Heckling Hitler: World War Two in Cartoons & Comics

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25 March - 12 July 2015
It is difficult for those of us living in the 21st century to realise the impact of cartoon art 70 years ago. To a news-hungry public, anxious about world affairs facing possible invasion, the radio was a lifeline, but it was the topical cartoon with its immediacy and universal accessibility ? even to the barely literate ? that could speak the message mere words could never convey. The propagandists and media manipulators were swift to recognize this power.
Heckling Hitler shows how World War II unfolded through the eyes of British cartoonists. Throughout the war, cartoonists and comic artists played their part in helping to raise morale. On the home front, their cartoons showed Britain ‘how to make the best of things’ (Heath Robinson) and encouraged people to keep ‘smiling through’ (Joe Lee). Posters produced for the Ministry of Information reminded the public that ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’ (Fougasse) and that ‘Doctor Carrot’ was the ‘children’s friend’. Comic heroes like Desperate Dan and Lord Snooty and his Pals kept the children entertained with stories showing how British pluck and guile would put one over on the dictators.
This exhibition of over 120 original drawings and printed ephemera concentrates mainly on newspaper and magazine cartoons from WWII for the simple reason that these would have been the most widely available to the general public. Included are works by H. M. Bateman, Will Dyson, ‘Fougasse’, Carl Giles, Leslie Grimes, Leslie Illingworth, ‘Jon’, ‘Kem’, Joe Lee, David Low, Donald McGill, ‘Neb’, Eric Roberts, ‘Pont’, William Heath Robinson, Ronald Searle, E. H. Shepard, Sidney Strube, Bert Thomas, ‘Vicky’ and Dudley D. Watkins.
Sample material from books, aerial leaflets, artwork from The Dandy and The Beano, postcards and other publications produced as overseas propaganda have also been included, as well as some unpublished cartoons drawn in prisoner-of-war camps and by civilians on the home front on scrap paper from the Ministry of Food. There is even a rare pin cushion featuring Hitler and Mussolini. Together they evoke a Britain battered but unbowed that, with the help of its cartoonists, could smile in the face of adversity and win through in the end.
The exhibition is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the University of Lincoln.

The Caricatures and Cartoons of Mark Boxer

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21 January - 22 March 2015

When Mark Boxer died in 1988 at the early age of 57, the world of publishing felt bereft. As an art director, editor, writer and cartoonist, his intelligence, irreverence and sparkle had charmed colleagues and readers alike. An unashamed ‘professional hedonist’ who aspired to be a ‘red eminence(grey being rather too drab), he recorded the world of the upper-middle and upper classes and the fashionable metropolitan elite. This exhibition includes over 100 of his caricatures, pocket and strip cartoons from The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The New Statesman, The London Review of Books and The Observer.
Boxer was born in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire in 1931. At King’s College, Cambridge he gained his first experience as a cartoonist and editor working on Granta. His reputation as a non- conformist was established in the spring of 1953 when he was sent down for publishing a blasphemous poem. His supporters organised a mock funeral for him and his departure from Cambridge in a hearse followed by a thousand ‘mourners’ was reported in The Times.
After leaving Cambridge he wrote and drew for the Sunday Express, Lilliput, Punch, and Ambassador before being hired as art editor for the Queen magazine in 1957. As editor of the newly established Sunday Times Magazine (1962?5), he helped shake up the rather formal world of post-war British magazine publishing, using innovative layouts and hiring talented photographers and artists such as Eve Arnold, Snowdon, Don McCullin, David Hockney and Peter Blake. As the Sunday Times editor Sir Denis Hamilton recognised, Boxer had ‘the necessary iconoclastic attitude’ to create something new.
In 1967 he was invited to create a cartoon strip for The Listener with writer Peter Preston. ‘Life and Times in NW1’ introduced Simon and Joanna String-Along, a trendy media couple ‘who have recently set up home north of the Park’. The String-Alongs also appeared in the pocket cartoons he drew for The Times from 1969. An admirer of Osbert Lancaster’s cartoons, he was greatly amused when someone tried to put him down by commenting on the continuing brilliance of Lancaster’s cartoons, citing, as an example, one of Boxer’s own cartoons. Many of his pockets were collaborations, with George Melly often providing the captions and Boxer finding ‘the perfect situation, or ideal person to say it’. Their partnership continued after he moved to The Guardian (1983?6) and finally the Daily Telegraph (1986?8).
But Marc is best remembered for his caricatures. From 1970?8 his spare but incisive portraits illustrated profiles in the New Statesman. They would also appear in the London Review of Books, the Spectator and the Observer. The exhibition includes over 80 caricatures of the royal family and figures from the arts, literature, show business and politics, including Prince Charles and the Queen, Harold Pinter, Antonia Fraser, Seamus Heaney, Tony Benn, Clive James, Philip Roth, Barry Humphries and David Frost. The self-taught Boxer never claimed to be a great draughtsman: ‘I don’t draw particularly well, but I have an observant eye.’ Unlike many caricaturists, he nearly always worked from life, insisting that he had to ‘see people in their natural habitat and off their guard’. To this end, he would pursue his quarry to their offices, sketch them in restaurants, or take their measure at parties. As editor of Tatler (1983?7) he would insist that people’s names and titles were exactly right, while crafting a wounding caricature of the same individual.
A lifelong Labour voter who mixed in high society and ‘a professional posing as a dilettante’, Boxer remained an ‘elegantly packaged mass of irreconcilable contradictions and uncomfortable antagonisms’ (Jonathan Meades). He believed social cartoonists such as Pont, Bateman and Heath Robinson are more enduring than political cartoonists as their work more effectively captures the atmosphere of a period. ‘Our pleasure in cartoons,’ he wrote, ‘is recognising the truth they uncover’, something his caricatures and cartoons still do today.
The Telegraph
 Media Partner

