Readersforum's Blog

December 14, 2012

A page in the life: Bryan Talbot

DotHave graphic novels come of age? Tim Martin meets the dazzling and tireless exponent of the form, Bryan Talbot.

Just before I meet Bryan Talbot, news arrives that Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, the graphic memoir he drew from his wife Mary’s script, has become one of the first graphic novels to be shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards. This happy event prompts the usual round of earnest media proclamations about the coming-of-age of the comics medium, proclamations that Talbot – tall, pale and elegant, even when crammed into a tiny basement office in Soho’s Gosh! Comics shop – modestly seeks to dissolve as our interview begins. Recognition for the form, he points out, has been growing for at least the past two decades. “I think it was in 2001 that Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan won the Guardian First Book Award – and Art Spiegelman won a Pulitzer Prize for Maus.” But still, good news? “Oh, great news,” he says, smiling. “Great news.”

As any lover of comics will tell you, though, the fuss about this Sunderland-based writer and artist is both overdue and entirely justified. Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, which mixes his wife’s memoir of her father with episodes from the biographies of James and Lucia Joyce, is just one shard of a startlingly various body of work that ranges from a moving story about surviving child abuse (The Tale of One Bad Rat) to dazzling experimental sci-fi Victoriana (The Adventures of Luther Arkwright). Perhaps his best-known piece is Alice in Sunderland, which covered the history and culture of Sunderland in comics form, from the Late Cretaceous period to the present. But we’re here to talk about his latest project, Grandville: a string of steampunk detective comics featuring anthropomorphic animals that its author says “is sort of about getting back to my childhood, really”.

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