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234 × 156 × 27 mm
304 pages
70 illustrations
01 Oct 2011

British Comics A History James Chapman

We are all nostalgic about comics. Many of us still peek at them – some of us even collect them. British Comics: A Cultural History is the first historical study of these cherished British comic papers and magazines and their place in our society, from their origins in the late Victorian period to the present day.

Beginning with the first comic superstar, the likeable rogue Ally Sloper, cultural historian James Chapman traces the rise of comic publishing and comic reading in Britain. British Comics considers the major genres, including comics for girls, boys’ adventure, sports and war stories. The heyday of British comics came in the 1950s and ‘60s when titles such as Eagle and School Friend sold nearly a million copies a week. A new breed of violent comics appeared in the 1970s, including the controversial Action and cult favourite 2000AD, and in the 1980s came the rise and fall of adult comics such as Warrior, Crisis, Deadline and Revolver. Chapman discusses alternative comics such as Viz, and analyses the work of contemporary British comic writers including Alan Moore, Ian Edginton, Warren Ellis and Garth Ennis whose success has prompted a renaissance of British comics.

Examining both the creators of comics and their readers, Chapman argues that British comics have a distinctive identity in their own right that is different from the comic books of America, France and Japan. They have responded to cultural and ideological currents in British society, not only providing escapism for their readers but also offering a mirror of their times. An invaluable reference for all comic fans and collectors, British Comics showcases the major role they have played in the imaginative lives of British children, teenagers – and many grown-ups too.

‘an invaluable resource for even the most laissez-faire of fans.’ — Seven Magazine, Sunday Telegraph

‘Chapmans British Comics does an excellent job of condensing the rich story of comics in the UK into a very readable narrative, exploring their long history and celebrating recent successes. Chapman provides exactly what the title promises. The book is hugely informative and engaging, focusing on how comics can provide insights into society and often mirror political events . . . there is for the general reader much here that will surprise and delight.’ — History Today

‘[a] cogent and enjoyable new study . . . Chapman proves to be an enthusiastic guide.’ — TLS

‘This is a book that reminds us of the fantasy worlds we have lived in, and analyses the appeal and structure of those worlds. Only those who enjoy popular culture can write about it well, and British Comics is a book in which not only is a genre analysed with expertise but enthusiasm is recollected.’ — Times Higher Education

‘James Chapman has penned the first truly scholarly survey of the origins and development of comics in Britain . . . a solidly researched piece of cultural history’ — The Comics Journal

‘Chapman takes a broad approach but offers specific examples . . . Popping up along the way are issues such as race, gender, censorship, the Cold War. Quotes, anecdotes and gems of knowledge add spice to an already facile reading. This superb, well-researched, well-thought-out volume deserves to be read by comics scholars and enthusiasts alike. Highly recommended.’ — Choice

‘Chapmans analysis of key characters such as Dan Dare in their various incarnations is absorbing. Even when discussing well known characters, this book is full of interesting titbits . . . Chapmans attempt to situate both creators and product in relation to social history is fascinating . . . its lively and interesting style makes it more than suited to the active fan and those nostalgic for the comics of their youth.’ — Eye

‘a valuable contribution to British comics history’ — Comicbitsonline

‘a well-written, well researched book, which is attractive and quite enjoyable to read.’ — Cercles

‘The British comic industry and tradition, often overshadowed by the American one, gets an interesting and important treatment in this book, which traces the history of British comics over the past two centuries in relation to economics and class, gender, war, technology, and the vagaries of the publishing business and popular taste.’ — Anthropology Review Database

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James Chapman is Professor of Film Studies at the University of Leicester. His previous books include The British at War: Cinema, State and Propaganda, 1939-1945 (1998), Licence To Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films (1999), Cinemas of the World: Film and Society from 1895 to the Present (Reaktion Books, 2003) and War and Film (Reaktion Books, 2008).


1. Comic Cuts and Saucy Strips
2. On the Wings of Eagles
3. Ripping Yarns
4. Girls on Top
5. The Violent Years
6. I Am the Law!
7. The Strange World of the British Superhero
8. The Rise and Fall of Alternative Comics
9. The Growing Pains of British Colonies
10. The British Comics Renaissance