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New film looks ahead to First World War commemorations
Published: 5th August 2013, 9:05am

In one year’s time candlelit vigils will be held across Britain to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. With the anniversary just a year away, a new film by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is shining a light on a fascinating research project from the University of Lincoln’s Professor Jane Chapman.

Professor Chapman, from the University of Lincoln’s School of Journalism, reveals how long-forgotten comic strips from 1914-18 contributed to the origins of modern international popular culture – both military and civilian.

Professor Chapman and her team of researchers are uncovering comics from the UK, Europe, Commonwealth countries and the USA, and exploring their unique depiction of epic events of the First World War and their influence on the public consciousness and cultural heritage.

Examining attitudes to war as expressed through comics strips, as well as the various national, political and social tensions they conveyed, the Lincoln researchers are uncovering the kind of views that comics offer in specific aspects of world war history. These sources can show a unique form of insight into depictions of heroes, enemy and victims.

Amateur cartoon artists in the trenches had to beg and borrow paper; iodine and paint brushes, normally used by medics for wounds, were sometimes used to create comic strip colour.  

Professor Chapman, Professor of Communications at the Lincoln School of Journalism, said: “These popular communications were the armed forces’ Great War equivalent of today’s mobile phone citizens’ journalism.

“The harsh realities of trench warfare create a poignancy of humour through pain: ordinary people, including soldiers were producing their own newspapers, and some were creating early comic strips when they were surrounded by suffering and death threatened.”

The AHRC's film offers a glimpse ahead to 2014, which will see Professor Chapman and her team curate a major exhibition of First World War comics at the Cartoon Museum in London, and a further exhibition on Second World War comics will follow in 2015.

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