Tagged: Bryan Talbot

Mindy Newell: Days Of Yore

Presenting two real-life stories from my days of yore, although names have been changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty.

Story The First:

I knew a girl in high school – I wouldn’t say we were friends, but she was someone who had never participated in the Piggy horrors. Sally was an A+ student, on the track to an Ivy League school. Pretty (but not gorgeous) and popular (but quiet about it), she came to me one day and said that she needed to talk to me privately. I was surprised… and a bit suspicious. What did she want? But because Sally had never been overtly mean to me, even though she was part of the clique that instigated most of the callous cruelties upon me, and because I still hoped to be “accepted,” and I wanted to believe for some reason she was about to warn me of some new devilishness about to be inflicted on me – forewarned was forearmed – I agreed. But it had nothing to do with me at all.

Sally was pregnant.

I was, frankly, shocked. Not just about what she said, but also because I was thinking, why are you telling me?

She seemed to be reading my mind about that last part. “I can’t tell Laura, or Toni, or anybody. It would be all over the school in a second. You know how they are.”

Did I ever. Still –

“But they’re your friends.”

All she said was, “I made an appointment with Planned Parenthood in the city. Will you come with me?”

I know exactly why I said “yes.” Out of kindness, certainly. But to be totally honest, I also thought that this could be a way in. Hey, whaddya want? I was a teenager.

We had to cut school the day of her appointment. I met her at the corner bus stop, about an hour after classes started. Sally was very quiet, she didn’t say anything, but I remember she was very pale. As for me, I was sure I would see my father in his car on the way to work. I wasn’t so worried about my mom – I knew she was already at the hospital, where she worked in the ER. At any rate, both of us were very nervous and impatient, waiting for that bus to the PATH train into the city.

At the time – September 1971 – there was a Planned Parenthood in Manhattan on First Avenue between 21st and 20th Streets.  I guess – and I don’t blame her – that Sally made the appointment there rather than the one in Jersey City because Jersey City is too close to Bayonne… too close for comfort. Anyway, I don’t know what either of us was expecting, but it was modern and clean and the staff was professional, kind, and, most importantly, totally non-judgmental.

Sally’s name was called. I sat in the waiting room. It seemed like a long time, but the receptionist at the desk assured me everything was fine when I asked.

Interjection – as an RN in the operating room, I can tell you that the actual procedure takes very little time, especially in the first trimester [as Sally was]. Frequently I’m not even done with my charting before it’s over and I have to assist in transferring the patient to the PACU (Post-Anesthesia Care Unit, commonly referred to as the Recovery Room). Most of the intraoperative period is taken up with other things involved in any visit to the OR – anesthesia induction, proper and safe positioning, emergence from anesthesia, transfer to PACU, and monitoring in the PACU, which lasts about an hour or so on average, until discharge.)

Afterwards, as we had planned, we used our pooled resources and took a cab home. This was well before Uber or Lyft. Sally didn’t’ say much except to complain about some cramping – totally normal, btw – but the “worry” was off her face; she was visibly relieved. The cab dropped us off about a block from her house; I walked her home, and before she went inside, she turned and said: “See you in school tomorrow.”

No, we didn’t become best friends after that; things pretty much went back to normal, actually. Hey, we were teenagers, and there were rules of engagement. But I do remember that Sally was never around when it was time to “play Piggy with Mindy.

Sally went on to graduate in the top 25 of a class numbering 750 (I finished 145) and went on to that Ivy League school. I didn’t see her much after high school, a couple of parties and a reunion or two at the Jewish Community Center. I don’t even know what she went on to become as an adult, though I’ve heard she was “successful and happy.”

Story The Second:

Jack and Jill were my high school’s dream team. Every high school has one. Jack was the champion quarterback. Jill was the head cheerleader. Jack was the president of the Student Union. Jill was the editor of the school newspaper. Both had bright futures. Early admission to the colleges of their choice, with Jack receiving a full scholarship based on his football prowess to a Big Ten school, and Jill planning on majoring in journalism at NYU.

They were great people.

And they never treated anybody like Piggy.

