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Curators unmasked at British Library’s major new comics exhibition

May 13, 2014 in Events, General, News

Mannequins with V For Vendetta masks, which have become a symbol of protest, at Comics Unmasked

V For Vendetta masks at the Comics Unmasked exhibition. The masks have become a symbol for protest globally

Kasia Kowalska reports from Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK

“Have we blown your mind?” asked Paul Gravett, the UK’s leading comics expert, at the launch of Comics Unmasked. Together with Adrian Edwards of the British Library and the comics writer John Harris Dunning, he has curated the biggest exhibition of comics in the UK to date.

The simple answer to his question is: Yes.

The exhibition, which features more than 200 exhibits and took two years to prepare, is unapologetic about its ambitions. “There’s a lot of controversial, potentially alarming content here, deliberately to push the boundaries,” said Gravett.

It is organised thematically into six areas, including different sections on sex and politics. Dunning, writer of the comic Salem Brownstone, explained why: “We approached things like politics, sexuality, altered states, social issues, to really highlight the fact comics are a medium that can convey very powerful messages.”

John Harris Dunning and Paul Gravett at the Comics Unmasked opening

John Harris Dunning and Paul Gravett, co-curators of the British Library’s Comics Unmasked exhibition, at the opening

Every section explores these themes through the often troubled history of comics, including looking at the anti-comics movement that led to the formation of the Comics Code in 1950s America. A similar panic happened in the UK.

“The very first exhibition of comics in the UK was an exhibition against comics,” Gravett said. “It was meant to alarm and horrify the opinion formers and parents. Ironically, they also toured a film strip around the country. They took it to schools and we’re convinced that a lot of people didn’t know about the comics before that.”

The exhibition aims to give comics their rightful place as a literary genre and to give the authors the recognition they deserve. “The show is put on to give creators the respect that’s due them. Because that’s really something, I don’t think, that has happened enough in this country,” said Dunning.

Some filth from Porcartoonists.org member Hunt Emerson

Click to enlarge this filth from Procartoonists.org member Hunt Emerson

Dave McKean, creator of Batman: Arkham Asylum and the exhibition’s artistic director, is one of the artists whose work has put British comics creators on the map. Dunning said: “What might surprise certain members of the public is that those are American characters but they’re very much owned by British talent. British comic creators are responsible for the current popularity of superheroes.”

The most controversial part of the exhibition — Let’s Talk About Sex — aims to chart the evolution of erotic comic art and candidly explores complex themes of sexuality. Comics are often associated with men, and sometimes with men who refuse to grow up, yet comic art has been the ideal medium for women creators.

Ceasefire by Angela Martin

Ceasefire by Angela Martin

Throughout its history it has been considered subversive and has often fallen under the radar of those occupying and regulating the mainstream of creative writing. It allows for an unbridled freedom of expression and can often blossom unchecked.

“Thematically, what is interesting is that we find quite a lot of female creators”, said Dunning. “One could believe that this is a very male area but we’ve discovered it’s not really the case.”

Lawless Nelly by Jamie Hewlett

Lawless Nelly by Jamie Hewlett features on the Comics Unmasked posters

The show’s cartoon muse is Lawless Nelly, above, created especially for it by Jamie Hewlett (Tank Girl). She has a literary connection, being named after Ellen Lawless Ternan, mistress of Charles Dickens, “a half forgotten but very powerful woman in the background,” according to Roly Keating, chief executive of the British Library.

What also preoccupies the curators is the future of comics. Their intention is to throw the gauntlet down to the next generation.

“That’s the message: make comics, don’t just read them”, said Gravett. “The final frontier is the internet. Interactive hyper-comics, that’s the next form.”

Comics Unmasked presents its subject as a serious, legitimate and relevant genre. It marries the beauty and draughtsmanship of the art form with storytelling and utilises it as a vehicle to deliver a message.

Jonathan Ross, TV presenter and comics fan, said at the opening: “It’s a remarkable experience waiting for you inside. It still amazes me, and shocks me somewhat [that] we don’t yet have a proper literary appreciation of the incredible work that’s been done here, some of which is as sophisticated, more interesting and more bold than you would find in straightforward prose or fiction.”

Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK is at the British Library until 19 August

Photos by Kasia Kowalska and the British Library

The Round-up

March 3, 2014 in Events, General, Links, News

Handsworth Creative cartoon by Hunt Emerson

© Hunt Emerson/Handsworth Creative cic

Kasia Kowalska writes:

Hunt Emerson, the comics artist and Procartoonists.org member, is helping launch a new project called Handsworth Creative cic.

The “cic” stands for community interest company. The not-for-profit venture is part Lottery-funded and aims to develop creative local history projects by and for the residents of Handsworth, Birmingham. Appropriately, the first product will be a comic, with input from young, aspiring cartoonists, charting the history of the area.

Cartoonists often share work on social networks these days, but Dacs and Own-It emphasise that it’s important to read the small print and have collaborated on an article: Social media: understanding the terms and conditions

What would become of us if we could not grumble? Two familiar PCO names, Andy Davey and Bill Stott, have adopted alter egos in order to let off steam in a new venture titled Men of Letters. There are some rather good cartoons there too, of course.

Bash Street sign

Bash Street becomes reality © The Beano

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of The Bash Street Kids, Dundee has named a street after the notorious Beano characters and has unveiled a unique illustrated sign, above. The Courier has a video of the event.

A different kind of street art can be seen in Newcastle, where a graffiti artist has made a stand against Russia’s “gay propaganda” laws. Meanwhile, Russia has become a focal point for cartoonists in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine, both in Russia and abroad.

A cartoonist in Germany has been accused of anti-Semitism, for depicting Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook as a hook-nosed octopus, after the company acquired WhatsApp. Burkhard Mohr apologised for any offence caused, which he said was unintentional, and provided an alternative cartoon.

Procartoonists.org member Jonathan Pugh is among the nominees for Cartoonist of the Year award at the Press Awards 2013. Other nominees include Peter Brookes, Ingram Pinn, Matt, Chris Riddell and Gerald Scarfe.

In the US, the National Cartoonists Society has published nominations for the 2013 Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year. Bob Mankoff of The New Yorker has more on the difference/overlap between Twitter wisecracks and cartoon captions. Ed Koren, the recently appointed Cartoonist Laureate for Vermont has got stuck in to his new role.

And the award for immortalising the Oscars in cartoon form … goes to Liza Donnelly.

The Round-up

September 1, 2013 in Events, General, Links, News

© Stanley Franklin @Procartoonists.org

Cartoons of Margaret Thatcher – including The Pit and The Pendulum by Stanley Franklin, above, has been showing at Leeds Gallery over the summer. Read a review of the exhibition here.

The British Cartoonists’ Association is on the lookout once again for Young Cartoonists of the Year and will now also accept digitally produced artwork (although a hard copy must be submitted). Find out more about how to enter the contest here.

Artwork from Procartoonists.org member Hunt Emerson‘s adaptations of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Frankenstein will be exhibited by The Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, Cumbria, for one month from 4 October. Read more at downthetubes.net.

Procartoonists.org member Steve Bell discusses his depictions of US presidents in this audio interview and transcript.

Those interested in going behind the scenes with cartoonists and illustrators should check out both The Tools Artists Use and 20 Questions With Cartoonists.

The Oldie, one of the most high-profile markets for UK gag cartoonists, has reached 300 issues. Richard Ingrams, founder of the magazine and former editor of Private Eye, looks back on his time with both organs in this piece from The Telegraph. A new Oldie Book of Cartoons is released next month.

Also due to land on bookshelves and coffee tables in September is Private Eye: A Cartoon History. Edited by longtime Eye man Nick Newman, the book will feature more than 1,000 gags from the past 50 years. It certainly looks jam-packed, if these sample pages are anything to go by.

Ed adds: Late entry from Sarah McIntyre, aka @Jabberworks, at the Telegraph: Comic adventures for kids of all ages.

