Paul Gravett is co-curator of our current exhibition 'The Story of British Comics So Far: Cor! By Gum! Zarjaz!', part of the team behind Comica London, and organiser of the Comiket comics market this Saturday at The Lightbox. With all of this happening, we decided it was time to get to know a bit more about Paul and all the exciting upcoming comics-themed events! 

More information on Comiket HERE.
Book tickets for Paul's talk with Peter Hampson HERE.
Book tickets for talk with graphic novelist Gareth Brookes HERE.
Book tickets for talk with creator of Watchmen Dave Gibbons HERE.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you turned your love of comics into a career?

I’m a London-based writer, curator, publisher and festival director specialising in comics art from Britain and around the world. As an Essex boy, I became fascinated by comics from an early age. My younger brother and I eagerly anticipated TV21 and Look & Learn dropping through the letterbox once a week. Like lots of kids, I also wrote and drew my own, and showed them to my school friends. As I swapped comics at school and discovered American comic books, in British reprints and then in their imported original form, my fascination deepened and became international. I never grew out of comics, I grew up with them and they have spoken to me throughout my life. And I enjoy sharing my passion for this medium, because I believe there is a comic out there for every single person.

You worked with The Lightbox team on curating our current exhibition ‘The Story of British Comics So Far: Cor! By Gum! Zarjaz!’ How did you find that experience, and are there any pieces in the exhibition which you are particularly fond of?

I first heard from the exhibition’s co-curator, Hamish MacGillivray, when he was putting together The Lightbox’s ‘Alien Invasion’ exhibition in 2013 and helped him source some comics artwork for this. So it was a great pleasure to be brought in to co-curate this comics exhibition. Hamish was a delight to work with, full of enthusiasm and creative ideas combined with vital practicality. In fact, the whole Lightbox team brought such energy and imagination to making this show a success. I’m particularly pleased that we were able to commission Asia Alfasi to design our characters Alan and Zara to guide visitors round. And I had the chance to spend an afternoon looking through Peter Hansen’s converted barn full to bursting with astonishing British comics treasures and pick out a few to display at The Lightbox. 

What can we expect from the Comiket Independent Comics Market coming to The Lightbox?

Expect to be surprised by discovering just some of the unique, creator-owned independent comics and graphic novels, many of which you may never have seen anywhere before. There’s such a dynamism to the British small press and self-publishing comics scene right now and I enjoy giving the public the opportunity to explore this and meet and buy from their creators at our free Comikets. The sheer talent and variety on offer here demonstrate what comics are capable of. And by the way, a ‘Comiket' is originally a Japanese abbreviation for a comics market.

Who are some of your favourite artists participating in the ‘Fabulous Drawing Parade’ live drawing throughout the event?

It’s impossible to choose, to be honest. I think there’s something inspiring and magical about watching how a drawing comes to life on the page before your very eyes. Each artist gets 30 minutes, so they are not making a quick sketch but can work on a more developed drawing and demonstrate their techniques. For many visitors, the Drawing Parade is how their eyes are first opened to a comics artist’s work. Many visitors go on to buy their books and comics. I’m particularly happy that Nick Hayes is opening the Parade and will bring along and sign the first advance copies of his beautiful brand-new graphic novel from Jonathan Cape entitled ‘Cormorance’. And we have local artists taking part too like Gareth Brookes, Brigid Deacon and Kripa Joshi. 

As well as Comiket, we’re also lucky to have a talk the same evening in which you’ll be in conversation with Peter Hampson, son of Dan Dare creator Frank Hampson. What are you looking forward to chatting with him about?

Talking with Peter Hampson will be the next best thing to talking with Frank Hampson himself. Nowhere else in the world in the early Fifties was any other comics artist creating such a vibrant vision of the future in comics in fully painted colour as in Dan Dare in Eagle. It transformed the medium and millions of young readers’ lives. I’m hoping to get real insights into Hampson as a creator, innovator and visionary - and as a father. Peter is sharing lots of rarely seen drawings and artefacts, and signing copies of a rare print of Dare’s initial incarnation as ‘Chaplain Dan Dare’ from the prototype Eagle dummy. And it’s in aid of The Lightbox, so ‘By Gum!’ it’s all for a very worthy cause!

Images: The Story of British Comics So Far © The Lightbox; Alan and Zara © Asia Alfasi, Hamish MacGillivray and The Lightbox; Cormorance © Nick Hayes; Frank Hampson, Dan Dare ‘Voyage to Venus’, Eagle, Vol. 1 No. 14, 14 July 1950, page 2 © Dan Dare Corporation.