Bryan Talbot Evolution Supernova
An interview conducted by Vasilis Sakkos
Edited by Elias Katirtzigianoglou and Dimitris Sakaridis
A pioneer of the British underground comics scene, Bryan Talbot is a genuine agent of evolution. Leading us to unparalleled realms of self-realisation, Talbot pried wide open our Doors Of Perception with his works and gracefully provides us with answers to the following questions...
Vasilis Sakkos: In BRAINSTORM COMIX there is a heavy psychedelic cloud permeating everything in sight. For you, what was it that finally opened the Doors Of Perception?
BRYAN TALBOT: Acid. The first volume of BRAINSTORM, especially, was basically a picture book for trippers. The sequence in LUTHER ARKWRIGHT, when he ascends into the pure white light of the void, was directly influenced by a personal experience. I've not taken it now for over 30 years but acid did have a big influence on me and other comic writers, including Alan Moore.
Vasilis Sakkos: Perception of reality seems to be a recurring theme in your work. Do you think things (in the global sense of the word) are getting clearer or mistier?
Bryan Talbot: This is a purely subjective perception and is different for everyone. To me, the world has been increasingly dominated by global capitalism, especially that aspect which controls the American administration and it is getting worse.
Vasilis Sakkos: Creating within the British underground scene (and being one of its most important parts) was equalled with a strong sense of integrity? How much did it mean for you?
Bryan Talbot: Yes, at the time the underground movement and the comics of the counter-culture, did have street credibility. For me, writing and drawing underground comics was the next coolest thing to playing lead guitar in a rock band.
Vasilis Sakkos: Do you think that the term "underground" has been degraded? Is it another marketing device used by the industry as the term "censored"?
Bryan Talbot: It's not been degraded in that proper "underground comics" haven't been produced since the end of the 70s. They were an expression of the counter cultural movement that dissipated then, as the youth movement that created it grew older and entered the mainstream. Their equivalents today are better described as "independent comics" as they are no longer part of a underlying movement.
Vasilis Sakkos: How much has your involvement with big publishing companies affected your creative vision?
Bryan Talbot: This is another subjective impression but, as far as I'm concerned, it hasn't. I still do the kind of stories that I want to do. In fact, if I'd embraced their ethos, Id probably be making a lot more money that I currently do!
Vasilis Sakkos: How important was music in the evolvement of your work?
Bryan Talbot: Music is very important to me but I can see very little influence that it's had on the work. Now and again, Ill quote song lyrics or mention a piece of music but I can't see (though perhaps others can) any discernible influence on the actual stories or artwork. ARKWRIGHT, to some extent, was influenced by David Bowie, especially his role in THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH.
Vasilis Sakkos: In ADVENTURES OF LUTHER ARKWRIGHT, we have a masterful description of a fragile dream of utopia struggling to be born. In reality, the fact that people avert their eyes from the Truth will probably deny them the fulfilment of this dream. Is there any sense of futility in trying to share with them a vision?
Bryan Talbot: Yes, but it's worth trying.
Vasilis Sakkos: How easily do you think that masses can be manipulated? Will this be their downfall?
Bryan Talbot: Probably. Religion used to be the opiate of the masses but today it seems to be commercialism.
Vasilis Sakkos: Are you a firm believer in the power of the individual and its ability to evolve (like Luther)?
Bryan Talbot: The way Arkwright evolves is pure science fiction - he literally becomes the next stage in human evolution. Individual evolution is certain. People change with their experiences. They adapt and grow. So does society but it is being increasingly funnelled to conform to the will of global capitalism. The individual should be free-thinking and refuse to conform. A start would be to refuse to buy designer clothes and stop drinking Coca Cola!
Vasilis Sakkos: Your work has influenced a whole generation of British creators who were mystified by your endeavours in the field. How do you feel when you see your influence in their work?
Bryan Talbot: Flattered.
Vasilis Sakkos: Which new creators do you think stand apart from the others?
Bryan Talbot: Joe Sacco, (if he can be described as "new") and Marjane Satrapi. Most new British and American artists seem to copy the styles of the dominant superhero genre.
Vasilis Sakkos: There is a recurring "Alice in Wonderland" theme in all your works. It makes us eager to ask: What can you tell us about your much anticipated work ALICE IN SUNDERLAND? When can we expect it to be published?
ALICE IN SUNDERLAND will be an approximately 300 page long graphic novel with the themes of storytelling, history and myth in a form Ive been describing as a "dream documentary". It is not one story but literally dozens, short and long, the central spines being the history of Sunderland and the story of Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell (the "real" Alice), both of whom had connections with the city and surrounding area. For example JABBERWOCKY, the most famous nonsense poem in the English language, was written here.
The stories are told within the structure of an imaginary performance on the stage of the Sunderland Empire theatre, the shorter ones interwoven within the two main threads and consistently underpinned by the stage setting. As the Empire is an Edwardian music hall, the work is a "variety performance" in that different visual styles are utilised for each story, according to its needs. The artwork is a mixture of black and white, line, monochrome and colour, line work, watercolour painting, collage and digital artwork. The styles vary wildly from a conventional 9 panel grid, and full page illustrations to multiple image pages, or metapanels, using original art collaged with old prints, maps etc.
Lewis Carrolls ALICE IN WONDERLAND and THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS were stories of dreams and dream is one of the themes of the book.
The script is written, about 220 pages drawn and it should be on sale next year, published by Fantagraphics.
Vasilis Sakkos: The social impact that TALE OF ONE BAD RAT had was tremendous. How does that reflect on your everyday life?
Bryan Talbot: I still get letters and e-mails from abuse survivors who love the book. Also from people whove lent it to people they know who dont usually read comics but can read and appreciate BAD RAT. This does give me a lot of satisfaction.
Vasilis Sakkos: How much does nature affect your thinking and creativity? Do you feel that man is trapped in the modern urban environment and needs the liberation provided by wide open spaces?
Bryan Talbot: Well, I do personally. I do need to get into the countryside for at least a week or two every summer, even though I live in a tree-lined street with a beautiful park at the end of it.
Vasilis Sakkos: What sets Britain apart socio-politically?
Bryan Talbot: Not a great deal, these days. Its just another country that has to bend with the socio-economic wind.
Vasilis Sakkos: What do you think lies ahead for the Empire?
Bryan Talbot: Weve not had an empire for at least 50 years! Im hoping that we become part of a European super-state. The alternative is that wed be totally dominated by America.
Vasilis Sakkos: In general, how does the turbulent political state of the world affect you, as an individual and a creator?
Bryan Talbot: All I can try and do is comment on it within my stories. Most of todays turbulence is caused by the forces that control America, the neo-conservatives, who are creating a climate of fear to further their own ends of global economic domination.
Vasilis Sakkos: What do you wish your readers find when they reach the bottom of the rabbit hole?
Bryan Talbot: Ultimately, I suppose, they find a communication with myself.
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