The Les Coleman Underground Comics Collection

Scope and Content

Amongst the Les Coleman Collection is a significant collection of comics from North American underground [1968-1980] and alternative [1980-present] comic book movements. Perhaps the most significant component of the collection is Coleman's Robert Crumb material, which is possibly one of the largest in the UK. Other highlights in the collection include large collections of the work of Canadian comic book artist Julie Doucet and Serbian artist Aleksandar Zograf, complete runs of classic counter-cultural comics Arcade, Bijou Funnies and Raw. In addition to comics Coleman also acquired various signed and limited edition prints by comic book artists such as Charles Burns, Joe Coleman, Joost Swarte, Archer Prewitt and Aline-Kominsky Crumb. An admirer and champion of the art form Coleman organised and curated various comic exhibitions in his lifetime. A prominent British comic commentator and critic, Coleman was also in correspondence with various artists including Doucet, Zograf, Mack White, Jeff Johnson and Prewitt.

The second part of the Coleman collection is comprised of art, illustration and humour books from America, Australia, the UK and Europe (predominantly France and Belgium). Coleman's twin fascinations in this area were cartoons and surrealism, and his favoured artists range from the gentle newspaper gags of 'Larry' to the dark absurdist visions of Roland Topor. Other prominent artists in this part of the collection include Charles Addams, Edward Gorey, Saul Steinberg, HM Bateman, Glenn Baxter, Ivor Cutler, Maurice Henry, Sempé and Siné.

The third part of the collection is made up of Coleman's personal papers. Amongst this part of the collections there is a great deal of correspondence with his contemporaries in the art world such as painter, collaborator and teacher Patrick Hughes, the artist and children's' illustrator Tony Blundell, artist and colleague Charlie Holmes, artist and illustrator Chris Vine, French surrealist and publisher Marcel Mariën, and many more. Additionally there is a large collection of postcards and Christmas cards, many designed by the aforementioned artists. There is also some draft artwork and research material for a cartoon strip entitled 'Ying and Yang' which Coleman created in collaboration with Hughes. There is also a large collection of research material, primarily consisting of handwritten notes, annotated scans and photocopies, photographs, and sketches. Research material relates both to Coleman's teaching and curation careers.

Administrative / Biographical History

Les Coleman (6 May 1945 - January 17 2013) was an artist, poet, sculptor, art lecturer, critic, and collector. A lifelong connoisseur and collector of the surreal, obscure and esoteric Coleman accumulated a unique, rare and significant literary and visual library in his lifetime. It is the latter which he donated to the University of Arts London.


The Les Coleman collection fonds has been divided into three distinct series. 'Comic books', 'Art, illustration and humour' and 'Personal papers'.

Access Information

The University Archives and Special Collections Centre is open 1-5pm Mon-Fri. It is advisable to make an appointment prior to visiting.

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated to the archive by Les Coleman's family.

Other Finding Aids

Conditions Governing Use

Limited copying for academic purposes is allowed.

Custodial History

The collection was kept by Les Coleman at his home until its transfer to University of the Arts London Archives and Special Collections Centre.

Personal Names