Comics across the Pond: A Century of US-UK Cartoonist Collaboration

Comics across the Pond: A Century of US-UK Cartoonist Collaboration

A century ago, the first full-color newspaper cartoon was published in America, but these cartoons accidentally made their way to the UK as ballast on unsold newspaper copies used in container ships. This peculiar trade of newspapers triggered an interest in printing cartoons in the UK, although British cartoons were only printed in black and white until they transitioned to color printing in the 1980s.

The New York World newspaper’s cartoons, which were initially an American phenomenon, reached the UK through these serendipitous means. However, it was the creation of Dan Dare by British artists in 1967 that truly marked the rise of British comics. The Cartoon Museum’s exhibition, “HEROES: The British invasion of American comics,” delves into this fascinating history of cross-cultural influence between American and British cartoonists.

The exhibition primarily focuses on superhero comics, an initially American genre. Early examples from the 1930s, such as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, are on display. However, it was the British creation of Dan Dare that shifted the tide. The exhibition provides an informative mix of history and nostalgia, including details about early publishing rights used to print American cartoons in the UK. Interestingly, the flow reversed in the 1980s, with edgier British comics and artists making their way to America.

American cartoons had a certain self-censorship, while British cartoons often explored darker and more adult themes, which eventually resonated with American audiences tired of sanitized content.

The exhibition, titled “HEROES: The British invasion of American comics,” can be visited at the Cartoon Museum until October 19, 2024. Admission to the exhibition is included in the museum’s entry fee, although it might be a bit pricey if you’ve visited the museum before and the permanent exhibitions haven’t changed much. Offering a separate ticket for the special exhibition would be a nice addition.

  • Adults: £9.50
  • Seniors (60+): £6
  • Students: £4
  • Universal Credit: £2
  • Under 18s, ArtFund, London Pass, Members: Free

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