Anyway, sometime in the late fall of our senior year, after the Thanksgiving holiday, Jill suddenly disappeared from the school hallways. First, we heard that she was sick with mononucleosis (the “kissing disease,” as it used to be called), but as January became March, rumors began spreading, rumors having to do with pregnancy and forced marriages. Especially after Jack dropped out – two months before graduation.

The truth broke free, as truth is apt to do, sometime in the fall of 1971. During the Christmas break when everybody came home from college, it was the talk of the town, the bars, and the parties.

Jill had become pregnant, and, since back in those stupid days, girls “in the family way” were not allowed to finish high school, she had been forced to leave under the cover of the mononucleosis story, though she refused to go to one of those “homes for fallen women” or whatever they were called. (Do they still exist?)  Her parents had gotten her a tutor so she could finish her high school degree, but not only had she disappeared from the school hallways, Jill had also been confined to the house to “hide her shame.”

Worse, when Jill wanted to go to Planned Parenthood for advice – and advice only – her parents would not allow it. They were very observant Catholics and the name Planned Parenthood was as abhorrent as the name Judas Iscariot. Jill’s pregnancy was treated as if it were a monstrous sin.

She had also finally admitted that Jack was the father because her father had beaten it out of her. Her father then called his father, and they decided that Jack and Jill would get married right away.

And in 1971, not only could you not be pregnant in high school, you couldn’t be married, either; which meant that Jack had to drop out, too, meaning, of course, that he lost his football scholarship and any hope for college. And in case you’re wondering – no college for Jill, either.

Of course, there was always the future, but…

After they got married and Jill had the baby, and Jack got some kind of job, nothing much, he started drinking. Drinking hard. And doing drugs. Hard drugs.

And that’s how the story stood that Christmas break, the last week of 1971.

But it didn’t end there. About 10 years later I met one of Jill’s cousins at the mall. We got to talking about high school, and eventually – of course – Jack and Jill came up. I’ll never forget that conversation.

Jack’s downward spiral had continued. He lost one job after another. The drinking continued, and he was chippinghttp://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=chipping on some weekends, too.

Then he started abusing Jill, and it hadn’t stopped.

“But Jill was always so smart. Why doesn’t she leave?” I said.

“Jesus,” her cousin said.


“Jill’s become really religious. That’s why she won’t leave. I think she thinks she’s atoning for getting pregnant and fucking up Jack’s football scholarship. “



That was the last time I ever heard about Jack and Jill. I have no idea what happened to them. Or their kids.

•     •     •     •     •

As if this writing (Sunday, September 10) there are five days to reach the $50,000 goal to produce Mine!: A Celebration of Freedom & Liberty Benefitting Planned Parenthood. We are almost but not quite there.

And, look, guys, I get it. This has been a summer and early fall of donating funds. I understand it’s a matter of priorities. I get the feeling of being “donated out,” too. And our hearts go out to the many caught up in the current round of hurricanes.

Even if it’s just $5, hell, even if’s just a $1, just think about what Bernie Sanders accomplished with an average of $27 to his campaign.

When people think of Planned Parenthood, they think “abortion.” But I’m telling you, and now I am speaking to you as a member of the professional healthcare community, the organization does so much more: Counseling and cancer screenings and preventative and maintenance health care. For women and for men.

mine-logo-300x169-5562226The anthology features work by:

 And even more.

Just do it, okay? Because one day, you or yours could be just like Sally or Jack and Jill. Because, just when you or yours need it, Planned Parenthood could be gone.

Don’t let that happen.

“Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes” wins Costa Book Awards biography of 2012

Dotter of her Father's EyesMary and Bryan Talbot’s Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes has won the Costa Book Awards biography of the year. They won the £5,000 biography prize for a book that interweaves the true and tragic story of James Joyce’s daughter Lucia with Mary’s own troubled relationship with her father, the eminent Joycean scholar James S. Atherton.

The Talbots have known of the win for several weeks. “It has been really hard keeping quiet about it,” said Mary. “We were astonished. Just being shortlisted was amazing and hearing we’d won the category was stunning. We’re delighted of course, both personally – it’s the first story I’ve had published – but also for the medium, I can’t believe a graphic novel has won.”

