I'm really pleased with this great interview with the lovely Mary Talbot, published in today's Independent on Sunday.
Mary, along with husband and UK comics legend Bryan Talbot, made headlines earlier this year when her debut graphic novel, Dotter of Her Father's Eyes, won a prestigious Costa award. We had a long chat in the sun about that win, how she came about entering the world of comics, and her upcoming second graphic novel and brand new comics festival.
“It was a medium of expression that I was very much aware of on a daily basis,” she explains. “I mean, I’ve been watching Bryan create and been part of the process to some extent, in terms of reading his drafts and scripts, looking at pages as they form on the page, very often commenting on them. I’ve never participated before, fully, but I’ve been to some extent involved. I must have soaked up quite a bit of it!”
Making the transition into working in comics herself was perhaps, then, a natural step. “The whole thing started off as a suggestion from Bryan,” Mary explains. “Would I consider writing an autobiographical graphic novel? That was the starting point. I was uncomfortable with the idea, because I didn’t think it would have legs.”
Though she modestly thought no one would be interested in her upbringing, Bryan assured her that her story was both unique and compelling. Her father, the Joycean scholar James S Atherton, has cast a long shadow upon Mary’s life, which naturally suggested a link to James Joyce himself. Aware that the Ulysses author had a daughter, Mary began to see how her own story could be intertwined into something larger.
In the world of British comic creators, one name looms large: Alan Moore, creator of Watchmen and commander of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. An iconic figure, who weaves tales of Lovecraftian woe and shuns the superhero genre, Moore has built a dedicated readership around himself yet unexpectedly appeals to a far wider audience than a typical comics creator might hope for. But this is not a recent breakthrough.
In the early Eighties, Moore was determined to bring a woman-led story to the sci-fi anthology comic, 2000AD. The Ballad of Halo Jones was to be the story of an ordinary woman, not a superhero or special snowflake, but a woman who made her own story. 2000AD was already known for its subversion of heroes, but a whole strip starring a woman in a medium apparently dominated by men was a brave move. Moore was striving for a character that represented the everywoman, as opposed to the more common women in comics that often appeared half naked, or as an adornment to a male hero.
First piece of the New Year to be published, a wee review of the fantastic Gun Machine for The Independent on Sunday.
Gun Machine is out now and I heartily recommend it, even to non-crime fans.
Full review here: IoS book review: Gun Machine, By Warren Ellis
Stay tuned for some upcoming big pieces! (Far too many, pass the caffeine...)
My review of the just published League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 2009, by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, is published in today's Independent on Sunday in the lead slot. I've had the (only) review copy for nearly a month now and have resisted looking too smug about that rather well.
The Independent on Sunday has also run a news article about the comic, and one of its more controversial aspects, in the news section. It contains a quote by me, and I've included my full quote below for those interested, written for a mainstream audience.
Our new adventure begins with Orlando fighting once more in an unending war, this time in the Middle East's Q'umar. Our trio has failed to stop the birth of the Antichrist and their union has fractured. A televised news report ponders whether we are returning to an era of spin, resulting in a furiously foul-mouthed tirade from one Malcolm Tucker. As with the opera of 1910 and the cinematic references of 1969, the world of the League is open to all fiction, not only literature, and mentions of Hollywood stars and famous footballers can be found with a keen eye. References to previous instalments show the grand scale of Moore's meticulous planning.
Weaving together Britain's mythic dreamtime into one glorious creative tapestry, this latest percipient adventure is a thrilling ride.
The news story can be found here: Revealed: Harry Potter is the Antichrist!
And my full quote:
Alan Moore is perhaps the greatest comic writer of our time, changing superheroes forever with his genre-breaking Watchmen, altering the face of protests the world over with V for Vendetta, and famous too for his rare stance on film adaptations of his many works: a polite distancing based on personal disinterest. Having turned his back on the US comic publishers and their often questionable approach to creators rights, Moore found a happier home with Knockabout Comics and Top Shelf, where he has cheerfully produced a series of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novels that have outsold almost every other comic on the market.
From the late 19th century, the series has shown us a parallel world to our own, one in which our fictions are reality, where Captain Nemo and Professor Moriarty shape England's history. Moving events now to 2009, that fiction expands to encompass The West Wing, 24, and of course a certain boy wizard. Moore is always keen to point out that the League books are satire and that he has respect for all characters that he uses and hints at, expressing hope that people will look beyond the Harry Potter connection to appreciate the whole. He and artist Kevin O'Neill have layered several other fictions on top of the character who may (or may not!) be JK Rowling's creation, with nods towards Platform 13, Groosham Grange, and The Dark is Rising, predecessors all to the Boy Who Lived.
Make no mistake, the wily Moore is in no way making a statement on one character by his crafting of the ultimate bad guy in his series to date, rather his chosen Antichrist is a commentary on a perceived degradation of society, both in our world and the fictional. As the publishing industry takes less risks, originality is visibly dwindling, while major franchises and celebrity biographies are relentlessly pushed upon us. When the Antichrist comes face to face with the one character who can terminate his domination, it's difficult not to feel a swell of love for the old books that we all hold dear. People will perhaps be keen to paint this as a curmudgeonly assault on the popular Harry Potter, painting him as an evil abomination that has corrupted our children and heralded the death knell of children's fiction, but that is a shallow reading of a complex series that delights in layering meanings and references in the playground of our imagination.
You may have been wondering where I've disappeared to so far this year, but rest assured that I simply had a very busy January writing things that are only just starting to trickle out, along with some work for uni that will be appearing in some form on this site in the near future too. For now though, the first of two interviews I completed last month with the legendary Stan Lee!
It's a little more edited than my previous work as it appeared in the News section of The Independent on Sunday, but I hope you enjoy it. The focus was his upcoming visit to London for the new London Super Comic Con.
(NB - referred to as co-creator throughout)
As ever, the full version will be up here at a later date. You can check out my earlier interviews for the paper here:
Last month I had the fantastic experience of interviewing Alan Moore for the Independent on Sunday. Restricted in print to 1000 words and with Alan chatting for an hour on the phone, there was a whole heap of material left over.
My full and uncut interview with Grant Morrison was received so warmly, I have once more slaved over a full transcript for my fellow comic geeks. You can read the printed article here, and the full interview after the jump!
Sadly I could have done with another hour at least to expand more fully on some of my questions, but Moore is of course tremendously busy writing his novel, Jerusalem, and a good interview for the Indie was my priority. Still, I managed some of the women in comics angle!