Paul Gravett is a London-based freelance journalist, curator, lecturer, writer and broadcaster, who has worked in comics publishing and promotion since 1981.
In the early 1980s he manned the Fast Fiction table at the bi-monthly Saturday comic marts held in London's Westminster Hall, inviting anybody to sell their homemade comics from it, with all proceeds going to the creator. This role earned him the nickname 'Man At The Crossroads' from Eddie Campbell in his graphic novel Alec: How To Be An Artist, "He will be the purest, most fresh-faced wee fellow you have ever met. His ingenuous enthusiasm will beam from his cheery countenance."
Alec: How To Be An Artist
by Eddie Campbell
In 1981 he started his first proper paid job at pssst! magazine, a brave but misguided attempt at a British version of a luxurious monthly bande dessinee magazine that typically sold well in France. He worked in a variety of positions at pssst! - as promotions man, traffic manager, coordinating artwork and interviewing potential contributors - but crucially he had no say in the magazine's content and eventually he became frustrated seeing great material being rejected.
In 1983 he launched Escape Magazine, which he co-edited/published with Peter Stanbury, showcasing the cream of the alternative cartoonists of the 1980s. Escape lasted for 19 issues before closing its doors in 1989. For six years, Escape helped to promote an evolving bunch of distinctive British creators, many of whom were quickly picked up by other comics publishers and by the UK music press, newspapers, magazines and galleries. The Comics Journal in #210 said of Escape, "This now-defunct London based anthology remains one of the most sorely missed comics of all time not simply because of its tremendous track record of translating European comics but simply because it was always good in so many ways."
Under the Escape Publishing imprint, he co-published Violent Cases in 1987, the first collaboration between Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, three volumes of Eddie Campbell's Alec between 1984 and 1986, and London's Dark in 1988 by James Robinson and Paul Johnson.
Noted comic writer Warren Ellis latter commented, "...Paul, with his longtime partner Peter Stanbury, was running the small press anthology Fast Fiction, the Fast Fiction stand at the bimonthly Westminster Comics Marts where the small press books were sold, and launching Escape - an excellent European-style professional comics magazine whose book-publishing arm led directly to the careers of James Robinson, Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman."
Between 1992 and 2001 he was the director of The Cartoon Art Trust, a UK charity established in 1988, dedicated to preserving and promoting the best of British cartoon art and caricature and to establish a museum of cartoon art with gallery, archives and reference library.
The Dead Muse
by Eddie Campbell
He has curated numerous exhibitions of comic art in Britain and in Europe, including 'God Save The Comics!', a survey of British comic art at the National Comics and Image Centre in Angoulême, France and the first exhibit devoted to the writer Alan Moore and his collaborators at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Charleroi, Belgium. As Project Director of The Cartoon Art Trust in London, he worked on tributes to Carl Giles and Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts, and The 100 British Cartoonists of the Century. His most recent exhibitions include retrospectives on Jack Kirby, Tove Jansson and Posy Simmonds.
Since 2003, Paul has been the director of Comica, the London International Comics Festival, initially at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. Since 2011, Comica has been an independent not-for-profit organisation running both the annual festival and other events and exhibitions throughout the year.
Paul is the author of the book Manga: 60 Years Of Japanese Comics (2004), and co-author, with Peter Stanbury, of Graphic Novels: Stories To Change Your Life (2005), Great British Comics: Celebrating A Century Of Ripping Yarns & Wizard Wheezes (2006) and The Leather Nun & Other Incredibly Strange Comics (2008). He is also the editor of The Mammoth Book Of Best Crime Comics (2008) and 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die (2011).
On television he has been a consultant and interview subject on The South Bank Show's programme Manga Mania (2006) and BBC4's documentary series Comics Britannia (2007). Also, he appeared as interview subject in the DVD documentary The Mindscape Of Alan Moore (2007).
He continues to write about comics for various periodicals, including The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, The Times Literary Supplement, ArtReview, The Comics Journal, Comic Heroes, Time Out, Blueprint, Neo, The Bookseller, Dazed & Confused, New Internationalist, Third Text, 9eme Art and The Jewish Quarterly.
His latest books are Comics Art, published by Tate Publishing (2013) and Yale University Press (2014), and Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK with John Harris Dunning, published by The British Library. This accompanies the exhibition of the same name at The British Library, the largest exhibition of British comics ever held in the UK, which attracted some 60,000 visitors between May 2nd and August 19th 2014.
Eddie Campbell documents the UK explosion of small press comic creators in the 1980s and the subsequent rise of the graphic novel in Alec: How To Be An Artist and The Dead Muse.