Artwork from the Battle comic strip “Charley’s War” which depicted the horrors of the World War One battlefields to audiences young and old goes on show at Plymouth University this week.
“Charley’s War”, first published in the late 1970s by writer Pat Mills and artist Joe Colquhoun and more recently republished as collections in Britain by Titan Books and digitally via the SEQUENTIAL app from Panel Nine, tells the story of the Great War through the eyes of a 16-year-old boy, who lies about his age in order to go and fight for his country.
It follows Charley Bourne through infamous battles at the Somme, Passchendaele and Ypres and, in one scene, even sees Charley fighting in the trenches opposite a young Corporal Adolf Hitler.
Now images from the comic are on show at Plymouth University as part of events marking the centenary of the outbreak of World War One, which open this evening, Tuesday 4th November, with a talk by Pat Mills himself.
“’Charley’s War’ came out at a time when World War One was overshadowed by World War Two in the public consciousness, but Pat Mills wanted to alter that,” notes Dr Simon Topping, Associate Professor of History at Plymouth University. “The storyline and artwork was very brave in that it tackled a number of very difficult topics and didn’t shy away from being graphic, but it did so in a way that was essentially human. There is a sense of normality about Charley that people could, and still can, relate to and I hope it will capture the imagination of both old and new audiences in Plymouth.”
During its six-year run, the comic followed Charley through numerous roles, from being a stretcher-bearer at Passchendaele to a miner under the Messines Ridge. It also recounts his personal life during and after the war, showing him on the dole during the Great Depression of 1933, and enlisting for the Army alongside his son at the outbreak of World War Two.
The exhibition, which opened yesterday, runs until 14th November and features 36 iconic images from the comics and subsequent book series, adorning the walls of Crosspoint, in the University’s Roland Levinsky Building.
Tonight, Tuesday 4th November Pat Mills – often referred to as “the godfather of British comics” having co-created 2000AD, Battle and Action comics– will give a talk about the comic series and his inspirations.
The “Charley’s War” activities are among several events being staged by Peninsula Arts, the University’s public arts programme, to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War One. On Thursday November 6, Dr Angela K Smith (Associate Professor in English at Plymouth University) will speak about the literary legacies of World War One and how it influence writers in the 1920s and 30s.
• Charley’s War: An Exhibition runs until 14th November 2014 at Crosspoint, in the University’s Roland Levinsky Building, Plymouth University, Drake Circus Plymouth Devon PL4 8AA. Opening times: Monday – Friday, 10am-5pm; Saturday: 11am-4pm. Entry to the “Charley’s War” exhibition is free and more details about all these events, and information on how to book tickets for the talks and film screenings, are available from the Peninsula Arts website: www1.plymouth.ac.uk/peninsulaarts/Pages/default.aspx or telephone 01752 585050