Kendal Calling: An Interview with Comic Artist, Writer and Festival Patron Bryan Talbot

LICAF 2017 Kendal Calling - Bryan Talbot

There’s not long to go now until this year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October (13th – 15th). The downthetubes “Kendal Calling” interviews continue with a chat with award-winning comics artist, writer and Festival patron Bryan Talbot, who will be launching the fifth and final Grandville graphic novel at the weekend-long event…

Bryan is now published in over twenty countries and winner of many comic awards – including an Eisner award, the Prix SNCF and several Eagles – having been working in the medium for over thirty years. Recognised as one of the most influential British comic artists ever, Bryan will be launching the fifth and last volume of his epic Grandville series at the festival this year.

He’s produced underground and alternative comics, notably Brainstorm!, and science fiction and superhero stories such as Judge Dredd, Nemesis the Warlock, Teknophage, The Nazz and Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight.

Bryan has also worked on DC Vertigo titles including Hellblazer, Sandman, The Dreaming and Fables, and has written and drawn the graphic novels for which he is best known, including The Adventures of Luther Arkwright (the first British graphic novel), Heart of Empire, The Tale of One Bad Rat, Alice in Sunderland, Metronome and Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, this last written by his wife, Mary, which won the Costa Biography Award in 2013.

He has been awarded an honorary Doctorate in Arts by Sunderland University and an honorary Doctorate of Letters by Northumbria University.

A Patron of LICAF, his most recent published work is The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia, co-created with his wife, Mary, published by Jonathan Cape. He is currently working on RAIN, another joint project with Mary.

downthetubes: What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?

Bryan Talbot: I’ve just spent nearly two years working on Grandville Force Majeure, the fifth and last volume in the series of anthropomorphic detective thrillers and it’s all finished! It’s published in November by Jonathan Cape in the UK and Dark Horse Books in the United States, but there will be a special advance launch at the Lakes Festival on Saturday 14th October, with the “Grandville – The Last Chapter” event, 1.15pm, followed by a signing in the Page 45 room in the Comics Clock Tower.

There will also be a prize of two pages of original Grandville artwork for the wearers of the two best Grandville character costumes at the Festival.

Grandville: Force Majeure - Preview Art

Grandville: Force Majeure - Preview Art

downthetubes: Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?

Bryan: It has to be The Tale of One Bad Rat, not only because it was my first non-genre graphic novel and I think the storytelling’s very good, but also because of the response I’ve had from readers. It’s well over twenty years since it was first published, but I still get letters and emails from people who were, and still are, deeply affected by it.

It’s still in print in the UK and US and several other countries, and is still used in some child abuse survivor centres as reading therapy.

Art from The Tale of One Bad Rat by Bryan Talbot
Art from The Tale of One Bad Rat by Bryan Talbot

downthetubes: How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)

Bryan: Not really. Every day I wake up at around 9am, go downstairs to the studio and start work. Apart from breaks for breakfast and lunch, emails and a 4-mile walk (which takes 50 minutes) I work until 9pm. Then we have dinner, watch some news, then a movie.

downthetubes: What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?

Bryan: Being self-employed, not having to travel to get to work, having the freedom to write and draw what I like all day.

downthetubes: And the worst?

Bryan: The boss is a bastard.

downthetubes: What most distracts you from getting your work done?

Bryan: Interviews!

Art by Bryan Talbot from The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia, written by Mary M. Talbot
Art by Bryan Talbot from The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia, written by Mary M. Talbot

downthetubes: Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?

Bryan: It’s easy to self-publish a small print-run self-published comic, or, even easier, get a webcomic online and, potentially, reach thousands of readers. But if you’re talking about making a living, I’ve no idea. It’s always been tough to do that, to break into the professional comics market. Took me about six years. Even Alan Moore took several years and Grant Morrison around ten.

It doesn’t just depend upon how talented you are, it also involves believing in yourself and being extremely tenacious, not giving up. There might be an element of luck but, as Neil Gaiman says, it’s strange how the harder you work, the luckier you seem to get.

Bryan Talbot at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival launch
Bryan Talbot at the Festival’s original launch bask in 2013. Photo: John Freeman

downthetubes: What did you think of the Lakes?

Bryan: I love the Lakes and partly grew up there. My folks got a static caravan in the Winster valley when I was around 14, and we’d come up from Wigan whenever we could. Mary and I still try and spend a week there every year, going hill-walking during the day. I’d love to live there, if I could afford it.

downthetubes: Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?

Bryan: I think I’ve met all the ones that I’d really like to meet – and that’s quite a long list.

downthetubes: How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?

Bryan: By enabling them to network, meet publishers and editors, make good friends and potential collaborators and get feedback from readers. And – very often – get inspired by the enthusiasm and work of others.

downthetubes: What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?

Bryan: See above. If you really mean it, work like hell and don’t give up.

downthetubes: What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?

Bryan: Hannah Berry‘s last graphic novel, LIVESTOCK. Any good bookstore/comic shop.

downthetubes: Bryan thanks you very much for your time and the very best for the launch of Grandville: Force Majeure at the Festival. Can’t wait to see it!

Book Your Festival Tickets Now!

• Book your tickets for this year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival here. This year’s events programme includes live draws, masterclasses, interactive talks and a chance to get up close to the best comic creators in the world! 

Web: www.comicartfestival.com | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Podcast | View the Festival Programme on Issuu | Download the Programme (PDF)

BRYAN TALBOT ONLINE

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor. He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY. Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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