It is not the first graphic work to win a major literary prize – Art Spiegelman’s Maus won a Pulitzer in 1992 and Chris Ware won the Guardian first book prize in 2001 for Jimmy Corrigan: the Smartest Kid on Earth – but the Costa award is still a significant moment for the graphic medium.

“It is a good thing for graphic novels as a whole,” said Bryan Talbot whose prodigious output includes The Adventures of Luther Arkwright and Alice in Sunderland as well as strips for Judge Dredd and Batman. “Graphic novels are becoming increasingly accepted as a legitimate art form.”

The last graphic novel spike came about 25 years ago with the popularity of books such as The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen and Maus. The problem then, said Talbot, was that there were not enough books to feed this. “By the time you’d read a dozen or so of the best titles, there wasn’t enough left to keep this nascent interest going. Since then, there has been an increasing number of graphic novels published and now we have this whole canon of quality work.

“We are living in the golden age of graphic novels. There are more and better comics being drawn today than ever in the history of the medium and there’s such a range of styles of artwork, of genre and of subject matter.”

Judges called Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes “a beautifully crafted” work “which crosses the boundaries between literature and the graphic genre with extraordinary effect”.

via Costa awards 2012: graphic biography wins category prize | Books | The Guardian.

Congratulations to Mary and Bryan!

What Makes Martha Thomases Ridiculously Happy?

I’m writing this just back from the dentist, from which a friend had to pick me up because the dentist gave me drugs. I couldn’t be trusted to get myself home, even though that involved taking an elevator to the building entrance and getting a cab. And my dentist may have had a point. When my friend came to pick me up, I talked her into buying shoes with blue sequins on them.

So this will be a little bit scattered. However, you, the reader, are probably online to see The Dark Knight Rises, so we most likely share a mental state. Let’s not take ourselves too seriously.

• As I mentioned last week, I missed the San Diego Comic Con. Once again, it seems I didn’t miss a lot, at least about comics. I realize that IMDB might not be an impartial editor of Comic Con news, but this makes it look to me like the geeks that were out were television and movie geeks, not comics fans. Or, to channel earlier cons, these are not the nerds I was looking for.

• I find the only time I can concentrate on a real book is when I’m away from home, or I’m in the middle of a good mystery. When I read at home, in my living room, in the comfy chair, I’m always looking at the clock, or the computer, or the phone rings, and I can’t get a good reading rhythm happening. I can read comics, but sometimes I want more than that. As a result, I now have a stack of graphic novels next to my sack of pamphlets next to my stack of knitting books. Waiting, with maximum anticipation, are Dotter of her Father’s Eye by Mary Talbot and Bryan Talbot, Economix: How Our Economy Works (and Doesn’t Work) by Michael Goodwin and Dan E. Burr, and Darkroom: A Memoir in Black & White by Lila Quintero Weaver. I feel very highfalutin’. These are much classier than the vampire books in my Kindle.

• Batman and Spider-Man are heroes. Our troops are heroes. But you know who else are heroes? Garbage collectors. I can think of nothing braver than picking up other people’s rotting refuse when it’s over 100 degrees outside. The smell alone can kill a man where he stands. Lifting bag after bag of the stuff, all day, every day, is a superhuman feat.

• You, constant reader, probably don’t get press releases in your e-mail every day. I do. I’ve also sent out press releases. There are some companies that send me something every day. There are some companies that send me something several times a day, every day. I’ve been the publicist whose client demands a long list of media outlets pitched so I understand the pressure they’re under, but it’s ridiculous. I’m not going to write two or three stories a day, every day, about the same company. I’m going to follow up on a press release that seems like it’s about something in which I’ve expressed interest. Most likely, a carefully written pitch letter, one that references my interests, would work the best. I’m taking this knowledge to my next clients.

• The photo above is swiped from The Beat. It makes me ridiculously happy.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

Interview: Bryan Talbot on 30 Years of ‘Luther Arkwright’, Part Two

Interview: Bryan Talbot on 30 Years of ‘Luther Arkwright’, Part Two

Yesterday, we began chatting with British creator Bryan Talbot about the creation of The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, now celebrating its 30th anniversary. Today, we look at the remastered edition and more.

