As a respected and published academic, Mary Talbot is now — as she puts it — “slumming it” with her husband, legendary British comics creator Bryan Talbot.
It’s fortunate then that their first collaboration — The Dotter Of Her Fathers Eyes, a beautiful and literary work which weaves Mary’s memories of her own father with the story of James Joyce and his daughter Lucia — won the 2012 Costa Biography Award.
“It was a glittering event,” says Bryan, recalling the awards ceremony. “And I got to meet Dave Gilmour from Pink Floyd.”
Rising to prominence during the tail-end of the underground comics movement in the 70s, Bryan Talbot went on to produce groundbreaking works such as The Adventures of Luther Arkwright before working with major creatives in the business. Now, regarded as one of the forefathers of the industry, he continues to work on comics as diverse as the pyschogeographic opus Alice In Sunderland and the “Rupert the Bear for adults” anthropomorphic adventures of his Grandville series.
Does he consider himself part of the establishment, asks event chair Teddy Jamieson? “Not really,” says Talbot. “I’m working in my own room 99% of the time, so that’s not really part of anything.”
The husband and wife pair have collaborated again on the forthcoming Sally Heathcote Suffragette, a story which Mary felt compelled to tell. “I’m fascinated by the role of women in society,” she says, “and graphic novels are such an intimate, personal medium to tell a story. You can come in very close.”
Written by Mary Talbot, the new work is laid out and lettered by Bryan, with final artwork provided by Kate Charlesworth. “Mary was the scriptwriter,” says Bryan, “and I was the director. Kate was the performer.”
To be published early next year, Sally Heathcote Suffragette looks, from the pages displayed during the event, to be a work as complex and appealing as Dotter Of Her Father’s Eyes and is bound to cement the Talbots in position as creators of intelligent graphic non-fiction.
Before then, the pair are involved as patrons of the upcoming Lakes International Comics Festival, a “euro-style” event taking place in Kendal. “We’re taking over the town,” says Bryan, smiling. “I’m very excited about it.”
Bryan and Mary Talbot were in conversation with Teddy Jamieson at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Aug 25.