Ten Questions for artist Bryan Talbot

Bryan Talbot has worked on underground comics, science fiction and superhero stories such as Judge Dredd and Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, Vertigo titles including Hellblazer, Sandman and Fables and has written and drawn the graphic novels The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, Heart of Empire, The Tale of One Bad Rat and Alice in Sunderland. In 2009 he was awarded a Doctorate in Arts.

Here, he talks about his latest project, Grandville Mon Amour, the sequel to his cirtically-acclaimed Grandville steampunk tale, which will be launched at the Thought Bubble convention in Leeds this coming weekend…

The Jonathan Cape edition of Grandville Mon Amour
Set three weeks after the finale of Grandville, Grandville, Mon Amour pits Detective Inspector Archie LeBrock of Scotland Yard against an old adversary, Edward ‘Mad Dog’ Mastock – a psychotic serial killer whose shocking escape from his execution at the Tower of London begins this fast-paced, Hitchcockian steampunk thriller.

With a range of new and fascinating characters and a mix of Holmesian deduction, knowing humour and edge of the seat action, Grandville Mon Amour continues the vein of high-octane adventure begun in the first volume. Can even LeBrock escape the past or do heroes have feet of clay?

downthetubes: Grandville was a huge, deserved success for you. How does Grandville Mon Amour add to the ‘universe’ you have created?

Bryan Talbot: It builds on the characters of Detective Inspector LeBrock and his adjunct Detective Roderick Ratzi and supplies an insight into what Britain was like during the French occupation and the role of LeBrock and the British Resistance back then.

downthetubes: What kind of background research have you done to create the Grandville universe?

Bryan: Mainly reading books on Belle Epoch Paris and collecting images of animals and late Victorian and early Edwardian costume. I’ve also visited Paris a few times to do location and architectural research and the Natural History Museum in Milan, which has a huge collection of stuffed animals. The police museum in the Paris Prefecture was also very useful, as was the one in Manchester.

On the steampunk side, I’ve taken many photographs at the Victorian water pumping station in Sunderland, the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, the Birmingham Think Tank Science Museum and had my brother-in-law take a bunch at the Industrial Museum at Kelham Island in Sheffield. Grandville Mon Amour has a sequence set in Westminster Abbey, so I had to visit that last year too.

downthetubes: Do you have a favourite new character in this story?

Bryan: I have a few. I think Billie is great. She more or less invented herself while I was in the early “blue sky” stages of the book. She’s a badger prostitute who’ll become a major character in further books. She’s very worldly, intelligent and more than a little tragic. Another character who’ll be recurring is Chief Inspector Rocher of the Paris Prefecture, who’s a little like a posh Maigret.

There’s also a hipopotamus brothel madame that I’m particulary pleased with and Harold Drummond, the prime minister of Britain, a bulldog, obviously. The one that steals the show, though is probably Edward Mastock, the (literally) mad dog serial killer and a totally despicable villain.

downthetubes: You’ve been writing and drawing your own stories for many years. Do you think that sets any particular challenge in terms of storytelling? Have you ever pulled back from drawing a ‘crowd scene’, for example, because you have so much control over your work?

Bryan: As the writer, I’m a total bastard to myself the artist. I’m always writing in scenes that I think will look great while the artist is groaning inside, knowing how much work will be involved.

downthetubes: You’ve said elsewhere that it’s hard to make money as a comics storyteller in the UK. Is there one thing that might help change that?

Bryan: The ongoing growth of the market for graphic novels and their mainstream acceptance as a legitimate artist medium.

downthetubes: What is the continued appeal of comics as a storytelling medium for you?

Bryan: I love illustration. I like looking at drawings. Comics take illustration even further, using multiple drawings to tell stories. What could be better than that? I also enjoy playing with the structures and visual storytelling of the medium: manipulating atmospheres, playing with layouts and compositional lines, designing everything to enhance the particular story I’m working on.

downthetubes: As a frequent self publisher in your earlier career, what one tool available to modern creators could you most have used back then to sell your books?

Bryan: Actually, I only ever published one small print run comic in the late 1970s when I was working somewhere that had a litho press. The rest of the time, the comics, even the underground ones, were published by other people. The obvious answer, though is the internet.

downthetubes: What one piece of advice would you give would be self publishers working on their first book?

Bryan: Persevere.

downthetubes: What’s next for Grandville? Is it ongoing?

Bryan: I’ve plotted out the next three books and am currently scripting the third one while waiting to hear back from a publisher about a graphic novel collaboration that I may well be doing first with a writer. I don’t want to mention it here, in case it doesn’t happen, but will definitely let you know when and if it’s going ahead.

downthetubes: Would you consider seeing Grandville in other mediums, like animation, for example?

Bryan: Absolutely. It would work fine as a CGI movie.

downthetubes: Bryan, thanks very much for your time. Follow the badger!

• More about Bryan Talbot at: www.bryan-talbot.com

Comic Book Resources Interview with Bryan Talbot
August 2010

Pre-order Grandville Mon Amour from amazon.co.ukPre-order Grandville Mon Amour from amazon.co.uk

Pre-order Grandville Mon Amour (Dark Horse edition) from amazon.com

The Grandville: Mon Amour Tour
Saturday 20th November
The book will be officially launched at the Thought Bubble Comics Festival. Saviles Hall, Leeds. Bryan will be there all day to sign copies. On Sunday he will be giving the Grandville Presentation in the Hepworth Room at the Leeds Art Gallery at 3.30pm – 4.30pm. Admission free.

Tuesday 30 Nov 2010 7.00pm
“Grandville and the Anthropomorphic Tradition” – Powerpoint presentation at Orleans House Gallery – Coach House, Riverside, Twickenham, TW1 3DJ: Full price £7.00 Concession £6.00: Richmond Literature Festival.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010 – 6.45pm to 8.15pm 
ICA, The Mall, London SW1, In conversation with Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell: Tickets: £12, Concessions £11, Members £10

Thursday 02 December 6.00pm – 7.00pm
Forbidden Planet London Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR

Saturday 4th December 1pm – 2pm
Travelling Man Newcastle, 43 Grainger St, NewcastleNE1 5JE, 0191 2614993

Saturday 11th December 12.00pm – 1.00pm
Travelling Man York 54 Goodramgate, York YO1 7LF, United Kingdom, 01904 628 787

Saturday 11th December 4.00pm – 5.30pm
Travelling Man Manchester, 4-4A Dale Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester M1 1JW, 01612 373422

Pre-order Grandville Mon Amour(Dark Horse edition) from amazon.com

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