CMix: You actually went back after 20 years and did a sequel, Heart of Empire, but that doesn’t seem to resonate in the same way.  How do you view it today?

BT: I’m very proud of the story and the way I  told it. I wasn’t interested in repeating Arkwright. I wanted to use the sequel to tell a different story in a different way. Perhaps, if I do another Arkwright, I’ll go back to experimental mode and just let rip. Any sophistication in the storytelling techniques of Heart of Empire is beneath the surface, not in your face. It shouldn’t be consciously visible.

CMix: Luther Arkwright has endured and you even adapted it for BBC radio with a Pre-Doctor Who David Tennant as the lead.  Was it easy to adapt?

BT: I didn’t adapt it. They used their own scriptwriter. I sent a list of suggestions as to how they could make it work better as audio but when I eventually met the writer, after it was produced, they hadn’t passed the suggestions along. I still quite enjoyed it though. David Tennant and the other actors were great, the music and sound FX were fine. My only criticism is that it was too faithful to the original. Most of the dialogue was my speech balloons word-for-word. While these work fine on the comic page I feel that they should have made them more naturalistic for the spoken word.

Big Finish have also bought the rights to adapt Heart of Empire and Tennant has agreed to reprise his role as Arkwright but they’rehaving to fit into his now busy schedule.

CMix: There’s been talk for years about a film adaptation. What’s taking so long?

BT: That’s the film industry for you. Things seem to move at a glacial pace.

There’s always something supposed to be just about to happen, some big name writer’s become involved or a big production company is desperately interested but nothing seems to actually happen. Hollywood people seem to suffer from verbal diarrhea. About a year ago a producer got in touch with me to say how passionate he was about The Tale of One Bad Rat and how he had a director on board who loved it and so forth. I’ve never heard a thing from him since.


Interview: Bryan Talbot on 30 Years of ‘Luther Arkwright’, Part One

Interview: Bryan Talbot on 30 Years of ‘Luther Arkwright’, Part One

Bryan Talbot emerged from Britain’s underground comix to become one of the most innovative creators in the UK.  He’s the creator of the critically acclaimed graphic novels The Adventures of Luther Arkwright and A Tale of One Bad Rat.  He remains a creative force, most recently producing Alice in Sunderland, a graphic novel released last year form Dark Horse and Cherubs!, with Mark Stafford, which Desperado released this summer.

Warren Ellis said, “Luther Arkwright is probably the single most influential graphic novel to have come out of Britain to date.” This month, Bryan Talbot’s seminal work is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary.  It was first serialized in Near Myths, a British title, before being collected as a miniseries and graphic novel through the years.  A new edition, using digitally remastered pages from the Czech edition, is being released by Dark Horse.

Talbot graciously agreed to chat with us about the work and its influence on graphic novels. Part one will focus on Luther Arkwright and tomorrow’s second part will explore Talbot’s career.

CMix: Bryan, thanks for taking the time to sit with us.

Bryan Talbot: Thanks for inviting me.

CMix: Do you agree with Warren’s assessment?

BT: Er…yes, it probably is the most influential UK graphic novel as I can’t think of another that’s comparable in that respect. Most of the "Brit pack", including Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, were fans of it years before they started writing comics professionally. Writers such as Warren, Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison and Rick Veitch have acknowledged its influence. According to Steve Bissette and Michael Zulli, it inspired them to want to draw comics.

CMix: He went on to say, "He took from everywhere – the films of Nick Roeg, head shop culture, 19th Century magazine illustrated, medieval woodcuts, classical portraiture, Sixties collage, Mal Dean and the New Worlds illustrators, anything and bloody everything, and adapted it all to work in the special environment of comics." Was there one element that started the process?

BT: Two years before starting on the graphic novel I wrote and drew a one-off eight page strip called "The Papist Affair" in my Brainstorm Comix series of underground comics. It was an excuse to do a Richard Corben-style line and wash strip and I invented the character of Arkwright for that, inspired by Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius novels. Mike created Cornelius and offered him as a template hero. So that was the starting point. After finishing the strip I started to think about fulfilling a long-standing desire I had to produce what we now call a graphic novel and started to develop it based around Arkwright.



