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On the Books: Dave Gibbons named the first-ever comics laureate

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Dave Gibbons
Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

– Renowned graphic novelist Dave Gibbons became the United Kingdom’s first comics laureate this week. Gibbons—the co-creator of and artist behind the acclaimed Watchmen series—received the title from Comics Literacy Awareness, a U.K. nonprofit that seeks to use comic books to promote child literacy and reading. Gibbons will begin his two-year ambassadorship in February. “He will be championing the role of comics in getting children to read as well as visiting schools and attending training events for staff and education conferences,” according to The Guardian

Gibbons’ influence on the genre has been well-articulated by Lev Grossman in Time, who called him “one of the major comic book artists of the 21st century, or the 20th, or really any other century you care to name.” Gibbons has also worked on esteemed titles like Green Lantern, Batman, and 2000AD.

– While Gibbons champions the power of comics for young people, writer and anthropologist Dana Walrath says they have the potential to benefit another generation, too. Earlier this month, writer and anthropologist Dana Walrath illuminated how comics can play an important role for the elderly in a TEDx Talk called “Comics, Medicine, and Memory.” After her mother fell victim to dementia, Walrath discovered that graphic novels were the optimal storytelling medium to entertain and engage her. She contends that most of the memories Alzheimer’s are able to retain are visual—similarly to very young children—and that the “visual-verbal combination [of comic books] makes up for some of the memory loss and lets content stay sophisticated.” Walrath penned a graphic memoir last year, Aliceheimer’s, chronicling her experiences with her ailing mother Alice. [GalleyCat]

– Speaking of the accessibility of comics for everyone: Offering a free Humble Bundle of Star Wars digital comic books, Dark Horse is.

Last week, the comics publisher democratized a collection of Star Wars graphic novels with the release of a massive digital package at a pay-what-you-want price. Dark Horse says, “fans of the epic sci-fi franchise can pay what they want for up to $190 worth of digital comics, all while supporting a great cause.” Buyers (or freebie-grabbers) can choose whether they want their contributions to support Dark Horse or the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Download it now, you should—the offer began last week and continues until Oct. 29.

– For more comics reading, consider picking up the bestseller The Best American Comics 2014, a comprehensive compilation of the latest and greatest in graphic novel publishing. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s annual collection spotlights comics from print and digital mediums, fiction and nonfiction, in and outside of the mainstream. This year, comics scholar (yes, that’s a thing) Scott McCloud guest-edited the anthology with Bill Kartalopoulos. McCloud is the author of the classic 1994 comics primer Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art.