Looking back at Red Virgin launch week

M, RV, BCreating a graphic novel is a slow process, and most of the time a solitary one. The creation of The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia began, for me, back in 2013, as I embarked on a long trail of research into the life and work of the extraordinary Louise Michel, involving French history and more. I reflect on the origins of the project in a Director’s Commentary here and a short piece for Carabas here. Carabas has also posted a 6-page preview here.

With the publication of Red Virgin last week, we’ve been busy with promotional activities down in London. But most importantly, we were there for the launch party. The work completed, it Bryan, Marywas time to meet up with friends and celebrate!  And it really was a delightful evening in Bloomsbury, generously hosted by the Cartoon Museum and Jonathan Cape, with the Great British Graphic Novel exhibition serving as the perfect backdrop. Lee Harris was there, Bryan’s first publisher back in the 1970s. Dan Franklin, our current publisher, was also present, as was museum director-curator Anita O’Brien. All three spoke warmly about the book; glasses were raised; wine and good cheer were shared by all. A huge thank you to everyone there, for helping us to celebrate this latest collaborative endeavour.

I’m delighted to say that Red Virgin’s reception has been hugely positive. It’s had three glowing reviews so far, which are posted on the Red Virgin page here.

Anita O'Brien speaking

Anita O’Brien speaking

Lee Harris speaking

Lee Harris speaking

Corinne Pearlman and Yomi Ayemi

Corinne Pearlman and Yomi Ayemi

Cape PR people Aidan and Cat - our friendly wine service for the evening!

Cape PR people Aidan and Cat – our friendly wine service for the evening!

David Hine and Mark Stafford

David Hine and Mark Stafford

Dan Franklin speaking

Dan Franklin speaking

crowd

Donald Rooum with Bryan

Donald Rooum with Bryan

SJ Harris and Zika Tamburic

SJ Harris and Zika Tamburic

Mel Gibson

with Mel Gibson

Pizza Express 4

Earlier in the day Bryan and I had visited Broadcasting House to pre-record an interview with Samira Ahmed, Front Row presenter for BBC Radio 4. The day after, we had another trip to Broadcasting House, this time to pre-record an interview with Matthew Sweet, presenter of Radio 3’s Free Thinking. Both were broacast on 10th May. We were back in the Cartoon Museum that evening, when we did an illustrated talk about the new book. We also called in at Orbital Comics in Soho, to record a podcast with Karl and Chris. In the third evening of our London visit, we were over at the House of Illustration in King’s Cross for a panel on writing radical lives with Kate Evans and Alex Butterworth. Back home in Sunderland, we went straight to Waterstone’s bookshop for a lively evening in conversation with a local group of readers. An eventful week!
HoI panel CCHoI signingHoI signing 4

A very silly selfie with that Hannah Berry

A silly selfie with that Hannah Berry

Woodrow Phoenix, Rian Hughes, Hannah Berry's partner Xav, Megan Donnelly

Woodrow Phoenix, Rian Hughes, Hannah Berry’s partner Xav, Megan Donnelly

The Great British Graphic Novel at the Cartoon Museum

GBGN_WEBSITE_BANNERThis exhibition in London really is too good to miss. Curated by Anita O’Brien, director of the museum, and Dr Paul Williams of the University of Exeter, it is substantial and represents its subject meticulously and fully. For this FPI blog reviewer, viewing it seems to have been a quite overwhelming experience. Also check out Down the Tubes and this enthusiastic Spectator review. The exhibition is running until 24th July.

Great-British-Graphic-NovelIt is structured around seven interlocking thematic strands, with Hunt Emerson’s excellent ‘tube map’ to guide you. With William Hogarth’s Harlot’s Progess as its starting point, it tracks the development of an art form and emphasises the diversity and breadth of talent. Fabulous – I must go back and browse when there aren’t so many people in the way! You see, we were at the lively opening night there last week. Here’s a few photos from the evening.
B speakingB&OscarPosy, B&MPosy speakingB&NicolaStreeten2Kates&?
Bryan and I will be back at the Cartoon Museum on the evening of Wednesday 4th May when, in conjunction with the exhibition, we will be presenting our new collaboration, The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia.

