Last week I went to see a fascinating exhibition at the British Library: Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK. It covered a lot of ground from Punch in the 1840s up to the present and filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge. It set me thinking about the part comics have played in my own life and why I don’t read more graphic novels.
Bunty was the first comic I read on a regular basis – I think my mother ordered it every week, along with – was it The Eagle? – for my brother. Of Bunty I remember scarcely anything, except a character called Lettuce Leaf. But my brother’s comic had a thrilling serial called, I think, ‘The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb,’ and we were desperate every week to read the next instalment.
Later there was Jackie, which my friend Pauline and I used to read and reread. How innocent it all seems now, the advice on boys and make-up and the stories in which good girls always triumphed. But we also loved Superman and Batman: Pauline had a great collection of those. I guess we were about fifteen when we stopped reading both Jackie and Superman comics, and I’ve never gone back, though as a young art historian I did love Victorian book illustration and that was nearly the subject of my Ph.D. However, perhaps because stories told completely in pictures are so much associated with childhood and adolescence I have never got into graphic novels. A few years ago, I did read an excellent one, Exit Wounds, by Rutu Modan, a book group choice, so time to rethink, perhaps? I’ve begun by ordering her new book, The Property.