Drawing National Boundaries in Barr's Ba-Bru Comic Strip Advertising

in European Comic Art
Author: David Leishman1
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  • 1 Grenoble Alps University david.leishman@univ-grenoble-alpes.fr
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Barr's Irn-Bru (previously Iron Brew), Scotland's best-known soft drink, was promoted by recurrent comic strip advertisements in Scottish newspapers from 1939 to 1970. ‘The Adventures of Ba-Bru’ featured an eponymous Indian character who was joined by a kilt-wearing companion known as Sandy. This article explores how what the firm presents as the longest-running promotional comic strip in history has helped shape the construction of Scottishness in the drink's advertising. The exotic nature of the central Ba-Bru figure provides a counterpoint to manifestations of local particularism but also grounds the drink's discourse on Scottishness in a wider imperial and unionist context. The comic strips also generate examples of intermedial transfer that underline the impact of quotidian consumption habits in a national identity shaped by popular culture.

Contributor Notes

David Leishman has been Senior Lecturer in English at the Grenoble Alps University since 2006 and managed the journal Études Écossaises from 2008 to 2016. Following his research on contemporary literature as a site of mediation for the construction of Scottish national identity, he is now focusing on commercial and advertising discourse in Scotland to study their contribution to the phenomenon of banal nationalism. Email: david.leishman@univ-grenoble-alpes.fr


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