Other forthcoming events linked to the exhibition are a Graphic Novel Night on Thursday 12th May and Laydeez Do Comics evenings on Monday 20th June and Monday 18th July.

On the road with Red Virgin: events coming up in May

Page33top Red RosaWith the imminent publication of our new book, we already have a string of promotional events lined up for May. The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia is our latest collaboration and on the 5th – its official release date – there’s what promises to be a fascinating evening at the House of Illustration in London. We’ll be in conversation with Kate Evans and Alex Butterworth. Kate’s recent graphic novel is Red Rosa: a graphic biography of Rosa Luxemburg; Alex’s recent book is The World That Never Was: A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists and Secret Agents; between us, we’ll be considering the comics medium and what it can bring to our understanding of history, biography and politics. Follow the links in the titles for details of each of these Butterworth bookevents:

Thursday 5th May, 7pm
The Red Virgin and Red Rosa: Radical Graphic Novels.

The evening before that, Bryan and I will be doing a presentation on the Red Virgin at the Cartoon Museum:

Wednesday 4th May, 6.30pm
The Red Virgin.

Later in the month, I’ll be making two appearances at the Bradford Literature Festival. It’s a litfest that we haven’t attended before – pleased to see that there’s a good number of comics-related events there. On the 21st, I’ll be joining Asia Alfasi, Kripa Joshi, Corinne Pearlman on a panel hosted by Paul Gravett:

Saturday 21st May, 11am
Comix Creatrix: Women on the Cutting Edge of Comics.

Then, on the following day, Bryan will join me to talk about our work in general and our latest collaborative project in particular:

Sunday 22nd May, 12.30pm
The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia.

cache_2463273293I’ve posted about Wonderlands returning to Sunderland already. The UK’s Graphic Novel Expo is happening on the last Saturday in May again, which this year is the 28th. Check out the Wonderlands website for the full schedule and guests, including details of the events mentioned below.

In the morning, Bryan will be on a panel with Karrie Fransman, Woodrow Phoenix and Darryl Cunningham. Chaired by Paul Gravett, it’s about creating graphic novels as writer, artist, letterer, colourist and overall designer:

Sunderland CoC Bid 2021 master logoSaturday 28th May
10.30am Graphic Novel Auteurs.

I’ll be presenting our new book again:

12.30pm The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia.

Later in the afternoon, I’ll join a panel of creators who work in the fields of biography and autobiography, to discuss what it’s like to write fact-based stories. The other panellists are KGrandville-Noelate Charlesworth, Una, Darryl Cunningham and Suzy Varty, with Mel Gibson as chair:

2.30pm Real Life Graphic Novels.

Finally, Bryan will wrap up the day with his ever-evolving talk on the Grandville graphic novel series of steampunk detective thrillers and the venerable, ongoing tradition of anthropomorphic characters in illustration and comics from which they have grown:

4.30pm Grandville and the Anthropomorphic Tradition.

We recently put together a ‘Director’s Commentary’ for FPI’s blog about the process of creating Red Virgin, which is available to view here. I’m sure we’ll be fitting in signings in London and elsewhere during the month. Once I have any details of these, I’ll add them into this post and the Events list.FrontCover

Wonderlands UK Graphic Novel Expo returns to Sunderland!

cache_2463273293Last May, the Wonderlands UK Graphic Novel Expo drew the eyes of the graphic novel If coverworld to Sunderland. And now, building on its success, it’s returning for a second year!

