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Brief Published: 14 May 2014

Comics Unmasked


The British Library in London is currently hosting a showcase of the best of British comics, from the work of satirical cartoonists in the 19th century to contemporary digital strips.

The exhibition features work from artists and writers who helped turn the comic strip into a powerful and influential art form. British comics writer Alan Moore features heavily, with particular emphasis placed on his series V For Vendetta, featuring the iconic Guy Fawkes mask later adopted by the Occupy movement.

That’s just one example of how British comics have affected culture, society and politics over the past 50 years. Moore’s mashing of high and low art, and the mining of a rich seam of myth and alternate history, has seeped into popular culture: most recently, the creator of acclaimed HBO TV series True Detective revealed his debt to Moore. See our report The Aesthetics of Hauntology for more on this style.

In terms of art and design, the exhibition is dominated by the work of British artist Dave McKean, a long-time collaborator of UK writer Neil Gaiman (whose novel American Gods will soon be brought to the screen by global media company Fremantle). McKean’s surreal, genre-mashing aesthetic – mixing traditional comic imagery with collage, digital art, photography, and pen and ink, often in the same frame – had a big influence on the look of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. McKean is much in demand beyond the world of comics and has worked with brands including Nike, Smirnoff and BMW.

For more on the influence of comics on art, entertainment and design, see our Digital Storytelling and Comic-Con reports.

Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK runs until 19th August 2014 at the British Library, London.