The Round-up

August 16, 2013 in Events, General, Links, News

Royston's previous talk at Summer Squall 2010

Procartoonists.org writer Royston Robertson will be giving a talk about cartoons on Bank Holiday Monday (26 August) at the Kings Theatre in Ramsgate, as part of the town’s Summer Squall arts festival. The talk begins at 11am and is completely free to attend. Royston will be showing a selection of his published cartoons and talking about the process behind producing a gag cartoon for publication. This will be his second talk for the festival, with his debut in 2010 having been very popular with the public.

Cootehill International Cartoon Festival takes place in County Cavan, Ireland, over the weekend of 14-15 September.  The event will feature workshops, exhibitions and live drawing, and Hunt Emerson, Tim Leatherbarrow and Graeme Keyes are among the cartoonists taking part. Check the festival’s Facebook page for updates.

AFP.com talks to Kash, a political cartoonist who has made a career out of finding humour in the political and social troubles in his native Democratic Republic of Congo. Read the interview here. You can also see Kash draw and hear him talk about his work in this video.

And finally, PCOer Alexander Matthews gives us a behind-the-scenes look at how he arrived at his take on Ball Boy for The Beano.

Avatar of Royston

by Royston

The Round-up

March 29, 2013 in General, Links, News

Birmingham Arts Lab by Hunt Emerson

Birmingham Arts Lab © Hunt Emerson

Hunt Emerson has been interviewed for Birmingham’s Flatpack Festival as part of a respective on the Birmingham Arts Lab, above, the influential arts collective that ran from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. The article is here.

Meanwhile, Pete Ashton, who carried out the interview, talks about meeting one of his cartooning heroes on his blog.

It’s ten years since the invasion of Iraq and The Guardian has a video of Steve Bell talking about his cartoons on the subject. It’s every bit as angry and vitriolic as you might expect.

“Ask most people in Wales to name a famous cartoonist, and the odds are that an overwhelming majority would say Gren” , the BBC correctly surmises, but it points out that J.M. Staniforth,whose work first appeared in 1890, blazed a trail. The work of the Western Mail cartoonist is now being digitised.

The issue of same-sex marriage is as current in the US as it is here, with the matter being discussed by the Supreme Court. The International Business Times has a round-up showing how cartoonists have responded. While The New Yorker has a round-up of marriage cartoons, same-sex and otherwise.

David Cameron drawings by Ian Cater

David Cameron drawings © Ian Cater

Cartoonists are not usually too pleased when politicians approve of their work, but in the case of a series of cartoons of David Cameron, at least it’s in a good cause.

The Prime Minister gave a thumbs-up to the drawings by Ian Cater, above, showing him in the garb of various musical genres, which were originally drawn to publicise the Witney Music Festival, in the PM’s constituency. Now they are being sold to raise money for a local hospice.

The Round-up

January 11, 2013 in General, Links, News

Lord Snooty by Alexander Matthews for The Beano @Procartoonists.org

Procartoonists.org member Alexander Matthews has resurrected Lord Snooty for The Beano (above), and writes about his approach to the character on his blog. Snooty has been absent from the comic for a while (and was even replaced by his grandson for a time). Alex has also recently brought his distinctive style to another classic Beano character, Baby-Face Finlayson.

In more DC Thomson news, former Dandy editor Morris Heggie will be giving a talk about the comic’s 75 years at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh on 15 January. The talk, which follows a cartoon workshop for adults held on Wednesday, complements the library’s ongoing Dandy exhibition. Read more here.

Reassuring news (at least, reasonably reassuring)  for gag cartoonists came from Reader’s Digest (UK) this week, after mass redundancies painted a bleak picture. While the company – which was bought out of administration in 2010 – is downsizing and will no longer sell retail goods, it apparently intends to continue publishing the monthly magazine as normal. Read the story here.

Axe Cop, the bizarre webcomic created by a five-year-old boy and illustrated by his cartoonist older brother, has been made into an animated TV show. Watch a clip here.

And finally, click here to be taken on a brief tour of The Certified Hunt Emerson, an iPad app featuring more than 200 pages of work by the renowned underground cartoonist (and Procartoonists.org member).