Wonderlands: the UK Graphic Novel Expo is taking place in Sunderland again, on Saturday, May 28 2016. Located in the University of Sunderland’s CitySpace, it will be  attended by an wide range of successful graphic novel creators and have an exciting programme of events curated by Bryan.

cache_2463276003As well as Bryan and myself, The Guardian’s principal editorial cartoonist Steve Bell will be in attendance at the event, along with Doug Braithwaite ­ who has drawn just about every major character in both the Marvel and DC Universe ­ and other guests, some yet to be announced, including Darryl Cunningham (Science Tales, Supercrash), Woodrow Phoenix (Rumblestrip), Jeff Anderson (The Graphic Bible, Transfomers), Hannah Berry (Brittain & Brulightly, Adamtine), Kate Charlesworth (Sally Heathote, Suffragette), Metaphrog cache_2463276007(Louis: Red Letter Day, The Red Shoes), Una (Becoming Unbecoming) and comics historians Paul Gravett and Mel Gibson. I will be presenting The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia, my new book with Bryan, which is published on 5th May.

Admission is free. In addition to the talks, presentations and panel discussions, there will also be an alternative workshop schedule that will host some exciting presentations and interactive workshops that are suitable for all ages. The RV postcardpublic will have the opportunity to develop their own stories and characters with the help of some of the novelists in attendance.

There will be a Publishers’ Hall acting as a base point, where people can meet their favourite graphic novelists and comic writers. And, of course, browse the books!

BECOMING_UNBECOMING-716x1024Hannah Matterson, fundraising and event development officer for MAC Trust, said: “This year, we have a really strong line-up of graphic novelists coming to Sunderland to be part of Wonderlands.

“Whether you are a fan of graphic novels, or just curious about the form, this event is not to be missed. We’re really pleased to be bringing such a prestigious and exciting event to Sunderland. Graphic novels offer something for everyone comics_art_12264_mediumand we hope people come to find out more.”

The University of Sunderland’s illustration and animation students are also being given the chance to exhibit their work alongside Wonderlands’ established names, as well as having the chance to take part in further professional development sessions in the run up to the event.

Antony Eddison, design team leader and programme leader for arts and design management at the University of Sunderland, said:  ”Last year’s inaugural Wonderlands event was a brilliant success. It was great to welcome so many enthusiasts, novices and people simply wanting to front-cover3-212x300find out more about graphic novels to the University and the city. Graphic novels have the power to break down cultural, language and age barriers, they are a celebration of creativity – combining a good story with the work of talented artists and designers. I hope even more people will come along this year, to take part, meet the artists and even have a go at designing their own novel.”

The event takes place between 10am and 6pm on Saturday, May 28. There are still tables available for comic publishers and writers. Publishers so far include Analogue Press, BHP comics, Fanfare, Disconnected Press, Forbidden Planet, Myriad Editions, Paper Jam Comics Collective, Titan Books and Wizard’s Keep.

For more information, visit www.wonderlands.org.uk or email info@wonderlands.org.uk.

Alice in S page 28 crop

 

York Literature Festival coming up!

York litfest logoThe Talbots will be in York in mid March!

On the 12th March 2016 we will be signing at Travelling Man, 54 Goodramgate, York, YO1 7LF from 2-3pm.

This will be followed by an appearance at York St John Con (part of York Literary Festival), where we will be will be discussing our work, including our forthcoming graphic novel The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia. There’s a festival programme available for download here.

RV postcard4 – 6pm 12th March: Temple Hall, York St John University, Lord Mayor’s Walk, York YO31 7EX
“Illustrator and writer Bryan Talbot, and writer and academic Mary Talbot, have been described by Bleeding Cool as ‘true powerhouses of the British graphic novel scene.’ Among many other prizes and plaudits, their collaboration, Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, won the Costa Award for Biography in 2012. In this feature event, Bryan will discuss his Hugo-nominated Grandville series and the anthropomorphic tradition; and Mary will discuss the much-anticipated Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia, due out May 2016.”

This will be followed by a signing.
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San Diego Comic Fest 2016

SanDiegoComicFest logoThis February, Bryan and I were delighted to go to the San Diego Comic Fest (as guests of honour, even!). Its organiser, Mike Towry, was one of a small group of fans who founded, back in 1969, what became Track 29known as the San Diego Comic Con. No, we weren’t at that vast film-dominated July San Diego Comic-Con International that makes the headlines these days. This was the Comic Festival – by contrast, an intimate and friendly event, as the Comic Con was when it started out.

