About The Author
PODCAST OF EVENT AVAILABLE HERE
Bryan Talbot is one of Britain's bestselling and most highly regarded graphic novelists. He has won numerous prizes for his work, including the Eagle Award, Eisner Award and the Inkpot Award. In 2012, Dotter of Her Father's Eyes was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award, making it the first non-fiction graphic novel to be shortlisted for a major mainstream British literary prize.
His first published work featured in Mallorn, the magazine of the British Tolkien Society, in 1969. Having worked in British underground comics, he went on to publish what many consider the first British graphic novel, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright. His subsequent work for 2000AD included Nemesis the Warlock and Judge Dredd, as well as Hellblazer and Sandman for DC Comics.
1994's The Tale of One Bad Rat, which took the works of Beatrix Potter as a stylistic template, was a story of child abuse, and won widespread acclaim. Lewis Carroll's Alice stories were the starting point for 2007's Alice in Sunderland. 2009's Grandville was the first in his steampunk detective thriller series; the sequel Grandville: Mon Amour followed a year later.
Dotter of Her Father's Eyes was co-written with his wife, Dr Mary Talbot, and combined accounts of Dr Talbot's relationship with her father, an acknowledged expert on James Joyce, and that between Joyce himself and his daughter Lucia.
His most recent book is Grandville: Bete Noire, the third in the series, which sees a cabal of industrialists and fat cats plot the violent overthrow of the French state by the intervention of horribly beweaponed automaton soldiers.
Meanwhile, the brutal murder of a famous Parisian artist, mysteriously stabbed to death in his locked and guarded studio, is subject to the investigations of the tenacious Detective Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard, placing him and his faithful adjunct, Detective Sergeant Roderick Ratzi, in pursuit of the mysterious masked assassin stalking the cut-throat commercial world of the Grandville art scene.
In this exclusive interview with Foyles, Bryan talks about the influence of Rupert the Bear, his favourite graphic novels of 2012 and the unique experience of working with his wife on Dotter of Her Father's Eyes.
In November 2012 Brian dropped into Foyles to talk about Grandville Bête Noire. In this interview with Kim Newman, he was joined by his wife Mary Talbot, writer and co-creator of Dotter of Her Father's Eyes, part autobiographical family history, part biography of James Joyce's daughter Lucia. You can hear a podcast of that event here.
Questions & Answers
When you were younger what influenced you to get into comics?
My parents. They bought me nursery comics, such as Jack and Jill, before I could read. My dad used to give me the Rupert the Bear annuals as his Christmas present.
You started out doing fanzines, and then moved to doing more mainstream work at 2000AD on Nemesis the Warlock . What was the transition like in between the two?
I did work in UK underground and indy comics in between for five years, but it was still a big change, working on long strips to the very tight deadlines of a weekly comic. It taught me discipline and how to work for very long hours. It was also the first time I'd worked from another writer's script and I learned a lot about storytelling by example, especially from Pat Mills.
Dotter of My Father's Eyes is the first graphic novel to be shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award. Do you think there's something in particular about the book that has seen it gain this sort of literary acknowledgment?
I think it's a quality graphic novel, with two well-told, intertwining strands. It's not the only on: Joff Winterhart's Days of the Bagnold Summer is also nominated in the Novel section.
Did you feel you approached Dotter of My Father's Eyes differently due to the very personal nature of the story to your wife and your relationship?
I don't think so. I did what I always try to do, which is to tell the story as best I can in a style that I think is totally suitable to it.
Do you have standard editorial process when working on collaborations, or is it something that differs from person to person?
It differs. Usually a writer/ artist comics collaboration simply involves the writer supplying a script and the artist illustrating it. Dotter was the complete opposite, an incredibly close collaboration on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis, with on going discussion on both script and art and direct input both ways.
As a literary device, how do you feel the use of anthropomorphism contributes to the world of the Grandville series?
It was the original inspiration for the series. The early nineteenth century French artist Jean Ignace Isadore Gérard produced many illustrations featuring anthropomorphic characters under the pen-name J J Grandville, which gave me the title and the idea to do a story populated by talking animals. I've never done one before, so it was a challenge and, in a way, I was returning to my first love of comics, the Rupert the Bear books. Grandville is Rupert and The Wind in the Willows for grown ups! Having characters as animals also gives me an immediate shorthand palette of character types, so choosing the right animal for each role is quite important.
You seem to greatly enjoying exploring the genre of 'alternative history', answering the infinite question of 'what if?'. How do you identify points of history to veer off of?
It always depends upon the specific needs of each story. With Grandville, I needed to have France as the dominant world power and it seemed obvious that the best way that could be historically retroengineered would be in having France win the Napoleonic Wars and subsuming Europe.
You cite Albert Robida as a major influence to your work in Grandville, an amazing illustrator in his own right, but seems to have been overlooked as much of his work has yet to be translated from French. How did you first encounter his work?
In a book published in the 1970s titled A Hundred Years of Science Fiction Illustration.
Your technique of panel layout is something to be quite admired: there is a fluidity yet a synergistic overlap between them. How do you go about making the leap from script to page?
As I'm also the writer, I develop the visual storytelling at the same time as I'm scripting, so it's very natural. As I write the story I visualize how it will be told on the page. I used to spend quite a bit of time working on thumbnails and rough sketches but now I find that I simply do it in my head as I go along.
Which have been you favourite new graphic novels this year?
Adamtine by Hannah Berry, Nelson, various, edited by Woodrow Phoenix, and A Zoo in Winter by Jiro Taniguchi.
Could you tell us a little more about what we'll see from you next? We hear you have done the layout for Mary's upcoming graphic novel about the British Suffragette movement and are releasing Cherubs! with Mark Stafford.
I'm about to start drawing the fourth Grandville book, Grandville Nöel. I'm also scripting a webcomic and have an artist working on concept sketches. Cherubs! should be out very soon and it's the first graphic novel I've written that someone else has drawn. Mark's done a brilliant job. It's an irreverent, fast-paced supernatural comedy-adventure.
Interview by Nora Goldberg (follow Nora on twitter: @ExLIbrisNora)