By: Siobhan Brewood-Wyatt
On comics, literary theorist Edward Said wrote, “I don't remember when I read my first comic book, but I do remember exactly how liberated and subversive I felt as a result.” As a genre, comic books are a unique medium, which can “liberate” strict narratives and real-life events. Garnering a cult following in the 20th century, many comic book artists have used their creative skills to comment on society, from world wars to gender issues. To celebrate the exciting opening of THE WORLD OF TINTIN
exhibition at the new ArtisTree, presented by the HOCA Foundation in collaboration with The Hergé Museum, we explore the intriguing relationship between comics and society.
There are many examples of comics highlighting events contemporary to their time; from Tintin’s exploits in Russia in The Land of the Soviets
(when published, this was a timely representation thanks to Russia’s increasing dominance in Europe) to Superman’s first appearance in 1938 as a “save-the-day-hero” antidote to a world hurtling fast towards World War II.
And then there are the more controversial examples. In 1986, Art Spiegelman published Maus
, which would go on to be the first graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize. Spiegelman’s absorbing and gritty postmodern work depicts the atrocities of the Holocaust using cartoon animals; Jews are portrayed as mice, Nazis as cats. Similarly, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ acclaimed series, Watchmen
, represents a post-Hiroshima world, which, when published in 1987, was a still-relevant and sensitive topic for many at the time.