British Comics Unmasked In Major New British Library Exhibition

The UK’s biggest ever exhibition of British comics will be one of the high-points of the British Library’s 2014 exhibition season. This spring will see the opening of ‘Comics Unmasked’, featuring unseen comics, original artwork and bizarre objects exploring the form’s tumultuous history. From newly discovered Victorian comics to iconic titles such as V for Vendetta and Batman, Comics Unmasked will explore political and social issues raised by British comics and their creators over the last century, from violence and drugs to class and sexuality.

Today the Library revealed a rare and little-known comic book from their archives, The Trials of Nasty Tales, an early example of an underground work by Dave Gibbons of Watchmen fame. The comic relates the story of the short-lived ‘Nasty Tales’ series which stood trial for obscenity charges in the early 1970s for its graphic content, an incident which crystallised the perception of the comics industry as a vehicle of subversion and dissent.  The Trials of Nasty Tales, Watchmen and many more titles both rare and iconic will be on display in Comics Unmasked this May.

 Roly Keating, the chief executive of the library, said; “I think it’s fair to say, if we’re being honest, we haven’t necessarily devoted to that sector of our collection the scholarly and curatorial effort we’ve devoted to some of the higher culture parts.“I’m delighted to say that this year we are addressing that, putting that to rights with a vengeance.”

Adrian Edwards, internal curator at the library, added the comics should be “taken seriously as a research tool”, in line with the great works of literature and “any other primary source”.  

Photo: Courtesy of the British Library © 2014

Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK (2 May – 19 August 2014)

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