Liam Sharp's commendation video transcript

Liam Sharp

STEPHEN SMITH: And now we come to our honorary award. These are awarded by the University in recognition of somebody who has made a very significant contribution in their particular field. And I now have great pleasure in inviting Professor Keith McLay, Provost Learning and Teaching, to give the commendation for the conferment of the honorary degree of Doctor of the University to Liam Sharp.

PROFESSOR KEITH MCLAY: Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Pro-Chancellor, Vice Lord Lieutenant, High Sheriff, honoured guests, Mayor of Derby, graduands of 2022 and all our guests here today. It gives me great pleasure to be presenting Liam sharp for the award of Honorary Doctor of the University.

Liam is a Derby born publisher, artist and writer of comics and novels. He has worked on major titles for DC and Marvel, including 'The Hulk', 'The XMen', 'Spiderman', 'Batman', 'Superman' and 'Wonder Woman', and he recently completed an acclaimed 24-issue run on 'The Green Lantern' with legendary writer Grant Morrison. Liam is currently working on an epic creator-owned series for Image Comics called 'StarHenge' - a sprawling saga across time, based on the legend of Merlin. 

Currently living in California, on the west coast of the United States of America and having been back in Derby for a few weeks, Liam realises just how rubbish the Californian weather is. And notwithstanding weather, however, Liam retains a strong connection to Derby and Derbyshire which he has included in much of his work throughout his career. In a recent interview with 'The Comics Journal', Liam articulated his appreciation for Derby stating, 'I will always be a Derby lad. It's in my bones! I might once have tried to step away from that, but now I embrace it and I'm proud of it.' 

Liam's talent for art was spotted at an early age by his teachers at Lawn Primary School in Allestree, Derby. He won an art scholarship through a private boarding school in Eastbourne, then Eastbourne College, and was offered a place at Ruskin College, Oxford. But at the age of 17 he secured his dream job through his hero, the British comic artist Don Lawrence - he took the job and never looked back.

Aside from a prolific career in comics, Liam spent some time working in Hollywood. For the film 'Lost in Space' he painted cityscapes and early production designs while for the film 'Small Soldiers' he designed the main hero toy, Archer, and his assorted band of Gorgonites. Liam has been a pioneering publisher in the traditional and digital realms, supporting new and unknown creators over the years.  

In 2017 Derby Museum celebrated Liam's career with a 10-week retrospective from his work on '2000 AD' to 'Wonder Woman' and he was recently awarded a wrought-iron and mosaic star in the city's Made in Derby 2 campaign, which can be found outside the Standing Order pub in the Cathedral Quarter.  

Liam is joined today by his mum, Linda; dad, Roger; wife, Christina; and children, Matylda and Jeff.  

Chancellor, in recognition of his international career and his impact in the world of comics, we are delighted to award Liam Sharp the honorary degree of Doctor of the University.

LIAM SHARP: I don't quite believe this, thank you. Forgive me, I'm flustered. Wow, okay.

Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, Pro-Chancellor, Vice-Lord Lieutenant, High Sheriff, honoured guests, Mayor of Derby and most importantly, you guys, the graduands of 2022. And all of the rest of the guests who are gathered today, it's just very special.

Being presented this and this opportunity to receive an Honorary Doctorate gave me a huge pause for thought actually, and it led me to sort of think about a lot of the choices I've made along the way and the chances I've taken that have brought me here.  

And it also led me to think about my earliest years, and my dreams and aspirations and the people that supported me along the way, no matter how preposterous and strange that ambition might have seemed at the time. 

I wanted to draw comics, I really wanted to draw comics, which was a crazy  thing back then. It doesn't seem that odd anymore, it seems probably to some people like a really good career choice. But back in the 70s and 80s, particularly in the, well not particularly in the Midlands, I mean it was all over, you know; there was a different view of comics back then. It was like asking to live on the moon or something, nobody had the vaguest idea of what that was really or how you could find your way into that medium or get a job in it.  

It was sort of completely opaque and nobody knew how to do it. But I knew that that's what I wanted to do and in that singular belief I was trusted by those that loved me, and in particular my parents. And they are, obviously as you heard, here with me today.

I wondered for a while why I deserved this doctorate, why I deserve this honour today in the present company, and some of the other honorands. I feel very much an imposter if I'm honest.  

But then I thought about what my personal journey might represent and what could be taken from that. I chose the path I chose not through any notion of riches or fame, but through a passion for this crazy underdog narrative form of art. It was made up of words and pictures confined to boxes and called comic books.  

I believed in a dream that seemed impossible, but it was so wonderfully enchanting to me and I doggedly stuck to it. No matter what I was told. Not by other artists, not by art agencies, but even more memorably, once a university professor. No matter how much my work was belittled, disregarded, or discouraged I knew they were wrong. It didn't really matter what they thought. And now things are very different as evidenced.  

You know, in the last 15 years preconceptions have changed a lot, I mean radically changed, and that's kind of what they represent. It's the power of dreams and the ability to change the world in small and sometimes great ways. So I'm very proud to be part of that change.

You're on a threshold of your future lives, so don't be afraid to believe in yourself, no matter what you're told. You know innately what's worth fighting for. I'm not talking about riches, or possessions, or acquisitions. Those kinds of things can distract us and sometimes they can inspire us to work a little harder to achieve those dreams, but they're not the actual dreams.  

So, I encourage you always, in any of the tougher times which will inevitably come to everybody, ask yourself why, why am I doing this, is it truly who I am, why am I unhappy, have I forgotten what I wanted to do, and why did I want to do this, what inspires me, what excited me, what did it feel like I could do this forever, and why doesn't it feel like that now.

Never be afraid to trust your instincts, don't be bullied either. Don't stop trusting this, your heart, don't be guided solely by the advice of others, only you know who you truly are and what dreams may come. Also, I would say, tread lightly on the world and do it with kindness. Whatever the situation, make kindness a default.  

We all have bad days, so bear that in mind in your dealings with others. How you exemplify yourself will reflect on you through absolutely everything you do. It'll be a factor in work, love and play. It will have a bearing on the kind of friends you have, the families you might raise and the trust that people have in you. Whatever and wherever you are, and whatever you're doing, it will guide how you think about the wider world and inform you regarding the needs of all humanity. 

Kindness allows you to walk in the footsteps of all people with a level of empathy. Beyond the horrors of the news, and we've only got to go online and just see what's happening on social media, to know that right now we really need that kindness.  

So lastly, before you get that postgraduate selfie, think about the people who helped you get here and who supported you and it might be a parent, it might be one specific teacher or lecturer, it might be a close friend that really loves and understands you. Take a moment to think about them and at some point thank them.  

Mum, dad, and my beautiful wife and love of my life, Christina, thank you! This is for you and it's the reason I'm very happy to accept this Doctorate today. So all my very best wishes for all of you and please enjoy the rest of this amazing day, my legs are shaking!

Liam Sharp's commendation video

Back to Liam Sharp