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Bryan Talbot Interview (June 2009)

 height=Bryan Talbot is the creator of such books as The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, The Tale of One Bad Rat, and Alice in Sunderland, and has worked on such books as Judge Dredd, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, and Sandman. Now he returns with his latest graphic novel, Grandville, which is published by Dark Horse. Westfield's Roger Ash recently contacted Talbot to learn more about this book.

Westfield: What was the inspiration for Grandville? What is the genesis of this story?

Bryan Talbot: The story is inspired by the work of 19th century French illustrator Jean-Ignace-Isidore Gerard, who worked under the nom-de-plume of Grandville.

He frequently drew anthropomorphic animal characters, dressed in contemporary French fashions and his pictures were often politically satirical. The 19th century proto-SF French illustrator Robida is another influence.

Westfield: What can you say about the story?

Talbot: It's a fast-paced, hard-boiled steampunk detective thriller. The central character is a large working class English Badger, Detective Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard. I wanted to write one of those sorts of stories that starts small and parochial and gets bigger and bigger as it goes along, a little like The Lord of the Rings. This one starts with an apparent suicide in a tiny English village and escalates until it reaches a climax worthy of a James Bond movie.


Westfield: The story takes place in an alternate version of Britain, which is something you also used in Luther Arkwright, but in a different way. What do you find appealing about alternate histories?

Talbot: Basically, they are a lot of fun and extremely cool. You can also use them to criticize or comment on our reality. As I said, Grandville starts in England but most of the story is set in Paris - a steampunk version of La Belle Epoch, complete with steam-powered hansom cabs, flying machines, and automaton robots. In the story, Britain lost the Napoleonic war and has been part of the French empire for two hundred years, so nobody speaks English anymore. All the characters speak French but - it's okay! It's all translated in the speech balloons!

Westfield: Why did you choose to do this as an anthropomorphic story?

Talbot: That was the fundamental inspiration from Grandville the illustrator. In my work I always try to do something I haven't tried before. I'd never done an animal book. There's a huge tradition of this as a distinct comic genre, especially in the British children's comics I grew up with. My favourite comic when young was Rupert The Bear - unknown in the States but massive still in the U.K. The suicide at the beginning of Grandville is set in Rupert's village - "Nutwood."

Westfield: Did you deliberately cast certain characters as specific animals?


Talbot: Absolutely. The Badger protagonist and his sidekick, Roderick Ratzi, are a direct reference to Wind In The Willows. The right-wing prime minister of France in the story is a white rabbit named Jean-Marie Lapin! (A reference to the leader of France's extremist neo-nazi National Font party Jean Marie le Pen: Lapin = French for rabbit). I have a character Andre Pegasus, the drug baron of Paris, who's a white horse (junkie slang: horse = heroin). And there are others.

Westfield: Are there any other projects you're working on that you'd like to mention?

Talbot: I've recently finished writing the script to the next book, Grandville Mon Amour. I've never written a series of books before about the same character (an honourable tradition!) so I think that I'd like to do three or four books starring LeBrock before I move on. I'm currently scripting the second and final volume of the Cherubs! story to be drawn, again, by the great Mark Stafford. I'm very disappointed that the first volume published by Desperado last year got zilch publicity and no one seems to have heard of it. What is there not to like? An irreverent supernatural comedy adventure about a bunch of gonzo Cherubs on the loose in New York on the eve of the apocalypse! It's funny, exciting, and sexy!

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Talbot: I'm very pleased at how the book turned out. It's the first graphic novel that I've computer-coloured all the way through and it's almost a synthesis of all the styles I've used in the past. One thing that I noticed as I've shown people printouts of it as a work-in-progress is that they've all been very taken by it - even people at comic cons who've never seen my work before. They've all said "Wow! I want a copy of this!" That gave me the idea to do the trailer, to show it around more prior to publication. I asked the designer and computer illustrator Jordan Smith to produce and direct it and he did a great job. I'd also like to say that the book will be a very nice artifact in itself, just to hold, feel, and look at. It's going to be clothback, like an old-fashioned adventure novel, with an art nouveau style cover image. I've even designed steampunk endpapers and patterned paper for the non-artwork pages.

To link to this interview, use this link (right click and copy)

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