We’d decided to break the long journey to California with a couple of days in New York, which I was glad about, even though it was perishingly cold there. Inside Grand Central Terminal was warmer. Had a great lunch there too, with Judith Hansen, Bryan’s film agent.
Grand Central
We also caught up with David Scoggy from Dark Horse in Oregon, who was over in NYC for the toy fair.
Dave Scroggy
Meeting with creators and fans is always a pleasure. Here’s Bryan in the festival dealers’ room with Stan (Usagi Yojimbo) Sakai.
Stan Sakai
We had some great social evenings, as here:
CheesecakeFactory
Looking marvellous in the foreground, the wonderful Trina Robbins and Steve Leialoha. In the background, left to right: David Maxine (Eric Shanower’s partner), Eric (Age of Bronze) Shanower, Tasha Lowe-Newsome (Raggedyman), Jackie Estrada and Batton Lash (Supernatural Law), Anina Bennett and Paul Guinan (Boilerplate), myself and Bryan.

Here is Bryan on a panel, discussing the Future of Comics with Liam (Gears of War; Captain Stone is Missing) Sharp and Maritza (College Roomies from Hell) Campos.
Future of Comics panel
And here he is bringing breakfast on the morning of our departure. Blue skies and palm trees with every order!
Bryan with breakfast
Finally, on our stop-over going home, we met up for lunch with New York resident, Garth (Preacher) Ennis.
Brett Ewins

Red Virgin appears in ‘must-read’ lists for 2016

RV postcardThe Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia in the 2016 Literary Calendar

The Literary Calendar is The Guardian‘s annual listing of essential reading. Our next book is the only graphic novel to be included. Unfortunately it’s in the wrong month (June, not May) and is erroneously listed as fiction!

Books in 2016: A Literary Calendar

It’s also listed in The Irish Times as one of the “Books to look out for in 2016” – and they did get the category and month right! Again, it’s the only graphic novel that’s featured. Arminta Wallace says:

Husband-and-wife graphic novelists Bryan and Mary Talbot follow their Costa-winning study of Lucia Joyce (Dotter of her Father’s Eyes) with the equally offbeat The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia (Jonathan Cape, May). The subject is Louise Michel, an anarchist-feminist who fought on the barricades in 1871.

Books to watch out for in 2016

Wishing you all a happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year!
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The Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October 2015

Clocktower2Last year we did six festivals altogether in October so, when the month rolled around again, just doing two seemed quite laid back by comparison. The 3rd Lakes International Comic Art Festival was a resounding success, with a record 13,900 visitors over the weekend and overwhelmingly positive feedback. Down the Tubes has a range of coverage, including John Freeman’s initial report, Jeremy Briggs on Creators at LICAF2015, Norman Boyd’s First Impressions: A Beginner’s Guide and the Announcement of 2015 Windows Art Winners. I’ve also come across a three-part account by one Leonard Sultana, who seems to have tried his utmost to get to everything: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. See also Jean Rogers’ reflections.

Next year’s festival organisation is already underway and dates have been announced as 14th-16th October 2016. There’s a fundraising auction which will take place live and online from Orbital Comics in London on 24th November 2015. The auction features work donated by Charlie Adlard, Steve Bell, Ian Churchill, Darwyn Cooke, Hunt Emerson, Dave Gibbons, Jamie Hewlett, Stuart Immonen, Sean Phillips, Posy Simmonds, Jeff Smith and Bryan Talbot.

For me, as for the international guests, this year’s festival began with the official welcome event on Thursday evening. This year it took place in the basement of Kendal Museum, where Sean Phillips’ PhonoGraphics exhibition was on display. We were treated to a dinner created by catering students at Kendal College and festival wine and beer were served.
SeanPhillips&wine
Look, Sean drank it all! Notice the wine labels, designed by Sean and Bryan.

