton and Posy Simmonds

Finally, on 25th November, at Cartoon Cats, discover the felines of the graphic novel world during a conversation between two leading artists about their own cat characters and others: Gilbert Shelton, American cartoonist and creator of Fat Freddy’s Cat, and Posy Simmonds, British graphic novelist, newspaper cartoonist, writer, and author of Fred and Baker Cat.

All these events (and many more) take place at the Knowledge Centre, The British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB. Tickets go on sale soon for all and are already available to Library members. Enquiries: 01937 546546 |

European Graphic Novels: Drawing Untold Stories 7.15 – 8.30pm, Tuesday 16th October 2018

Peake Under the Covers: The Master of Gormenghast 7.00 – 8.30pm Friday 2nd November 2018

Tolkien’s World 7.00 – 8.30pm Friday 16th November 2018

Cartoon Cats: Gilbert Shelton and Posy Simmonds 3.00 – 4.30pm Sunday 25th November 2018

• For all upcoming British Library events visit

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