Review: ‘The Dead Boy Detectives’ by Bryan Talbot and Ed Brubaker

By my count, there are four good reasons to buy [[[The Sandman Presents: The Dead Boy Detectives]]], now out from Vertigo.

First, it’s cheap, at a slight $12.99 for some 100 pages of comics.

Second, it’s a heckuva good mystery yarn with plenty of occult elements.

Third, it’s part of The Sandman world, and there are plenty of readers who snap up anything associated with Neil Gaiman’s creation.

But the last — and, for me, best — reason to pick up the book is that it further illustrates Ed Brubaker’s dexterity as a writer. I’ve long said that the thing that makes him so talented is that if his name wasn’t on the cover of his comics, you wouldn’t be able to recognize him as the author (also, his books are all quite good).

Unlike a Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis or Brian Michael Bendis, Brubaker writes comics without stamping his voice all over them. And, in [[[The Dead Boy Detectives]]], he shows off a wholly new voice, slipping seamlessly into the world of the ghostly boy sleuths and their London setting.

Like all great P.I. stories, this one begins with a girl, then gets all weird with shriveled dead bodies, witches and immortal creeps. It’s not quite unpredictable yet manages to be surprising.

But, mostly, the great characterization of ghosts Charles and Edwin and their childish interplay is what makes this one a winner. Well, that and the other reasons listed above.

Van Jensen is a former crime reporter turned comic book journalist. Every Wednesday, he braves Atlanta traffic to visit Oxford Comics, where he reads a whole mess of books for his weekly Reviews. Van’s blog can be found at graphicfiction.wordpress.com.

Publishers who would like their books to be reviewed at ComicMix should contact ComicMix through the usual channels or email Van Jensen directly at van (dot) jensen (at) comicmix (dot) com.

The Art of Bryan Talbot Review

The Art of Bryan Talbot Review

There are plenty of comics writers and artists (and combinations thereof) who have never been fashionable, but who do good, interesting work, and even dive in and out of “mainstream” comics as they go. I’m thinking about people like P. Craig Russell, Eddie Campbell, and – most to the point right now – Bryan Talbot. They mostly keep control of their own work, so they never end up as fan favorites for their run on Ultra Punching Dude, but, as consolation, they do get to do their stories their way.

The Art of Bryan Talbot is a 96-page album-sized softcover, with text by Talbot and a short introduction by Neil Gaiman, which traces Talbot’s varied career. After the requisite page of juvenilia, the book moves into Talbot’s first published comics, the “Chester P. Hackenbush” stories in his Brainstorm comic of the mid-‘70s. It all looks very late-underground; interesting but clearly at the far, tired end of a movement.

After that, Talbot’s career goes all over the place, with stints on “Judge Dredd” and “Nemesis the Warlock” for 2000 AD, a pile of art about the singer Adam Ant, some random minor comics projects, and posters/pin-ups on musical and SFnal themes. Talbot refers to himself as a “jobbing illustrator” at one point, and that describes his work in this section. It’s all technically well done, and the pieces are generally excellent for what they are, but they’re extremely various. (Also around this part of the book is a longish section of life drawings Talbot did for a class in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Pencil life drawings are great for an artist’s development, but can be slightly less compelling in the middle of a book of ink and color comics art. They really don’t seem to mesh with the other pieces of art surrounding them.)


A look at Sunderland

A look at Sunderland

Forbidden Plant International leads us to another glowing review of Bryan Talbot’s amazing Alice in Sunderland by Steve Flanagan. The catch is that Flanagan’s review is illustrative, done in the style of the book it’s discussing.

Flanagan’s 7-part comic strip review discusses Talbot’s presumed influences for this book, his stylistic choices, perceived structural weakness and subject matter.  Pretty heady stuff, and Flanagan’s not afraid to puncture his own pomposity.

It works better, of course, if you read the book first.  By that time maybe the traffic will have died down from Flanagan being BoingBoing’ed.