 

 

The Round-up

September 21, 2012 in General, Links, News

© Patrick Chappatte for Le Temps (Geneva) @ procartoonists.org

While the latest Charlie Hebdo controversy continues, editorial cartoonists Patrick Chappatte (above) and Kevin Kallaugher comment on the responsibility that comes with cartoonists’ freedom to insult.

Mike Peyton, who has carved out a long and specialist career as a ‘nautical cartoonist’, tells CNN about his work and how he started cartooning in a German POW camp. Read more here.

The Eye Candy festival, to be held in Birmingham next month, will feature “a drop-in sketching session for illustrators, artists and drawing enthusiasts”. See inkygoodness.com, which is organising the session, for more details.

Remember the lady who ‘restored’ a Spanish fresco recently? Like any good commercial artist, she is now demanding royalties.

Finally, there’s just time for a quick plug, as Hunt Emerson – that well-known cartoonist and member of Procartoonists.org – presents his lampooning take on a classic religious allegory

 

The Round-up

August 24, 2012 in General, Links, News

© Martin Rowson for The New Statesman @ procartoonists

After The New Statesman published this cover story in its current edition, The Spectator has responded by calling on the NS to publish more cartoons. Not a bad idea, if we say so ourselves…

Comics expert Paul Gravett interviews illustrator and picture-book author Shaun Tan over on his blog. As prevously mentioned, Tan will be in conversation with Quentin Blake at a Comica event this Monday, for which tickets have sold out.

Following the announcement that The Dandy is to cease printing in December, Charlie Brooker argues that the move to online-only is only natural – and also writes about his own early experiences as a cartoonist. Read the piece here. Elsewhere, Dandy regular Jamie Smart calls on other artists and comic fans to work together for the benefit of the medium. Read his views on the direction comics should take here.

Forbidden Planet has a sneak peak of Hunt Emerson‘s new adaptation of Dante’s Inferno, due out in October.

And finally, just to disprove all those people who think that capturing a likeness is easy…

Cartoonists? We’ve got ‘em

July 10, 2012 in General, News

This blog, we hope you know by now, is run by Procartoonists.org, which is home to the UK’s finest professional cartoonists.

Cartoon by RGJ

Cartoon © Richard Jolley @ Procartoonists.org

We’re happy to announce that several leading names in the cartooning business have decided to join Procartoonists.org recently, including the Private Eye regular RGJ, aka Richard Jolley. He has uploaded a biography and some images here.

This week we are also welcoming Hunt Emerson, the underground comics supremo, Robert Thompson, another Private Eye regular, Rich Skipworth, whose work you will have seen on greetings cards and mugs. UPDATE:  The multi-skilled cartoonist Ian Baker, cartoon below, has also just joined us.

Cartoon: © Ian_Baker_@ procartoonists.org

© Ian_Baker @ procartoonists.org

From these cartoonists of note you can tell that we are a diverse lot. If you are looking to commission cartoons, you’ll find a huge variety of styles to suit your requirements in the portfolios. Take a look at them here.

Bidder-bidder-bidder … Batman!

December 10, 2010 in News

Comic fans have the chance to appear alongside legendary superhero Batman thanks to a fund-raising auction.

This one-off opportunity is part of a sale to support the Comic Book Alliance (previously). It also includes signed comics, books and artwork from the likes of Hunt Emerson, David Lloyd, Bryan Talbot and Alan Moore among many others.

The winner in the Batman bid can choose to be killed by the villain or saved  by Batman in a story illustrated by Chris Burnham and written by Grant Morrison. The story will appear in Batman Inc. number 4, due to be published on 16th February 2011. With bids starting at 99p, the auction will close on the evening of Sunday 12th December.

If, on the other hand, classic Batman is more your thing, there’s a rare opportunity to get your hands on a copy of  Detective Comics number 27 from May 1939, which features the first appearance of the Caped Crusader, in a separate auction in at Dominic Winter Book Auctions in Gloucestershire on 16th December.

(Thanks to downthetubes.net for both stories)