WOKING, ENGLAND | The Story of British Comics So Far: Cor! By Gum! Zarjaz! Just 25 minutes from London Waterloo you can discover the idyll that is Woking and a charming retrospective of British Comics at modernist art gallery The Lightbox. There you will be transported on an interactive journey through the past, present and future of British Comics. Co-curated by Hamish MacGillivray and Paul Gravett, the show reveals how and why they endure as a hugely popular medium for everyone.
Zara and Alan’s Adventures in British Comics
What are your favourite comics? Do you know how they are made? And where they came from?
Zara and her grandfather Alan, two comics characters especially created for this exhibition by co-curator Hamish MacGillivray and comix creatrix, Asia Alfasi, lead you through three immersive zones that explore the history of British comics to date expressed as three exclamations of amazement.
The story begins in the ‘Cor!’ zone. As you enter the gallery you see a ‘library’ of precious artefacts that will give context to the meaning of sequential art.
The oldest item is a 3,000 year old ancient Egyptian stone lent by the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. Through the hieroglyphics on this stone the story is told of a man from the Family Stela of Bakenmin travelling back in time and reflecting on the different stages of his life.
Alongside the Egyptian stone are beautifully carved wood-block prints from 1850 by Japanese artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi, on loan from Brighton Libraries, which chronicle the lives of brave Samurai warriors from yesteryear. This is displayed with contemporary examples of comics ‘heroes,’ so you can compare and contrast the old with the new.
Opposite this are four engraved prints of William Hogarth’s The Humours of an Election series (1755), on loan from The Victoria and Albert Museum. These highly detailed satirical engraved prints on paper tell the story of the election of an Oxfordshire member of parliament in 1754 and were designed to humorously expose the corruption endemic within politics at that time.
Also on display is is an open volume of the very first British comic strip the Glasgow Looking Glass (1825), a caricature magazine created and illustrated by William Heath that satirised the political and social life of those living in Scotland in the 1820s.
The final star piece of ‘Cor!’ is a stunning Grayson Perry ceramic vase entitled The Village of Penians (2001). Featured as part of his Turner-Prize-winning exhibition at Tate Britain in 2003, it depicts a tongue-in-cheek representation of a parochial village where the inhabitants worship the body rather than religion.
By Gum zone offers a stroll down memory lane where you can revel in nostalgia with displays of very early and classic comics which will evoke memories of childhood.
Pride of place goes to a wide range of rare original artwork, much of it on loan from collectors Peter Hansen and Chris Nevell. Featured characters include Desperate Dan, Roy of the Rovers, Dennis the Menace, Dan Dare, Frankie Stein and Karl the Viking.
Alongside is a newsagents stocking rare comic book annuals Felix the Cat, June and Girl from Worthing Museum and Art Gallery next to vintage editions of The Beano, The Eagle and original artwork of Dan Dare by Frank Hampson.
The final element of ‘By Gum!’ is a family-friendly DIY comics-making area where people of all ages can create their own piece of sequential art using the materials provided.
Families can also build their own Egyptian stone or Hogarth jigsaw puzzle or create their own story by adding speech bubbles to copies of the prints.
To keep little ones entertained, there is a pond filled with comic covers where they can ‘go fish’ for their favourite.
You exit to the final zone through a time-travelling tunnel showcasing the comics of the 70s and 80s including 2000AD and Action that transport you back to the present day.
The third exhibition zone ‘Zarjaz!’ brings things up-to-date including today’s manga, graphic novels and digital comics.
Rare insights by writer Ken Armstrong from the 1970s blood-thirsty shark comic character ‘Hook Jaw’ from Action is contrasted with a back-catalogue of rare 2000AD editions.
2000AD is a British science-fiction comic that has been in production since the late 1970s, famous for being the training ground for many British artists and writers such as Alan Moore, John Wagner and Pat Mills, who in turn influenced Hollywood, American comics industry and video games.
The exhibition includes an original Judge Dredd helmet from the movie Judge Dredd 2, from 2012, which is juxtaposed next to an antique Japanese Samurai helmet, circa 1800s, lent from Horsham Museum, which highlights the influence of the past on the present.