Mason'sArmsOn Friday morning, while the 24-hour comic people were adding finishing touches to their work, we took off for lunch in a picturesque Cumbrian setting with Canadian guests, Darwyn and Marsha Cooke. The pub behind us is the Mason’s Arms, Strawberry Bank, which appears in Bryan’s Tale of One Bad Rat (as the Herdwick Arms). Thanks to Marsha for the photo.

For me the festival proper began with Steve Bell’s talk. To a packed audience, Steve charted the development of If, his political cartoon strip in the Guardian. He finished with the current predicament of Jez-Bi-Wan Corbyn, who had just been put in a sticky situation by Darth Mandelson.
Steve Bell If
RV postcardNext in my schedule was my own talk the following morning, to a good audience in the formal setting of Council Chamber. I finally got to announce my latest collaboration with Bryan, our forthcoming graphic novel, The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia, out next May. This book deals with the astounding, larger-than-life feminist revolutionary, Louise Michel, her part in the Paris Commune of 1871 and more. And it looks stunning. Thanks to Mel Gibson for her excellent hosting of the event, as ever.

My afternoon appearance for a round of darts with Knockabout in the Elephant Yard emporium, now I freely admit that was a little less successful. I was just beginning to get the hang of throwing those darts by the end, though…

red_shoes_metaphrog_papercutz_cover-628x670In the afternoon I was back in the Council Chamber, but this time it was for John and Sandra of Metaphrog’s  introduction of their new book, The Red Shoes and other tales. This collection includes a beautiful but dark retelling of Hans Andersen’s Red Shoes.

KarrieFransmanbyMichiMathiasOn Sunday morning I was in the Council Chamber yet again, where this time I had the Death_of_the_Artist_front_coverpleasure of hosting Karrie Fransman’s talk. Karrie was taking us through her work, with particular attention to her latest graphic novel, The Death of the Artist, as well as talking more generally about comics and experimentation. Sketch of Karrie with her busy hands, tweeted later by @MichiMathias!

arkwright-integral-coverAlso on Sunday, I went to hear Bryan in conversation about his Adventures of Luther Arkwright and influences with Peter Kessler. Yes yes, I’ve heard it all before, but this time it was with clips, which made it all rather interesting! Then later we both enjoyed listening to Benoit Peeters talking through his surreal bande-dessinée work with Paul Gravett.
BenoitPeeters&PaulGravett
Bryan&YomiThere was the social side too, of course. So many lovely people. We had the pleasure of getting to know Yomi Ayeni of Clockwork Watch, for instance, who’d ventured up to Kendal from London.

Just before the Comics Clocktower closed (and transformed back into Kendal Town Hall) Bryan went around snapping photos. Here’s a few.

Me with Stephen Holland of Page 45

Me with Stephen Holland of Page 45

Roger Langridge and Antony Johnston

Roger Langridge and Antony Johnston

Ben Read, Sara Dunkerton and Matt Gibbs

Ben Read, Sara Dunkerton and Matt Gibbs

Terry Wiley

Terry Wiley

Yomi at the Clockwork Watch table

Yomi at the Clockwork Watch table

Sydney Jordan

Sydney Jordan

Gary Erskine

Gary Erskine

 

Suffragette film review

suffragettewagonSuffragette is a snapshot of the women’s suffrage movement before the First World War. Its main focus is on its impact on the family life of Maud Watts, laundress, wife and mother. And, believe me, that impact is devastating.

It’s amazing that this film’s only just appeared. With the singular exception of the BBC’s 6-part TV drama Shoulder to Shoulder, the suffragettes have scarcely been given worthy treatment on film, ever. And the TV drama was screened 40 years ago and buried for decades. So it was a particular pleasure to watch Suffragette with its stunning sets and costumes and splendid performances by the cast, including Carey Mulligan as the protagonist Maud. The film makes it very clear indeed that the suffragettes weren’t just middle-class women chaining themselves to railings.

