How women have made their mark in the world of comics

Source:Xinhua Published: 2016-2-6 9:17:38

A new exhibition which opened on Friday aims to take a new look at a familiar world by concentrating on the role of women in the creation of comics.

'Comics Creatrix: 100 Women creating Comics' reveals that women are now playing an important role in an arena that has traditionally been dominated by men.

Exhibition co-curator Paul Gravett told Xinhua, "A show on comics by women has not been done before and there is a heated discussion about how women are emerging as a force within comics around the world having been, to a large extent, marginalized, certainly in terms of history and recognition of the form."

The show features work from women from 20 countries and regions and examples of work stretch back to the 18th century. Where possible, original artwork is on display, although with some of the older works all that remains are reproductions.

Cravett said, "We have tried to avoid the idea that there is such a thing as women's comics. It would be a great mistake to assume that women somehow make comics that are completely different from men. So, we have demonstrated that they are covering every possible genre -- it is not just to do with domestic, autobiographical or personal intimate content, which is something that women have introduced, or expanded as genres or subjects in comics but they are doing everything, from superheroes to horror to reportage to erotica to humor."

The oldest material on show comes from female pioneers in the field.

The oldest is Mary Darly from the 18th century who ran her own print shop with her husband in London which sold satirical prints.

Gravett said, "She created her own prints. She also created, arguably, the very first guide to how to make caricatures -- at the time creating caricatures was a craze."

From the 19th century there is Marie Duval, a French woman, who with her husband developed a character called Ally Sloper.

"Sloper became the biggest star of Victorian comics, indeed stretching beyond comics to vaudeville shows, merchandize -- it was a phenomenon selling up to half a million copies a week as the world's biggest selling cartoon magazine," said Gravett.

Some of the work is from a more contemporary era and deliberately courted controversy.

"In terms of more modern material one section of the exhibition does focus on the pivotal period of the 'underground' -- 'underground' comics were around through the 1960s, 70s and 80s and it was during this period that comics shook off the preconception that had arisen, incorrectly, that they were juvenile fare made for children and did not deal with anything at all to do with adult life," said Gravett.

Comics had covered adult themes in the 19th century but had become associated in the early 20th century with themes of childhood, and the change that the underground comics wrought to this perception was profound.

Gravett said, "That revolution that began particularly in the United States, but which spread to many countries around the world and is still going on now, is the lynchpin and the turning point at which comics were able to deal with the content that they desperately needed to."

Perhaps one of the most thought-provoking parts of the exhibition is the work of a German Jew who was a victim of the Holocaust in the Second World War.

Charlotte Saloman created more than a 1,000 pieces of work on her life, reflecting on the horrors of existence in the Auschwitz death camp in Poland where she died in 1943 and on the troubled background of her family; her mother's side of the family had a history of suicides and attempted suicides.

Her work is compelling. Gravett said, "It is only now that these (works) are being acknowledged as masterpieces in the art world and the comics world. They are now accepted as being a form of autobiographical comics almost before anyone else had done them. That is a pioneering example."

The exhibition continues at the House of Illustration in central London until May 15.

Posted in: Comics

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