Bringing the show up-to-date are displays of original artworks and process pieces by contemporary graphic novelists such as Gareth Brookes, The Black Project; S.J. Harris, Eustace; Kripa Joshi, Miss Moti; Joseph Samuels, Scotland Yardie; and Julia Scheele, Queer: A Graphic History.
Artists Studios Recreated
There are also two contrasting artists’ studios, one recreated in the style of the 1930s, which will show original works by Brian White, who wrote the 1930s Daily Mail strip ‘Little Nipper’—never shown in public before.
Next to this is Digital Illustrator Junior Tomlin’s studio which demonstrates how techniques and processes have changed over time. Things are brought right up to date with a bank of interactive digital desks and for the more traditional there are comfortable lounge area with a lending library of comics and graphic novels to peruse, courtesy of Surrey Libraries.
The story of British comics so far closes with a wall of giant graffiti interpretations of exhibition guides Alan and Zara.
Comics delights for Menaces and Minxes of every age!
Illustration: A detail from the poster for The Story Of Comics So far: Cor! By Gum! Zarjaz! featuring Zara and Alan, by Asia Alfasi.
At The Lightbox on 18 August 2016. 1.00pm – 2.30pm
Have you ever wanted to have your own superpowers? Do you want to find out what superheroes do in their time off? Don your cape and join Guildford Shakespeare Company for an afternoon of comic-themed drama games. No experience of theatre or fighting crime required. Advance booking. Admission £6.50 per Young person.
At The Lightbox on 23 August 2016. 3.00pm — 4.30pm
Join bestselling cartoonist and experienced workshop host James Parsons for an eye-popping, mind-boggling comic art and cartooning workshop! Learn secret drawing tricks used by the professionals, and create whatever you want, from magical mermaids to rotting zombies all you need to bring is your imagination! All materials included, but don’t forget to bring something to take your project home in. Advance booking. Admission £6.50 per Young person.
At The Lightbox on 8 October 2016. 10.30am – 5.00pm
Don’t miss this chance to meet creators and publishers in person and discover the vibrant diversity of their comics, manga and graphic novels. Throughout the day, you can watch artists demonstrating their talents in the live Drawing Parade and signing and sketching their comics for you. In association with Comica.London. Admission Free.
At The Lightbox on 8 October 2016. 6.00pm – 7.00pm
Fundraising Talk: Celebrate the visionary genius of Frank Hampson, creator of Eagle’s ‘Pilot of the Future’ Dan Dare, with his son Peter Hampson, the inspiration for the character Flamer Spry. Secrets of Frank Hampson’s life and work will be revealed, from his intensive studio process using costumes and props to his later struggles and international acclaim. Hosted by co-curator Paul Gravett. Admission: £12 (incl. one free glass of wine or juice).
At The Lightbox on 11 October 2016. 1.00pm – 2.00pm
Gareth Brookes the award- winning graphic novelist, The Black Project, discusses comic-book culture and the influence of sequential art on his own work. Exploring the themes of adolescence, suburban life, and Englishness, Brookes’ autobiographical creations experiment with craft processes such as embroidery and flower pressing.He is also a printmaker, and textile artist. Admission: £6.
At The Lightbox on 26 October 2016. 7.00pm – 8.00pm
Fundraising Talk. Dave Gibbons gives an illustrated lecture on his career, ranging from his schoolboy love of comics through his early years in the business to his later work on 2000AD, Dr Who, Green Lantern, Superman, Batman, Martha Washington and, of course, Watchmen. Along the way, he will touch on his drawing process, the digital revolution in comics, his appointment as Comics Laureate and his hopes for the future of the medium. Admission £12 (incl. one free glass of wine or juice)
At The Lightbox on 28 October 2016. 1.00pm – 4.00pm
Celebrate the end of half term and join in an afternoon of comics-themed family fun in conjunction with this family-friendly exhibition The Story of British Comics So Far: Cor! By Gum! Zarjaz! Part of ‘Comics Week’ at The Lightbox. Admission Free
6 August 2016
31 December 2016
Tuesday to Saturday: 10.30am – 5.00pm
Sunday: 11.00am – 4.00pm
Closed Mondays and Bank Holidays
£5 Annual Pass | Under 18s Free