To convey the sheer scale of the women’s suffrage movement in a single, compelling story is no mean feat. Having set about to do just that myself in a graphic novel, I’ve a particular interest in the choices made for the film by writer Abbie Morgan and director Sarah Gavron. The similarities are striking, but not all that surprising. Like the film, Sally Heathcote Suffragette – the graphic novel I co-created with Kate Charlesworth and Bryan Talbot – has a fictional protagonist who moves through history, alongside well documented, very real campaigners for women’s suffrage and wider rights. A lowly figure from the rank and file, she starts as an observer who’s sucked in as events unfold. We see her working conditions and the abuse she has to contend with. We live through her struggles. With a fictional character to explore the historical setting, I could range more freely than if I’d restricted myself to one historical figure and their biography. It made it easier to construct a compelling, focused story too.

page 79 bottomThen there’s the hardcore civil disturbance. Needing a manageable story that’s neither too detailed nor too superficial, the film required careful decisions about what to include. So key scenes represent a wide range of repeated suffragette activities – some window smashing, a rousing rally, police brutality at a demonstration in Parliament Square, a traumatic force-feeding scene – just as they do in Sally Heathcote Suffragette. Film and book also share some iconic elements: the bombing of Lloyd George’s house, the tragic death and funeral of Emily Wilding Davison. In fact, the film movingly incorporates actual footage of the London funeral procession in June 1913.

That’s where the similarities end. Sally Heathcote Suffragette is no snapshot. As I was researching the women’s suffrage movement, what impressed me most was the sheer scale of it, how long it went on, the way it spanned across the country and across social classes. Like the Occupy and anti-austerity movements now, perhaps. I had no idea it was so vast, with so many different factions. Not just the Pankhursts. Not just the Women’s Social and Political Union. Not just London. I felt it was very important to get these things across.

Political activism, radicalization, direct action – these are highly relevant issues for us today. When I saw coverage of Sisters Uncut chanting “Dead women can’t vote!” at the premiere, I cheered them on from the sofa. A hundred years on from the suffragettes, women’s rights are still an issue. The protesters were highlighting domestic violence and the impact of the Government’s austerity cuts on support services.

Suffragette does a fine job of showing us what’s at stake for Maud as an activist. It does so by narrowing its focus closely on one ordinary working woman’s commitment to fighting for women’s rights and its consequences for her. What it doesn’t quite succeed in, for me, is presenting a slice of British social and political history. The fight for the vote was embedded in wider political struggle and the movement was rife with internal dissent. All of which is highly dramatic and engaging. Some inclusion of division and strife within the movement, some critical engagement with its charismatic leading figures would have made for a stronger film, at least for me.

The film is not only narrow in scope but also, for the most part, feels loose in its use of historical material. This is no doubt why I didn’t experience the same sense of shock that Shoulder to Shoulder generated. I only managed to source the TV drama after completing Sally Heathcote Suffragette. When I finally watched it for the first time, some scenes were startlingly similar. We’d used, closely and carefully, exactly the same source material. The most striking example was a scene of demonstration in Parliament Square in November 1910. This event was referred to afterwards as ‘Black Friday’. It was a police riot that lasted six hours; women suffered serious injury and some died from their wounds afterwards. Both TV and graphic-novel episode draw upon the same Times newspaper article, as chilling commentary: ‘Several of the police had their helmets knocked off in carrying out their duty, one was disabled by a kick on the ankle, one was cut on the face by a belt, and one had his hand cut. As a rule they kept their tempers very well, but their method of shoving back the raiders lacked nothing in vigour. They were at any rate kept warm by the exercise’. No mention of police brutality or the protesters’ injuries.

No, the suffragettes really weren’t just middle-class women chaining themselves to railings.
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Sally Heathcote, Sufragista gains Best Graphic Novel of the Year!

Madrid booksellers logoSpanish Sally’s a winner! The Spanish edition of Sally Heathcote Suffragette has been granted Best Graphic Novel Award for 2015 by the Madrid Booksellers’ Association. The publishers, Ediciones La Cúpula, will be releasing their second edition in December.

The Jury had this to say about the book:

The main character of the story, the redhead Sally Heathcote, represents thousands of women who in the early twentieth century in the United Kingdom planned and launched a struggle for civil rights which were banned to them, including the right to vote, essential to achieve the right to equality.

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