Moose Kid Comics

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If you missed the day when Moose Kid Comics took over the Cartoon Museum, do not worry! The artwork is still on display at the Museum. 
A new children’s comic was launched in June 2014 – Moose Kid Comics. Comic artist Jamie Smart – who used to create work for The Dandy and who currently draws for The Phoenix – came up with the idea for the comic after the The Dandy went out of print in 2012.
“If felt like a real sign of the times that kids comics, especially in the UK, were dying out, and perhaps it was up to the artists to initiate the change we needed.”
Jamie pulled together over 40 artists to create a comic to make children laugh. The comic is filled with make-believe advertisements and full colour stories about super grannies, angry badgers, farting cats and terrifying underwater creatures – something for everyone.
Some of these images are currently displayed at the Cartoon Museum. And there are still a few copies left of the comic, available to buy from the Cartoon Museum Shop. 


Gekiga: Alternative Manga from Japan

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23 September 2014 - 31 January 2015

(Please Note: The Gekiga exhibition is displayed on the first floor of the museum. We regret that there is no lift to the first floor - there are 17 steps with handrails on either side.)

Over the last twenty-five years, manga and anime have been one of Japan’s greatest cultural exports, attracting fans and followers around the world. One significant and sometimes overlooked chapter in the history of how manga conquered the world is revealed in this new exhibition on alternative manga or ‘gekiga’. 


In the 1950s Japan was emerging from US occupation and embarking on the economic resurgence which was to make it an economic powerhouse in the 1980s. After the horrors of the war, entertainment of all kinds – novels, films, TV and manga were in great demand. The works of Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy) and Machiko Hasegawa (Sazae-San) became hugely successful and inspired millions of children to draw their own comics. But by and large manga was seen as a juvenile phenomenon.  


Gekiga was the spark which, between 1956 and the early 1970s, transformed manga from being the preserve of the young into a vast industry now read by millions of children and adults around the world. This exhibition shows how a small group of young artists, initially working in the Kansai area in and around Osaka, created a new style of powerful and dramatic narratives. Drawn in a more realistic and atmospheric style with grittier story lines, gegika attracted older teenagers, university students and eventually adult readers. The exhibition includes material never before displayed in Europe, including over 50 pieces of original artwork and reproductions from rare manga. 



What is Gekiga?



