Fact or Fantasy; Ahead of a Major Comic Books Show in Birmingham This Weekend, Neil Elkes Talks to Leading Author Bryan Talbot
Byline: Neil Elkes
British comic artist and writer Bryan Talbot won critical acclaim, plus a doctorate, for his stunning blending of local history, biography, literature and fantasy in his groundbreaking graphic novel Alice in Sunderland. But he returns to familiar turf with a rip-roaring detective thriller Grandville, only this time building on a fine tradition of animal characters in human clothes dating back to Rupert Bear and Wind in the Willows - known as anthropomorphism.
Grandville, to be launched at the British International Comics Show in Birmingham this weekend, is a page-turning adventure featuring an English badger detective Le Brock and his monocled rat side-kick Roderick as they uncover a sinister political plot in the heart of Victorian Paris.
While badgers, foxes, bears and rabbits are often associated with children's literature, the characters from Grandville's underworld are more likely to wave guns and knives and indulge in sex and drugs than go messing about in boats.
Grandville draws on a sub-genre of science-fiction, steampunk, in which Victorian or Gothic history is attributed with further progress - such as steamdriven space ships or clockwork robots. Think Jules Verne or H G Wells.
The book wears its inspiration on its jacket - the look of Rupert the Bear, the plotting of Sherlock Holmes and the violent gangland action of Quentin Tarantino films are credited.
He said: "I usually spend ages working on ideas, but this came to me in a flash of inspiration.
"I've had this book of the 19th-century French illustrator Jean Ignace Isidore Gerard, he was known as J J Grandville and did illustrations of anthropomorphic characters in contemporary dress. "I knew I could do a story with Grandville being the nickname of a big steampunk Paris peopled by anthropomorphic characters. "It was a bit of a challenge. It is a stylistic thing. I cast the characters according to popular views of the animal, so a crocodile would be a nasty character."
Puns are also plentiful with Napoleon becoming a lion and the white-rabbit French prime minister Jean Marie Lupin an obvious reference to notorious farright politician Le Pen. Another little pun features a boarding house owner as a cow named Madame Moue, which is French for make a face.
The writer frequently refers to the War on Terror as characters rampage through a Paris having seen its own version of September 11, with the destruction of a tower used as a means to increase the reach of security services as they crack down on the perceived enemy.
Bryan explains: "The story starts small and parochial, with a locked-room murder mystery, and gets bigger and bigger.
"It is all about a political conspiracy. It is based on the way the British and American people were lied to by their governments about the weapons of mass destruction. At its heart it is a detective adventure."
Bryan Talbot has enjoyed a 40-year career as a an artist which has included work on British science-fiction comic 2000AD with characters such as Judge Dredd, and American titles such as Batman, Sandman and Hellblazer. …