London’s British Library is staging the UK's biggest comic book exhibition.
Featuring modern day classics like ‘Preacher’, ‘Judge Dredd’ or ‘V for Vendetta’, the show also goes back centuries, highlighting Britain's long history in an art form seen by many as quintessentially American.
The show’s curators hope it will help people see comic books in a whole new light:
“This exhibition goes back to 1470 with an incredible pauper’s Bible which tells Bible stories in comic book form,” says co-curator Paul Gravett. “It uses balloons and monsters and angels and demons and it uses bright garish colours and it could probably be published today in fact, and it shows what a long tradition we’ve had. Britain has been at the forefront of making comics for many, many centuries.”
Divided into six sections ranging from sex to violence, politics and gender identity, the show is an ambitious attempt to map the evolution of British comics in a genre long-known for its subversive message:
“Comics really are dangerous because when trial tests were done, the Pentagon discovered that the most effective way of implanting information into their troops was using comics, not pure text or text with photographs or text with pictures but comics – the most effective way to educate and influence people’s thinking. They work because they engage with both halves of our brain and they require you to be actively involved in reading. It’s not like watching a movie or a TV show, you have to make the comic come to life on the page,” says the show’s Paul Gravett.
Veteran English comic book artist Dave Gibbons, best known for his collaborations with writer Alan Moore, including the miniseries ‘Watchmen’, says he’s delighted with the show:
“Well for someone who’s laboured in comics for much longer than I really care to remember, it’s amazing that it’s now got to this stage that somewhere as prestigious as the British Library would devote all this space to an exhibition,” he says.
‘Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK’ is on at the British Library until mid-August.
Comics Unmasked page