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Meanwhile, Back in the Library...Comics: Issue 2: Comics & society

Picture your life: Comics & Society

Welcome to Issue 2 where we look at comics that provide an insight into society and ourselves. Whether you are looking for worldly observations, cultural critiques or personal reflections and memoirs... there is something for everyone here.

Take a look below and you can see some of the comics in the Library collection grouped by theme. Don't forget you can find more comics and graphic novels related to Issue 2 on the Meanwhile, Back in the Library Reading List Online. Happy reading!

Comics as journalism

There are many ways to present information, news and stories and comics branch into many areas including journalism and reportage. We would like to encourage you to dip into some of our journalistic comics and we have highlighted a few here for you to take time to explore.

It is the story that is key!

Comics as autobiography

One of the most common comics genres is the memoir or autobiography. These can vary from day-to-day accounts of the most ordinary of lives, to the stories of people who lived through the most interesting of times.

A popular topic for graphic autobiographies are accounts of grappling with health problems, whether physical or mental: you can find out more about these in our third issue, Comics and Well-Being.

Comics and censorship

Comics have a long history of facing condemnation and censorship. Possibly the most famous instance of a crack-down on comics came in America in 1954, with psychiatrist Frederic Wertham's book The Seduction of the Innocent and the creation of the self-regulating Comics Code Authority.

You can find out much more about how the Code impacted the industry, it's revisions, publishers' reactions, and the journey towards the Code's eventual dissolution in 2011 at the highly informative website Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

But censorship, challenges and bans continue to this day, across the globe.

You can find a few examples below of the - many! - comic books in our collection, which have faced bans or challenges, including some very celebrated titles. Happy reading!

Recommend something from the Library

We are always looking for new publications to support your learning and teaching, and to keep the library collections up to date with high-quality materials.  If you think we're missing something crucial though, we'd like to hear about it.  

You can suggest a purchase to the Library using the Suggest a Purchase link below.

Comics and representation

Like any other medium, comics - both fictional and factual - reflect the attitudes of the societies that created them. There are numerous studies in the Library of the changing attitudes towards gender, race, sexuality, disability and class in comics.

Here are just a few examples of comics that are broadening representations of society within the field: 

Comics and politics

Comics are heavily intertwined with politics, with an effective combination of text and potent image. In the library, you will find a number of comics about politics and political theories.

With the historical biography a popular non-fiction genre, political history is well-covered by comics.

Fiction comics also often have overt political themes. Even comic creators not normally associated with politics will turn to comics when they want to make a political statement: what other medium would they use, after all?

And some comics don't just have political themes, but contribute to political iconography: following the release of the film adaptation, the Guy Fawkes mask from the anti-authoritarian V for Vendetta was adopted by anti-capitalist groups, as well as the hacktivist collective Anonymous.

You can find out more about the connections between satire and comics at the most excellent shelfmark 741.5 (Level 5 of the Adsetts Library).

For example, we have books charting social change covering from Hogarth to Cruikshank, Victorian comics, children's comics in times of war and early 20th cartoons and comics.

Political Cartoons

Cartoons and caricatures have been used to comment on the politics of the day for hundreds of years, often to potent and memorable effect. As well as books in the library, a huge collection of such cartoons e.g. images from British publications such as Punch can be found in print in the Library and online in the British Cartoon Archive database.

Several of our collected historical newspaper archives will also let you search specifically for cartoons in their advanced search feature.