The British Library Has Put Its Extraordinary Collection Of Comics On Display In The UK’s Largest Ever Exhibition

Comics Unmasked is running till August 19.

1. The British Library has put its incredible collection of comics on display in a new exhibition called: “Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK”.

Rebellion A/S / Via British Library

Diceman No5, by Pat Mills and Hunt Emerson.

2. The exhibition is the first chance to see the collection alongside original artwork and scripts loaned from hugely important figures in the comic world, such as Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar.

Jamie Hewlitt / Via British Library

Original artwork for Tank Girl, 1995.

3. With over 200 exhibits, the British Library claims it is the largest exhibition of mainstream and underground comics in the UK.

Bryan Talbot / Via British Library

Adventures of Luther Arkwright Book 1, Bryan Talbot.

4. The library says the collection explores how the art form has broken boundaries.

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The collection looks at comics and graphic novels “which unflinchingly address issues around challenging themes such as sex, violence, race and drugs, but also the inspiration and context behind them”.

5. Comics Unmasked has been curated by the creator of the “Salem Brownstone” series John Harris Dunning, leading UK expert Paul Gravett and Adrian Edwards, the British Library’s Head of Printed Historical Sources.

Dave Gibbons and Richard Adams / Via British Library

6. Commenting on the display, Dunning said:

We hope that this show will stimulate creative disobedience and throw down the gauntlet to young creators – as well as show audiences, who perhaps have not read comics before, what a diverse and exciting medium they are.

The demystification of the process of creating comics is a key part of this exhibition, with once in a lifetime opportunities to see original artwork and scripts from comics greats.

7. There is a huge variety of content on display, including Judge Dredd’s helmet from the film Dredd, worn by Karl Urban and…

Tony Antoniou / Via British Library/DNA Films

8. A medieval ‘comic’ from 1470.

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9. There is also brand new artwork by British artist Jamie Hewlett.

Jamie Hewlett

Jamie Hewlett


The work is a new two-panel design especially for Comics Unmasked.

10. The V for Vendetta masks from the graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd are also scattered throughout the exhibition.

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11. Gravett, co-curator of the show, said:

Much more than childhood nostalgia, comics are a powerful adult medium which can reflect and impact on society and change’s people minds and lives. From the very start, comics have been cross-pollinating with movies, music, theatre and all the other media and today are on the cutting-edge of digital storytelling and multi-media installation art.

12. The adult theme is evidenced in Aleister Crowley’s manuscript of The Diary of a Drug Fiend.

Tony Antoniou / Via British Library/Warburg Institue

13. There is also a section dedicated to the erotic content in comics.

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14. The display looks at sadomasochism, the Swinging Sixties and the high-profile obscenity trials.

Erich von Götha - Robin Ray / Via British Library

Torrid Erotic Art, 1979.

15. Some of the material that the authorities tried to ban and the art created in retaliation is also shown.

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16. The exhibition features comic strips created as public service announcements, such as this anti-smoking message from Superman.

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17. Edwards said: “We’re delighted to be celebrating the tradition of British comics with this landmark exhibition.”

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18. “Few realise how far back the form goes and the library’s collections are unrivalled.”

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19. Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK runs until August 19.

Richard James/BuzzFeed

20. Find out more about the exhibition here.

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