Marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, Kendal’s Abbot Hall Art Gallery (currently exhibiting an incredible exhibition on British Surrealism) and the Lakes International Comic Art Festival are bringing together for the first time the work of three internationally-acclaimed artists – Joe Colquhoun, Charlie Adlard and Ivan Petrus – who have shed new light on this conflict through the medium of comic art.
The “Charley’s War” side of the exhibition has been part of this exhibition I’ve been involved in, assembled thanks to tremendous help from Joe Colquhoun’s daughter, Jane, Moose Harris (who kindly hosts the semi-official “Charley’s War” web site and has been instrumental in providing new scans of Joe’s art for various collections of the strip in recent years). “Charley’s War” writer and co-creator Pat Mills has also given the choice of art in the exhibition his blessing.
Here’s a couple of pages of the art from “Charley’s War” and “White Death” that will feature, snapped when I viewed the final choice last month, so apologies in advance that they’re not the best photographs. (All the more reason to visit the exhibition to see it in person!)
Charley’s War has been described as ‘the greatest comic strip ever created’and from 1979 until 1987 formed a unique collaboration between pioneering writer Pat Mills and acclaimed war artist Joe Colquhoun. The comic strip rarely flinched from providing a frank portrayal of the horrors of war, with Colquhoun willing to subvert traditional techniques of comics’ illustration by opting for heavy inks, messy backgrounds and stark facial expressions to depict an exceptionally dark atmosphere.
Set in the Alpine trench war of 1914-1918, White Death is a powerful story of conflict at a simultaneously personal and national level. Charlie Adlard is best-known as the artist on the record-breaking television series The Walking Dead. Yet this early collaboration with writer Robbie Morrison is arguably one of his finest works. Using just charcoal and chalk on gray paper, his drawings convey the fear, horror and desolation of war.
Ghosts of Passchendaele, launched in 2014, is the third book of a graphic novel trilogy by Ivan Petrus featuring Belgian, British and French soldiers and their true stories from the First World War. Painted in bold, dark, muddy colours, his art powerfully invokes the iconic post-war Passchendaele landscape. Ivan was at last year’s Comic Art Festival and his work is truly incredible… but you’ll have to get to the exhibition to see it!