This is rather interesting news announced at the Lakes Comics Festival today: Dave Gibbons is to become the UK's first Comics Laureate, in conjunction with the launch of new charity, Comics Literacy Awareness (CLAw). The role of comics laureate is to be appointed biennially to a distinguished comics writer or artist in recognition of their outstanding achievement in the field, with a view to championing the medium and children’s literacy through school visits, training events for school staff and education conferences.
Gibbons has worked with DC, Marvel 2000-AD and others over the course of his career, but is best know for his work on the seminal Watchmen. He had this to say on his appointment, a two-year tenure that will begin in February 2015: 'It’s a great honour for me to be nominated as the first Comics Laureate. I intend to do all that I can to promote the acceptance of comics in schools. It’s vitally important not only for the pupils but for the industry too.'
Comics Literacy Awareness (CLAw) is a new UK charity whose primary aim is to improve the literacy levels of children and to promote the variety and quality of comics today, particularly in the education sector. The intention is for the charity to work closely with schools on a number of initiatives, in addition to liasing with museums and galleries on a variety of comics-related projects, and provide reading lists and general guidance to school staff and parents unfamiliar with the comics medium, demonstrating the wider educational benefits it can offer.
The Board of CLAw’s trustees includes renowned graphic novelist Bryan Talbot, Julie Tait, Director of the Lakes International Comic Art Festival; Ian Churchill, comic book artist for DC and Marvel, and writer/artist on his Image Comics title Marineman; Emma Hayley, Managing Director and Publisher of UK’s independent graphic novel company, SelfMadeHero; Paul Register, school librarian and founder of the Stan Lee Excelsior Award; and Dr. Mel Gibson, comics scholar and senior lecturer at Northumbria University.
I think this is a fantastic idea- It would be great to get more kids into comics and all that they can offer at a young age- and an enormously positive move, but as ever, its effectiveness will depend on the extent to which it is carried out within schools in the UK, and its reach, before it can have an impact. I'd be interested to see how schools are chosen, or whether there is a programme to which they can sign up for involvement and so forth.