On Saturday morning I had a look around the new Comics Unmasked exhibition at the British Library.
Another occasion where my Art Pass came in handy, I had a great time taking a leisurely stroll around the show and seeing how much stuff on display I recognised, or even owned.
I've liked comics for as long as I can remember, although I stopped buying them for a long time and have only bought a few in more recent years. Dipping my toes in the water again, the first thing I noticed was how beautiful the production quality had become, even for smaller press and limited edition work. The comics and graphic novel scene has really come of age over the past twenty years.
There are a lot of different styles on display here but the most interesting parts for me cover the 60's onwards. As part of the breakdowns (the psychedelic bit), we even get some Crowley and Burroughs. I'd known of the infamous "kids" issue of Oz, and knew of the obscenity trial, but never actually seen it: and now see Rupert the Bear in a different light (even it was really ripping off Crumb basically).
Thankfully, Rupert Bear was not represented elsewhere in the show.
Yes, lots of subversion, and politics, generally left-wing, although some a more finely tuned flavour of anarchism. The agitations of the 60's and 70's seem to have been diluted somewhat and is less crude. You might say grown-up really, and I'd say that the end result is a lot better (and funnier).
Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta etc.) is very well represented, and deservedly so. But many other comics writers and artists are also given good exposure here, including Grant Morrison, Dave McKean, Pat Mills, Simon Bisley, Pete Milligan, Brendan McCarthy, Jamie Hewlett, Posy Simmonds and Bryan Talbot.
An amazing amount of talent has flowed from these islands over the past 30-40 years.
A lot of memories were brought back here for me. I still have a lot of comics and art stacked away, unseen for quite a long time now, and I'm feeling an urge to dig it all out again. Like most things nowadays though, it all comes down to time and, in this instance, space. Space to stretch it all out and digest it properly.
Afterwards, I resisted the temptation to scramble down to the nearest comics shop and spend loads of money. That's what the exhibition shop was for!