Driving Bryan Talbot
Last night I drove Bryan Talbot to Longsight Library in south Manchester. I’m not sure what to think.
I went through my comic collection last night and found a copy of 2000AD (mid-500s) from 1987. It had a picture of Thoth and his pet Tyrannosaurus, Satanus, hunting down Colonel John M. Chivington, an earlier incarnation of the sadistic Tomas De Torquemada, Nemesis‘s arch-enemy. The issue had cost me 26 pence at the time… and is one of the few Progs from that period that survive in my collection, due to various mishaps in house moves over the years.
It was also Bryan’s final stint on Nemesis.
So, I took it along to Borders bookstore in Stockport and got Bryan to sign it and do a sketch of the demonic Warlock himself, which Bryan was kind enough to do.
Now, my wife organised this event – a good while in advance. It had been advertised in Citylife, the local Metro newspaper and on several websites – including this one. Less than half-a-dozen people turned up. I was gutted.
Bryan, for me, is a classic comic illustrator and storyteller who has improved immensely over the years from a pretty significant starting point when I first encountered him. Kev O’Neill and Bryan Talbot are the Nemesis artists – and no one has come close. Both The Adventures of Luther Arkwright and Heart of Empire have pride of place in my collection. Along with the Luther Arkwright RPG.
I might interject here that Hogshead Publishing is working on a new version of the Luther Arkwright roleplaying game – entitled Zero Zero – and good on them for it too. The rich potential of the parallels opens up all kinds of possibilities for adventure. I thoroughly look forward to seeing what it turns out like… The current target date for publication is Autumn 2003.
So, after the event at Borders, Bryan was due to give a talk and slideshow on his comic art and the construction of the comic page – perspective, speech bubble positioning, framing, etc. He finished the signing around 6.05 pm and within 15 minutes he climbed into the front seat of my car – with my wife and kids in the back, and we set off along the A6—heading into Manchester—toward Longsight.
Bryan is a very congenial but reserved man, conversational in measure. Having sat watching and listening to his presentation and slides I have a newfound respect for him and the work he does. The incredible depth of his thinking in constructing his work is astounding.
I mean, did you know that Victoria – throughout Heart of Empire – displays her disposition towards others through the size of her pupils? In the first half of the book, when she is closed to the world—snobbish, racist and plagued with migraines—her pupils are contracted. After she meets Arkwright in the slums and drinks the potion intended to cure her headaches, opening her up to some very open sexual activities and the world in general, her pupils expand considerably, reflecting her complete change in attitude. Extraordinary.
This morning I had to go look for myself – and sure enough, there it was.
Bryan said that he thought it unlikely that any casual reader would actually notice, but the change would probably come across on a subconscious level. The man’s a genius.
The trip to the library took about 25 minutes and the conversation was quite reasonable for relative strangers. We’d found out in Borders that after his current work Bryan was going to be starting work on a third Luther Arkwright story – which was like music to my ears. The last two stories have been superb – and I can hardly wait for more. In the car, we found out that Luther Arkwright had a far richer future in all kinds of media.
I had read somewhere – in SFX, I think – that an Australian production company, KouKou Productions, had optioned Arkwright for the big screen. Apparently, the Australians had approached Bryan a matter of days before a big American film company had asked the same question. Bryan had looked at the list of film that the American company had worked on – and realised that Arkwright could easily get lost in the potential properties up for filming. Prospects for films come in their hundreds and only a few make it to production. So, Bryan opted for the Australian set-up, as this would be their first film.
The first draft of the script has been completed—following the plot of the original adventure as closely as the medium of the cinema will allow—and Bryan is set to be talking to them about it at the end of July / beginning of August.
However, that isn’t the end of it. Big Finish—noted for there Doctor Who audio adventures—have also expressed an interest in creating a version of the original Luther Arkwright story. Bryan seemed suitably impressed with the material he’d heard for them and explained that they’d expressed an interest in Luther a while ago before they’d picked up Rebellion titles like Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog. The potential of the Rebellion material at the time, however, had been better so Arkwright had taken a backseat… but the future holds potential for his adventures to make the transition to audio drama.
It made for an interesting evening, one that I thoroughly enjoyed. The future for Bryan’s work sounds very promising indeed – and next… Alice in Sunderland. I saw copies of the prints for this book – incredible.