Sunderland graphic novelist Bryan Talbot to be inducted into comic industry Hall of Fame

Tom Barton looks back on the career of graphic novelist Bryan Talbot ahead of his induction into the comic industry's Hall of Fame

The man regarded as the 'father' of the British graphic novel is set to receive the comic industry's highest honour.

Bryan Talbot has a body of work that is as varied as it is influential - from the adventures of Alice in Sunderland and 70s superhero Luther Arkwright, to feminist biographies, Batman and a badger detective.

It has been announced the 72-year-old, from Sunderland, will be inducted into the Will Eisner Awards Hall of Fame this summer.

Sitting in front of the drawing frame he has worked at for the last 40 years - “it broke yesterday for the first time and I’ve just had to order a new one,” he explains - Bryan says the award is "an incredible honour".

"[It's] a total surprise," he told ITV Tyne Tees. "I had no idea I was even being nominated for it.”

At a ceremony at San Diego’s Comic-Con International in July, he will be recognised alongside legends of the comic world like Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.

Bryan Talbot is still hard at work into his 70s. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Bryan began his career working on underground comics, and then published what’s widely regarded to be the first ever British graphic novel, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Since then he has produced a Beatrix Potter-themed graphic novel, The Tale of One Bad Rat, about child abuse - and the critically-acclaimed Grandville series of books set in an alternative world, run by animals, where France won the Napoleonic Wars.

He has also collaborated with his wife Mary, a retired linguistics professor, on a series of feminist graphic works covering subjects as diverse as the suffragettes and the last surrealist.

Their first book together, Dotter of Her Father's Eyes, about James Joyce’s daughter, became the first graphic novel to win the prestigious Costa Biography award.

Of Bryan’s latest recognition, Mary laughs that “actually, it's overdue".

Bryan Talbot is regarded as the 'father of the British graphic novel' thanks to his contributions to the artform. Credit: Bryan Talbot

"He's been a key figure in not just British comics, but American comics as well," she explained.

"So it's about time he got this well-deserved accolade. I'm delighted for him.”

Comic-Con International administrator Jackie Estrada, who runs the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards said that Bryan's storytelling "really stands out", adding: "He can make you cry, other things just make you laugh out loud.”

That is a view shared by other industry experts, including comic author and Teesside University academic Con Chrisoulis, who described Bryan as being “at the epicentre of British comics since the eighties”.

Alice in Sunderland is among the creations of Bryan Talbot. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Meanwhile, comics historian Paul Gravett describes The Adventures of Luther Arkwright as “a spectacularly imaginative story”, but said it was the decision to tell a “long-form story” and then to become one of the first artists to “carve a career as a graphic novelist making comics specifically for books intended not to be anything else” that makes Bryan unique in the field.

As for Bryan - he is still working into his 70s. His latest project, The Casebook of Stamford Hawksmoor, is due to be published next year.

His love of storytelling driving him on after nearly five decades.

“I enjoy doing it,” he said. “There's nothing more fun in the world, I think, than making up stories and then finely crafting them so they're just like you want them to be.”

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