Reflecting on the Great War in Comics

Throughout the Autumn Term, Anna McVey from Queen Katherine School, has been spending her Monday afternoons in the gallery. This is her insightful and descriptive review of the recent exhibition…………..

As a 16 year old studying art, the “Abbot Hall” is great to have at close distance. Not only are the works on show here of a wide variety, they are also well known and admired by many.

One of the gallery’s most recent exhibitions focused on World War One and had a display of 66 detailed comic pages, all original charcoal and chalk or pen and ink illustrations. There were pages from two different comic books on show; “Charley’s War” a comic by Pat Mills and Joe Calquhoun which “broke new ground for British comics”. And “White Death” a comic created by Charlie Adlard. This takes its name from a technique the soldiers used in World War One, where they would deliberately fire canons to set off avalanches.

Both poems strive to convey what war was really like, and they succeed. Instead of “sugar coating” the events in an attempt to glorify them, the authors use detailed images to convey the horrors of war. They don’t portray war as a good thing at all, instead the authors take real wartime events and incorporate them into an existing storyline.
Not only is the storyline good but the artwork is also beautiful. “Charley’s War” is drawn mainly in pen, showing a lot of detail. Whereas the art for “White Death” is drawn in chalk and charcoal which makes the sketches look striking and eerie against their grey backgrounds.

This exhibition showed exactly why war should be avoided in a realistic and beautifully illustrated way, and with the sound of guns and fighting projected into the room (a sound installation from “Kendal Collage”) it really makes you think about what these men went through. However “Charley’s War” does have elements of humour about it, none of which play down the consequences of war, but instead making the reader grow fond of the comic’s characters.

And, you could read the complete story – there was a seating area with copies of “Charley’s War”, ”White Death” and many other brilliant comics concerned with World War One at the back of the exhibition.

This exhibition was part of the “Kendal Comic Art Festival” and was up as part of the commemoration of WW1. But if you are interested in comics or art in general or just want a relaxing way to spend part of your weekend then I definitely recommend the Abbot Hall.

Anna McVey – Queen Katherine Student

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