New exhibition to explore the art and history of British War Comics


New exhibition to explore the art and history of British War Comics. Image (cropped): Gun Duel cover (Battle Picture Library, 1967) by Graham Cotton (Copyright Rebellion Publishing)
New exhibition to explore the art and history of British War Comics. Image (cropped): Gun Duel cover (Battle Picture Library, 1967) by Graham Cotton (Copyright Rebellion Publishing)

The county’s military history museum is collaborating with Oxford-based Rebellion Publishing on the new exhibition that will offer visitors a chance to explore the history of British war comics through the archives of classic comic titles such as War Picture Library and Battle Action.

Hugely popular today, Britain has been publishing comics continuously for over 130 years. During that time, conflict has remained a staple of comic book storytelling, and by the 1960s and 1970s, war stories were the most popular genre.

The exhibition, featuring original comic artwork on public display for the first time, tells the story of war comics decade by decade – From satirical comic strips and patriotic illustrated story papers of 19th Century and early 20th Century to the revolutionary comics of the 1970s, which presented much more gritty, authentic and emotionally-charged stories.

Long-time readers of comics will be given a nostalgic look back at some of their favourites, while younger and more recent fans will gain an insight into how their favourite medium has developed over the years.

Drawing on Rebellion’s extensive archives, the exhibition features artwork from the very best of British comics – taking in spectacular covers and action-packed panels from the War Picture Library, Battle Picture Weekly and Battle Action.

Battle Action, which Rebellion have recently revived with the work of renowned comic writers and artists such as Garth Ennis (Preacher, The Boys), Keith Burns (Commando Comics, Johnny Red) and Dab Abnett (Warhammer 40k, Marvel Comics), features heavily throughout.

The comic, which was known as Battle Picture Weekly before merging with Action comics in 1977, notably featured the series Charley’s War by Pat Mills and Jo Colquhoun – regarded as one of the greatest war comics of all time.

Following its working-class hero from underage recruit in 1914 through almost every major event of the war, the strip sees Charley lose friends in battle, portraying the human cost of war through the eyes of an ordinary soldier.

The incredible artwork on display will includes original 1983 Charley’s War panels by Mill and Colquhoun, alongside full colour original artwork from Jordi Penalva (Bulldog Breed, 1965), Giorgio de Gaspari (Spy 13, 1959) and Graham Cotton (Gun Duel, 1967).

Alongside much to capture the interest and imagination of adults, the exhibition will offer younger visitors the chance to discover how comics are made and have a go at creating comics themselves.

Into Battle: The Art of British War Comics has been proudly sponsored by Ridge, multidisciplinary property and construction consultants. Partner Mark Richards said of the exhibition, “Ridge is delighted to support the local community near its Oxford office with a new exhibition showcasing the best British war comics. 

“Supporting this exhibition on British war comics celebrates the rich history and honours the bravery and sacrifices of soldiers while promoting cultural engagement and education in our community.

“This exhibition will showcase the best of British war comics, providing a platform to appreciate the storytelling, artwork, and historical significance they offer, which Ridge is proud to be a part of.”

Into Battle: The Art of British War Comics will open to visitors at Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock from 01 October 2023, and will run until 30 April 2024.

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