If you’re into anti-heroes, graphic novels and comics ranging from Beano to Viz and you delight in a bit of healthy subversion, head for the British Library and see a new exhibition called Comics Unmasked. Opening in London on 2nd May, and running until 19th August, it’s the UK’s largest ever exhibition of mainstream and underground comics.
Pass though the library shop, where you’ll see a tempting array of comic inspired merchandise, (spot the Anglepoise® lamps), and enter the exhibition. Once inside you’ll quickly become immersed in the subversive and revelatory world of comics, from the earliest pioneers to today’s digital innovators.
Exhibition curators Adrian Edwards, John Harris Dunning and Paul Gravett have plundered the library’s extensive archive of graphic art, including the sometimes weird and wonderful output of the British comics industry. The work they showcase uncompromisingly address topics ranging from politics, gender and violence to sexuality and altered states.
Featuring iconic names, such as Neil Gaiman (Sandman), Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta), Grant Morrison (Batman: Arkham Asylum) and Posy Simmonds (Tamara Drewe), Comics Unmasked traces the British comics tradition back through classic 1970s titles including 2000AD, Action and Misty to 19th-century illustrated reports of Jack the Ripper and beyond.
With sedition and rebellion at the core, the exhibition sets out to explode a few myths, not least that the publications are all about superheroes and that reading them is only for boys. Surprisingly it also reveals that even the Victorians had comics. Who would have known?
Comics Unmasked is a The British Library until 19th August
Open hours: Mon - Fri: 10.00 - 18.00 (Tue: open until 20.00), Sat: 10.00 - 17.00, Sun: 11.00 - 17.00
You can advance book online or by phone +44 (0)1937 546546
Images feature (from top): British Library Comics Unmasked shop window display, Jamie Hewlett's brand new two-panel comic design for Comics Unmasked at the British Library © Jamie Hewlett, Misty - well-known 1978 dark female comic book of supernatural and horror stories, photograph © British Library Board, Anglepoise® Original1227™ Mini on sale in the British Library shop. British Library window and shop displays by Exhibeo Visual Merchandising services, photography Anna Bakosova