BRYAN TALBOT ANSWERS 15 QUESTIONS WITH JULINDA MORROW
Bryan Talbot marches to the beat of his own drummer. He has made a successful career out of producing intelligent, beautifully illustrated graphic narratives that go against the grain of conventional comics and the commercial market that sells them.
What’s Bryan’s secret? Simple, from Luther Arkwright, to One Bad Rat, to his latest graphic novel series Grandville, Bryan believes passionately in his creations
Bryan’s artistic commitment pervades his illustrations for the graphic novel Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, written by Bryan’s wife, Mary Talbot. It’s part personal history and part biography. The story juxtaposes two coming-of-age narratives: that of James Joyce’s daughter Lucia, and Mary Talbot’s own. Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes was published in February 2012 by Dark Horse Comics.
I urge every reader to get their hands on at least one volume of his tremendous works.
A gallery of Bryan’s striking art follows this interview.
Julinda Morrow: What path led you to comics and sequential art?
Bryan Talbot: I’ve always read comics, since before I went to school. I started making home-made comic books when I was eight and, after I left college, when I was unemployed for 6 months, I wrote and drew an underground comic and found someone to publish it. I made British underground and alternative comics for about five or six years before going full time professional. That was in 1981.
JM: What schooling or training did you receive?
BT: I did a diploma in graphic design.
JM: Who, in your opinion, are the pioneers of sequential art?
BT: The person who designed the Bayeux Tapestry, William Hogarth, Thomas Rowlandson, Rudolf Töpffer and the illustrators who produced the first Victorian comic newspaper supplements. They invented the basic visual grammar that we still use today.
JM: How do you define sequential art?
BT: Comics. I’ve never thought of how it’s defined. I suppose it’s the use of pictures or a mixture of words and pictures in sequence to impart information or tell a story. It’s fundamentally a visual medium, so the pictures should be more prominent than the words. There’s a grey area between sequential art and illustrated stories – where one stops and another begins.
JM: Do you find that sequential art provides you with near-limitless possibilities for storytelling or do you experience it as constraining?
BT: I’ve never found it constraining. It’s as limitless as any other medium. Is film limitless? Theatre? Opera? Prose fiction? I think it’s a strange question.
JM: What qualities or resources do you believe are most important for a sequential storyteller to have?
BT: A strong visual imagination and fluency with the language of comics.
JM: How do you approach your work process?
BT: I don’t know what you mean. I’m working most of the time. Even if I’m not writing or drawing, I’m thinking about it or relating what I’m seeing to it. I don’t really stop.
JM: How many hours a day do you work? Are you uniformly productive on any given day or more productive on some days than others?
BT: I write or draw, or both, about nine or ten hours a day, seven days a week. Some days are more productive. Working from home means that sometimes there’s interruptions – family visits, whatever.
JM: Was it a struggle, at the start of your career, to find work and make ends meet?
BT: Yes. Before I went self employed, all my first comics were done while unemployed or in my spare time while I was working during the day as a designer or illustrator.
JM: What inspires or informs you creatively?
JM: What is your position on digital comics? Are they a good thing or a bad thing?
BT: They are just another way of presenting comics, so [they] are neutral. Whether they are good or bad depends upon each individual comic.
JM: If you were to make any changes to the industry or the market what changes would you make?
BT: Have the comic industry produce more books that are for the consumption of 100% of the population, rather than the small percentage that are genre fans.
JM: If you could apprentice under any artist at any time in history and anywhere in the world who would it be?
JM: What, in the future, would you like to accomplish creatively?
BT: Carry on producing a wide range of graphic novels.
Photograph by kind permission of the Sunderland Echo.