"Comic exhibition to inspire 'generation of naughtiness'"
The British Library launches largest exhibition of comics in the UK, in the hopes of inspiring
children to be "naughty"
January 22nd, 2014
The British Library is to launch the largest exhibition of comic books in UK history, as the curator claims they want to inspire children to be “naughtier and more rebellious”.
The library will use this year’s show to elevate the status of comics as a research tool, arguing they should be given the same weight as primary sources as the greatest works of literature.
The exhibition’s curator, John Harris Dunning, told the Telegraph the display of seditious comics is intended in part to inspire the next generation to be “rebellions, troublesome and naughty”.
Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK will display more than 200 comic books from 1825 to the modern day, including one 1970s work focusing on an obscenity trial.
It is just one of the exhibitions announced for the British Library in 2014, alongside Terror and Wonder, a collection of Gothic literature, the personal archive of author Hanif Kureishi, and archives from the First World War.
The latter, entitled Enduring War: Grief, Grit and Humour, will contain personal poems, diaries and letter written by those in the trenches, who used humour and art to see them through the war, as well as a handwritten draft of Rupert Brooke's The Soldier.
Roly Keating, the chief executive of the library, said of the comic book exhibition: “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”.
Among the works on show will be The Trials of the Nasty Tales, a comic relating to the “Nasty Tales” series which stood trial for obscenity in the 1970s.
John Harris Dunning, comic book expert and co-curator of the exhibition, said he hoped the show would encourage a new generation to continue the rebellious spirit of their predecessors.
“One of the messages is that we’re trying to teach kids to be rebellious,” he said. “There’s such a huge tradition of rebellion in comics, whether it’s about religion, gender, politics, it’s really strong.
“One of the key focuses of this exhibition is sedition and rebellion, and I think British comics have got an incredible legacy of that,” he said. “They’re really rebellious in terms of gender, in terms of sex, in terms of politics, the portrayal of society and race, and I really want that to be highlighted, particularly for the next generation.
“We want kids to be more rebellious and naughtier, and we hope we’re going to teach them that.
“In the 80s or 90s, there is a huge amount of rebellion. They really shook things up.
“We’re trying to showcase that attitude and encourage the next generation of creators to be really naughty.
“So there’ll be a lot of surprising stuff, a lot of controversial stuff as well, and a lot of things the public will be able to engage with.”
The exhibition will run from May to August this year, with the Gothic literature show opening in October and the First World War archives put on display in June.
More than 50 diaries and notebooks belonging to author and playwright Hanif Kureishi have already been acquired by the library and will be held in its collection alongside contemporary writers including Wendy Cope, Graham Swift and former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion.
The writer, whose acclaimed work has included The Buddha Of Suburbia and The Black Album, said he was delighted that his work would be available to a "broad audience", adding he could not imagine it “anywhere else”.
It stretches from a teenage diary written in 1970 to the drafts for his forthcoming novel The Last Word, some of which are in a digital form.