Last week I attended this conference at the British Library. The conference was held in conjunction with an exhibition there entitled Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK. Held almost 60 years after the National Union of Teachers anti-comic book exhibition at their headquarters, which is literally two minutes around the corner from the King’s Cross address of the British Library this conference and exhibition seemed special to many because it lent some of the Library’s prestige to comics.
Indeed the exhibition is on track to being the Library’s most popular exhibition ever (I think this means since it was split from the British Museum). Due to an illness in the family exhibition organiser and conference mainstay Paul Gravett was a fleeting presence on the opening day and alas not able to attend afterwards. Also absent were Chris Murray, Lawrence Grove, and Matthew Screech the latter two being more on the bande dessinee side. But there were many regulars there like Roger Sabin, Nichola Streeten, Nina Mickwitz, Simon Grennan, Laurike in t’Veld, Ian Hague and of course conference organisers Damon Herd, Julia Round, Joan Ormond, David Huxley. The key notes from Pascal Lefevre and Scott Buktaman were riveting. The evening conversation on Day One with Posy Simmonds and Steve Bell revealed one of the most the subtle English cartoonists and one of the most blunt as a fine match and a nice balance for each other. On Day 2 Mike Carey, Dave Baillie and Mike Perkins took the audience through their careers with some emphasis on their encounters with the American big 2 DC and Marvel. Other highlights included catching up with and hearing the papers of friends like Bart Beaty, Ben Woo, Lim Cheng Tju, Paul Williams, and Michaela Precup. One of the things that stood out for me most was that the conference was indeed international. Manga received a lot of attention and I was fortunate to chair a panel with four excellent papers including one from the very busy Fusami Ogi who previously has organised small scale conferences on women’s manga in Singapore, Hanoi, and Hong Kong with another coming up in Sydney. Next year the conference will be in Paris in conjunction with the Bande Dessinee Socirty’s conference and I am looking forward to that.
Oh and if you have the Sequential app there is a free 150 page catalogue of sorts from the British Library exhibition you can download.