In Review: Sally Heathcote: Suffragette

Sally Heathcote, Suffragette

By Mary Talbot, Kate Charlesworth and Bryan Talbot
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Out: 1st May 2014

The Book: Sally Heathcote: Suffragette is a gripping inside story of the campaign for votes for women. A tale of loyalty, love and courage, set against a vividly realised backdrop of Edwardian Britain, it follows the fortunes of a maid-of-all-work swept up in the feminist militancy of the era. Sally Heathcote: Suffragette is another stunning collaboration from Costa Award winners, Mary and Bryan Talbot. Teamed up with acclaimed illustrator Kate Charlesworth, Sally Heathcote‘s lavish pages bring history to life.

The ReviewSally Heathcote, Suffragette is a truly amazing tale and a welcome follow up to the Talbot’s award-winning Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes.

Bryan very kindly showed me some advance pages of this book very early last year at the launch event for the 2013 Lakes International Comic Art Festival, and even then I could tell this book was going to be something special. Kate Charlesworth’s art, based on Bryan’s layouts, already looked astonishing. The published work, complete with annotations to the story from Mary, does not disappoint.

The story in itself is gripping – there’s plenty here that will surprize those of us unfamiliar, perhaps, with the story of the Suffrage movement beyond the headline grabbing Emily Pankhurst and the horror of Emily Davison’s tragic attempt to disrupt the Derby in 1913. Mary Talbot’s script and pacing are exemplary throughout, offering a terrific insight into the characters as they battle for women to get the vote, blocked by state and individual government ministers.
A sample page from Sally Heathcote, Suffragette.

A sample page from Sally Heathcote, Suffragette.


The art will also astonish – not only in terms of pacing and  storytelling but a thoughtful use of contemporary imagery. There’s  a powerful scene, for example, that plays on the “Cat and Mouse” legislation  used against the women campaigners when some meet the prime Minister to discuss their demands for the very first time, inspired by vintage posters of the time. But quieter scenes and character moments are also lovingly realized, backed by a carefully considered use of colour and tone.

The staggering attention to historical detail throughout is incredible, too – an amazing attention to background detail never once gets in the way of the storytelling but, whether it’s trams, street scenes, vintage posters or simply an item of Suffrage memorabilia, all are perfectly captured.

Mary reports over on her blog that a sample of artwork from the book is part of the British Library’s Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK. Co-curated by Paul Gravett. it will be in the PACCAR Gallery from 2nd May – 19th August 2014. There will also be an exhibition of twenty pages of artwork from the project from 12th  – 23rd May 2014 at the Peltz Gallery in Birkbeck College, London. This exhibition is in conjunction with an academic conference marking the 40th anniversary of the BBC mini-series ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’

There’s already a huge amount of expectation about Sally Heathcote: Suffragette, but for me, the book delivers on so many levels. It’s definitely a title you should track down and savour when it’s published on 1st May.

Sally Heathcote: Suffragette is on sale in all good bookshops from 1st May 2014

Promotional Events

•  The conference on Shoulder-to-Shoulder: Female Suffrage, Second-Wave Feminism and Feminist TV Drama in the 1970s will take place on 15 – 16th May 2014 at Birkbeck, bringing together some of the original participants to celebrate this key TV text. Mary Talbot will be participating in a panel discussion on ‘Waves of Amnesia and Awakening’ which explores how the women’s movement is being remembered today, as well as how early TV work has almost been lost. If you’re interested in attending, you’ll need to check out Birkbeck’s event calendar.

• All three Sally co-creators will be signing at Gosh! from 2-3pm on 17th May. Then in the evening they’ll be doing a presentation as part of the Cartoon Museum’s Museums at Night event. Shoulder to Shoulder with Sally Heathcote, Suffragette takes place from 6.30-7.30pm. Full details here

• Bryan and Mary will also be appearing at the  Norfolk and Norwich Festival on Sunday 18th May as part of The Lives of Great Women Writers, a day long literary festival

The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Explorer (previously known as Star Trek Magazine) and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of "Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies" for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.

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