“For you, Tommy, the War is Over… Or is it?” British War Comics 1945 to 1985

  • Calum Laird

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    British War Comics from 1945-1985, with their representation of warfare and Allied and enemy combatants, broadly reflect changing British social attitudes over this 40-year period and constitute a unique record within the corpus of popular culture that has not been subject to critical examination. This thesis will analyse these comics in terms of their presentation of war, their position within British popular culture and their narrative conventions and formal construction. Further, the precursors of the War Comic will be examined in some detail to establish the prominence of this strand of literature for a significant portion of the British public, and the evolution of the war story within it. This study will identify the dominant concerns of narratives of conflict within this corpus, including the influence of the British imperialist culture. The analyses will be used to place these war stories against the evolving narrative of British social history and values with particular reference to prevailing views, both academic and popular, of the historical periods in which they are set. These comics are particularly interesting, as although war is a popular subject for films, novels, and television dramas, many of these comics were directed at a quite different audience (children) and were often the first encounters these readers would have with history outside of the classroom. These comics were, in the immediate post-war years, often created by people who had served in the war, although in the 1970s a new generation of writers revolutionized the genre, and brought very different attitudes. Moreover, the fact that comics were subject to different types of restrictions and constraints than other media, while enjoying other freedoms, make them particularly interesting in terms of the messages they communicated, and the ways in which they achieved this. Specific analysis will be directed to the two titles, Warlord and Battle, which became the first British anthology comics to concentrate exclusively on narratives of warfare. Both appeared in the 1970s, and contained some stories, principally derived by a post Second World War generation of creators, that challenged preconceptions about British War comics (and others that confirmed them). By setting them within the context of changes in contemporary British society, the titles’ significance as the first major challenges to long-accepted norms of British war story narratives and their legacy within the ongoing genre of British War Comics will be addressed. The thesis employs a mixture of historical and archival research, and is supported by a series of original interviews with creators including those who made significant impacts on these two titles, tied to close formal analysis of the comics, and is informed by a range of theoretical concerns including reader response theory, cultural materialism, adaptation theory, remediation, and representations of national identity and otherness.
    Date of Award2019
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorBrian Hoyle (Supervisor) & Chris Murray (Supervisor)


    • War Comics, British

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