Comics Unmasked is the UK’s largest ever exhibition of mainstream and underground comics, the exhibition is being held at the British Library and ends in just 4 weeks.
For many years comics were seen as childish then dangerous, (for a great article on this look at the Guardian article in the links below) but this time the message is positive, singing the praises of comics as a legitimate art form which addresses serious issues as well as being entertainment.
I finally got around to seeing the exhibition a few days ago and was pleasantly surprised by the breadth and depth of information presented. The atmosphere inside the exhibition was dark and moody, with V for Vendetta masked figures watching you across the exhibition. This sense of unease added to the idea of comics as a powerful and transformative media. Seeing Nazi propaganda comics alongside Young National Front strips was interesting, as a comic fan I have read hundred of comics but this was something new to me. I began to understand how comics could be demonised and shown to be morally questionable in the eyes of the general population. However I was reminded of comedian Frankie Boyles quote,
"I still think that comics are one of the quickest ways to encounter alternative ideas. If all you've done is watch mainstream media, or read the books that get publicity, comics will blow your mind."
I got into comics at a young age, my friend had a few comics but the one that really appealed to me was Iron Man. As I consumed American comics I realised that there was a whole world of British comics that I hadn't engage with (except The Beano and Dandy of course). So I began reading Alan Moore, Bryan Talbot, Neil Gaiman and many more. I was hooked. Looking through the exhibition I was excited to see original Watchmen art alongside the original annotated script and the Arkham Asylum script with annotations. The exhibition showcases work which addresses politics, gender, violence, sexuality and altered states. If you are interested in comics then this is a definite must see.