British Library Exhibition Will Feature Comics and “Naughtiness”

Trials of Nasty TalesExciting news! This summer, the British Library in London will be holding the largest exhibition of landmark and historical comics ever presented in the UK. The show, called Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK, will run from May 2 through August 19 and include over 200 works by Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Mark Millar, Grant Morrison, and many more British comics luminaries.

According to British Library chief executive Roly Keating, the exhibition will finally afford comics the same level of “scholarly and curatorial effort we have devoted to some of the higher culture parts of our collection” in the past. Co-curators John Harris Dunning and Paul Gravett aim to explode stereotypes of the genre and embrace comics’ history of dealing with oft-controversial topics such as “gender, violence, sexuality, drug-taking and politics.”

While the entire show sounds fantastic, one item in particular caught our attention: the 1973 underground comic Trials of Nasty Tales, a rare work recounting that year’s obscenity trial over the short-lived series Nasty Tales. Although the series had already ended its run in 1972, the verdict which found the publishers not guilty of distributing obscenity paved the way for the flourishing of British underground comics in the years to come. Dunning says he hopes Comics Unmasked might inspire similar exploration in the next generation of creators:

One of the key focuses of this exhibition is sedition and rebellion, and I think British comics have got an incredible legacy of that. They’re really rebellious in terms of gender, in terms of sex, in terms of politics, the portrayal of society and race, and I really want that to be highlighted, particularly for the next generation. We want kids to be more rebellious and naughtier, and we hope we’re going to teach them that.

If you’ll be in London this summer, check it out! The standard entry fee for British Library exhibitions is £9, with reduced price or free tickets for students, seniors, children, and various other groups. The timed-entry tickets will be available on-site or through the Library’s online box office as the May 2 opening date approaches.

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Assistant Web Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.