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.

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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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New book announcement

carnationLast weekend at the 3rd Lakes International Comic Art Festival I was delighted to introduce my next collaboration with Bryan Talbot, in the rather formal setting of Kendal’s Council Chambers. The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia is (we think) a stunning graphic novel, both visually and in its subject matter. I’m reposting the book announcement here now as subscribers to my blog will no doubt have been puzzled last night to receive a notification attributing it to Paul le Hat. What’s going on here? Well, I’ve been having technical difficulties and Paul (a.k.a. website designer Bad Robot) posted it on my behalf. And here’s a sample panel for good measure:
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September update

outsideCartmelFellSeptember draws to a sunny and fruitful close. At least, it does here in Sunderland. So I guess it’s time for another update. At the beginning of the month we enjoyed a five-day break in Hawkshead in the Lake District. Alwyn came over from Manchester for a hugely welcome overnight visit. We really don’t see him often enough these days, so it was lovely having him stay. Before taking him to the Mason’s Arms for lunch, we called at Cartmel Fell church close by.
Bryan&Alwyn in CartmelFell
Alwyn&Mary at CartmelFell2
Alwyn&Mary at MasonsArms
Both locations may be recognisable from The Tale of One Bad Rat. In the graveyard, Bryan and Alwyn were, as ever, using their cameras to collect textures.
Alwyn in graveyard 2
One shot that Bryan took inspired Alwyn to create this evocative tribute to his deeply missed friend Yo:
OldFriend
The following weekend we had a short trip to St Peter Port, Guernsey’s capital, for a book festival talk and exhibition opening (that I’ve mentioned already here).
Bryan in St Peter Port
Castle Cornet
Mary in St Peter Port
We spent a day there sightseeing, taking in Victor Hugo’s very quirky and interesting house. Here’s Bryan in his garden and me in his workplace up in the garret:
Bryan in Hugo's garden
Mary in Hugo's workplace
comicartSo, what’s in store for October? Well, we’re gearing up for the 3rd Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal. I’ve posted about our contributions already here. Bryan’s ‘How I create a graphic novel’ session is now fully booked, but tickets are still available for the other events. I can’t wait to tell all about the next book! I’ll also have the apples 2pleasure of hosting Karrie Fransman’s event on Sunday morning. Finally, at the end of next month we’re doing a talk on Sally Heathcote Suffragette at Sunderland’s City library as part of the Sunderland Literature Festival. It’s on Halloween but, as it’s at lunchtime, we won’t be finishing off with apple-bobbing.

Guernsey Literary Festival

Guernsey logoWell, in just under three weeks, we’re off to Guernsey for two pre- literary festival events. Never been to the Channel Islands before, so we’re looking forward to it very much. Bryan will no doubt be twitchy about leaving his drawing board for more than a few hours, mind. We’re going there for an event on Saturday 12th September called A Life in Graphic Novels at the Guille-Allès Library. They’ve also invited us to the opening of an exhibition in the library later that day on The Art of The Graphic Novel: Adapted & Inspired. In fact, they moved the opening event from the Friday to Saturday,  so that we could attend, which was lovely of them.The exhibition includes some artwork from Bryan’s Alice in Alice in SunderlandSunderland (inspired, of course, by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland), as well as some of Mark Stafford’s pages from The Man Who Laughs (written by David Hine and inspired by Victor Hugo’s L’Homme qui rit).

The Guernsey Literary Festival organisers were no doubt inspired to put on a graphic-novel exhibition by the Hugo connection. Hugo wrote L‘Homme qui rit during his long exile in Guernsey.

So, stealing a quiz question that opens coverage of the exhibition in the Guernsey Press: what’s the link between Guernsey and Batman, eh?