In the mid-1950s manga were humorous and fantastical stories drawn in a rounded and cheerful style for a children’s market. However, childhood had not been a sunny experience for the generation born between 1935 and 1940 who had experienced bombings and nuclear war and seen parents and family members killed or suffer lasting physical and psychological damage. After the war many had to leave school early to help their families get by. By their late teens and early 20s they wanted to create something different: in the words of Yoshihiro Tatsumi, ‘manga that was not manga’.  In 1956 Tatsumi and his friends Masahiko Matsumoto, Takao Saito and others began creating longer stories featuring not magical heroes but everyday adult characters in action-packed  stories aimed at teenagers.  Many of the artists were strongly influenced by film noir and Japanese film makers such as Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai) and Yasujiro Ozu (Tokyo Story). The term gekiga – ‘dramatic pictures’ ? was coined by Tatsumi in 1957 in an attempt to differentiate the genre from children’s manga. By combining a more realistic drawing style with striking imagery and perspectives, dramatic sound effects and limited dialogue, the gekiga artists conjured up a dark and exciting alternative world of those living on the margins or with underworld connections.  


Published for the rental book market, the detective, mystery and ghost stories were printed in new collections with evocative titles such as Kage (Shadow), 1956, Machi (City), 1957, Meiro (Labryinth), 1958 and Mantenr? (Skyscraper), 1959. Because the concept of ‘different manga’ was still so new they were shelved beside the children’s manga. The violence and more adult themes of some of the stories led to protests from groups such as local PTAs, and in August 1959 Masaaki Sato was blacklisted by the Yamanashi Book Renters’ Association in response to parental concerns about depictions of juvenile delinquency and the corrupting character of this new type of comic. Kage and Machi proved very popular with teenagers, prompting Tokyo publishers to start their own titles. In 1959 Tatsumi, Matsumoto, Takao Saito and five others now living in Tokyo, formed Gekiga Workshop (Gekiga Kobo) to strengthen their hand with publishers. Though the Workshop was short lived, its influence was long lasting.  


By the late 1950s the Japanese economy was gathering pace. Japanese television only started in 1953 but by 1957 more than 50% of people already had a television. Manga publishers, fearing that they would be wiped out by this new form of entertainment, quickly moved from monthly to weekly publication. Many magazines followed the gekiga artists in targeting stories at an older market and some artists such as Takao Saito helped develop a production team system to help meet the rapidly increasing demand for more stories. By the 1960s America’s continued use of air bases in Japan to launch bombing raids on Vietnam, the spectre of nuclear war and the questioning of bureaucratic and consumerist Japanese norms found expression in Japanese counter-culture, including gekiga. In 1964 the magazine Garo was founded. Aimed first at older teenagers, it published the famous historical story The Legend of Kamui by Sanpei Shirato. Set amongst the outcast burakumin society, it provided a new twist on the standard samurai story. The magazine quickly gained a following amongst university students.


Garo presented stories which were visually or thematically too challenging for the mainstream market. Many stories had unresolved or ambiguous endings. It gave older gekiga artists such as Tatsumi, Seiichi Hayashi and Yoshiharu Tsuge a forum for experimental and unconventional work and gave opportunities to new artists. By the late 1960s gekiga was everywhere. In 1967 the ‘God of Manga’, Osamu Tesuka himself created a new experimental magazine, COM. Garo’s circulation peaked at 80,000 in 1967?68, tiny by Japanese standards, but it continued to exert a 

significant influence on the world of manga and design. By the 1980s gekiga has become integrated into the many strands of manga. For some younger people the term gekiga is now consigned to the history books, but its legacy lives on. The work of Sanpei Shirato has been acknowledged as an early influence by Hayao Miyazaki, the Oscar-winning director of Spirited Away. Takao Saito’s deadly assassin Golgo 13, first published in 1968, is the longest running manga still published today. Over the last twenty years the works of artists associated with gekiga such as Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Shigeru Mizuki, Yoshihiro Tsuge, Masahiko Matsumoto and Takao Saito have been translated into many languages and won readers and awards around the world. Two members of the Gekiga Workshop, Masahiko Matsumoto and Yoshihiro Tatsumi have produced autobiographical accounts of the period, Gekiga Fanatics and A Drifting Life. Both works feature in the exhibition and evoke the excitement and challenges the artists faced nearly 60 years ago when manga for adults was still uncharted territory.  This is the first time that original drawings of gekiga ? the underground movement that revolutionised manga ? have been exhibited in Europe. 


The exhibition is supported by the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation Japan and the Japan Foundation.


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