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The London Paper published the following Comica feature by Jessica Holland on Tuesday, November 11 2008.

The Big Show: Comica
The genre’s top artists are in town for a graphics fest.

Ian Rankin’s new book isn’t quite like the rest of his output. Expected out next summer, it’s the latest in the comic-book series Hellblazer - and just one more sign that comics are taking over the world.

“Comics got me interested in storytelling,” he says. ‘At an early age, I was trying to write the myself, but my drawings were terrible. Then, just when I was beginning to realise I wanted to be a professional writer, superhero comics were going through a period of real innovation, and I got excited about them all over again.”

Rankin is one of the many luminaries who will be appearing at Comica, a two-week celebration of the art form centred around the Institute of Contemporary Arts, with events at the V&A and Institut Français. Organised by expert Paul Gravett, it encompasses talks by seminal writers Alan Moore and Art Spiegelman, an underground comics fair, an anime double-bill, discussions, and an appearance by Daredevil artist Alex Maleev.

Gravett, a lifelong comics enthusiast and the author of The Leather Nun and Other Incredibly Strange Comics - a collection of bizarre book covers with titles like Amputee Love and The Girl Who Loved The Swastika - organised the first Comica six years ago. “It was a response to the fact that comics are spreading out in so many different directions. They’ve never been quite so multi-faceted.”

With an explosion of manga being translated into English, plus film adaptations from The Dark Knight to Persepolis and Iron Man hooking new fans, and writers such as Philip Pullman and Jodi Picoult turning their hands to the art form, comics are being accepted in the mainstream like never before. But there’s still a way to go.

“It’s a bit like Obama getting elected,” Gravett explains with a laugh. “These things can take a hell of a long time, but over time the understanding of comics and even the ability to read them evolves.” He cites Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus , which deals with the Holocaust, and Moore’s Watchmen , as examples of what can be achieved.

“You can’t tame this medium,” he says, confident that comics will never become so mainstream they lose their special appeal. “There’s no need to worry about gentrification because unconventional work is going to find other ways to get out. In the future, there will be plenty more material to put in a future book of Incredibly Strange Comics . I’m sure of that.”


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"...a two-week celebration of the art form..."
The London Paper

"The ICA treats comics the way they should be: as contemporary art."
Sci Fi London

"...will be talked about by those who saw it for years to come."
Bart Beaty

"...the viewer's efforts were amply rewarded by the superb quality of nearly every comic in the exhibit."
Alison Frank

" of the cultural highlights in London's graphic novel calendar."
Joel Meadows

"The epitome of geekchic, it's most definitely worth checking out."
The Rough Guide To Graphic Novels

"I was about to fall off my chair from overstimulation."
Sarah McIntyre

"The whole affair was very effective as an insight into the creative process of a genius."
Unified Review Theory

" of the most interesting and high quality celebrations of comics the country has ever seen."

"The talk - to a full house - was pleasant, convivial and amusing."
Tim Pilcher