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Charley’s War


How is the First World War represented in British comics?

In 1979 the Battle launched a new strip, Charley’s War. The story followed boy soldier Charley Bourne, who fought his way through the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and ended up in Russia in 1919. Written by Pat Mills, it was inspired by the film Oh! What a lovely war. The aim of the strip was not to glorify the conflict but to encourage the reader to re-evaluate their preconceptions of the First World War. 
At the time of publication, what made this unusual was it went against the standard preconceived historical storylines in other comic strips, which worked to normalise war and elevate the central character to the status of a hero.
Angus enthusiastically read them at the time, Chris and Jessica are much more recent consumers of Charley’s War.


Pat Mills on Charley’s War’, IWM Comics and Conflicts Conference (2011)

Fussell, Paul, The Great War and Modern Memory (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1975)
Hynes, Samuel, The Soldier’s Tale: Bearing Witness to a Modern War (Allen Lane 1997)
Jachimiak, Peter Hughes. “‘Woolly Bears and Toffee Apples’: History, Memory, and Masculinity in Charley’s War”, The Lion and the unicorn, 31.2 (2007), 162-175
MacCallum-Stewart, Esther, ‘The First World War and British Comics’ University of Sussex Journal of Contemporary History. 6 (2003) 1-18
Mills, Pat, and Joe Colquhoun, Charley’s War (London: Titan Books, 2004)
Williams, Rachel Marie-Crane, ‘Image, Text, and Story: Comics and Graphic Novels in the Classroom’, Art Education, 61.6 (2008), 13-19
Wurtz, James F., ‘Representing the Great War: Violence, Memory, and Comic Form’, Pacific Coast Philology, 44.2 (2009), 205-215

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