The biggest comic book exhibition in the UK has opened at the British Library.

Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK provides the first chance to see the British Library’s extensive collection of comic books, alongside original artworks and scrips.

The exhibition covers the entire history of comic books in the UK, from the 1825 Glasgow Looking Glass, which satirised the political and social life of Scotland and which is thought to be the earliest regularly produced comic book, right through to Judge Dredd’s helmet from the recent film adaptation of the 2000AD Judge Dredd series

Highlights of the exhibition include a ventriloquist dummy of the Victorian era’s Ally Sloper, one of the earliest comic strip characters, 1970s underground comics tried in court for obscenity, such as Oz which is accompanied by a previously unheard recording of the Oz trial itself, as well as 21st century material, including original artwork and manuscripts of the likes of Kick-AssSandman and Batman and Robin, and Keaton Henson’s 2012 doll’s house installation, Gloaming, adapted specially for the show.

The exhibition explores many comics and graphic novels which address issues around themes such as sex, violence, race and drugs, but also the inspiration and context behind them.

It looks at intriguing historical figures, from 19th century occultist, magician and writer Aleister Crowley, whose original tarot card painting of The Universe is on display in the UK for the first time since its initial presentation in the 1930s, to HP Lovecraft to Punch and Judy.

Curators John Harris Dunning and Paul Gravett also aim to deconstruct comic books for a wider audience. As part of this idea the British Library has recorded a day in the life of four important comic book artists as they work in their studios, including Isabel Greenberg and Posy Simmonds, which appear as life size projections in the show.

John Harris Dunning, co-curator of the show, said: “We hope that this show will stimulate creative disobedience and throw down the gauntlet to young creators – as well as show audiences, who perhaps have not read comics before, what a diverse and exciting medium they are.

"The demystification of the process of creating comics is a key part of this exhibition, with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to see original artwork and scripts from comics greats.”

Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK runs until August 19 at the British Library in Euston Road, Camden, next to St Pancras Station. For tickets, priced at £5 to £9.50, call 01937 546546 or visit You can also buy tickets in person at the British Library.