THAT old tabloid-headline staple, fury, was pressed into service last week when Darren Cullen’s latest subversive work was unveiled in London.

The Glasgow School of Art graduate’s mock Royal Navy recruitment posters, which target Trident nuclear submarines and are dominated by the message, Become a suicide bomber, were put up overnight by the Special Patrol Group, which describes itself as a “shadowy subvertising organisation”.

“The crew of our nuclear submarines are on a suicide mission”, the poster reads. “To launch their missiles means death is certain, not just for them, but for the millions of innocent people those bombs will obliterate, and for the rest of us too.”

A reference beneath to the URL for the Royal Navy led, not to the official Navy site, but to Cullen’s own website.

The posters generated the inevitable tabloid reaction and some criticism on social media, but the Trident whistleblower, William McNeilly, (who revealed alleged multiple safety and security lapses) said the “suicide mission” message was accurate. Ben Griffin, a former SAS soldier and paratrooper who is co-ordinator of Veterans for Peace UK, declared that the posters “highlighted the hypocrisy” of Trident renewal.

Interviewed on Russia Today, Cullen said: “A lot of the Trident debate comes around [to], can we afford it, or is it going to be obsolete, but actually I think it’s worth reminding ourselves that these are genocidal weapons that are suicidal in nature. I think we draw an ethical line between us and the terrorists, because they’re willing to commit suicide to brutally murder innocent people, but so are we.”

Cullen is a south London-based satirical artist, illustrator and writer who, when he was younger, was keen to make advertising a career. He studied the subject at Leeds College of Art but was repelled by the ethical implications involved. He later observed that “manipulating the desires and aspirations of the public, and especially children, using an arsenal of sophisticated and emotionally damaging psychological techniques, is an appalling way to make a living and an even worse way to sustain an economy.”

He switched from advertising to Fine Art at GSA. In 2005, while in his final year, he launched, in the city, a poster that denounced Santa and festive consumerism. He told our sister paper, The Herald: “Santa is a lie which teaches kids that products will make them happy. Before they can think for themselves the Santa myth already has them hooked on a life of consumerism. And if you try to tell kids the truth about how they're being manipulated, you're the bad guy crushing their dreams. But these dreams have been formed by advertisements."

In his own words, Cullen now “uses the language of advertising to make work about the empty promises of consumerism and the lies of military recruiters". Four years ago he published his first comic, an anti-army recruitment booklet entitled Join the Army.

A 2014 London project, Pocket Money Loans, saw him opening what was ostensibly a payday lending shop that offered pocket-money advances to children aged three and over. It was actually an art exhibition – a skilful and thought-provoking one, at that, which scrutinised the way in which the consumer-credit industry used marketing to target children.

“I wanted to draw attention to the malicious practices of child advertising from payday loan companies but across the board with other companies as well – that child advertising in general, I think, is very harmful,” Cullen told the BBC at the time.

As he says on his website, the shop was convincing enough to be real, and there was an immediate backlash. “Someone helpfully pointed out that the joke wasn't about the people who fell for it, rather that in the current climate, a payday loan shop for kids didn't actually seem that far-fetched.”

The 'shop' made subsequent appearances at Banksy’s Dismaland installation, at last year’s Glastonbury Festival, and in Newcastle last October.

Cullen has also written three short films called Action Man: Battlefield Casualties to draw attention to the way the Ministry of Defence targets children as young as five with its official toy range, HM Armed Forces, which includes an RAF Drone Playset.

The films, made in collaboration with Veterans for Peace UK, took the form of mock TV adverts, complete with pounding music and eye-catching visuals, and used Action Man models to depict soldiers either dead or with harrowing PTSD or life-changing injuries.

“I’m especially interested in the point where the terrible requirements of our system collide with the innocence of childhood,” Cullen says. “Children’s play, like every other aspect of human life, has been colonised by capitalism, adapted as it is into a sort of childhood training camp for the hard-working consumers and soldiers of tomorrow.”

Join the Army is, incidentally, now in the V&A, London's Victoria and Albert Museum. A self-published, single-sheet work 1.48 metres in length, it cleverly updates the Bayeux Tapestry to the Iraq War and characteristically shows how Cullen uses humour and a sharp eye for detail to make a serious point. Headed Join the Army – like prison but with more fighting, it features a coat of arms supported by a pair of sheep, with straplines reading Free prosthetic limbs! and Stress! Tedium! Misery!

As the V&A notes: “His lively illustrations and witty use of language are unapologetically controversial, yet Cullen’s comic provides a counter voice to the British Government and Armed Forces concerted efforts to boost their reputation and numbers in the wake of the unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in the early part of the Twentieth Century.”

Cullen's work can be seen at his website,