We had one of the top talents in Brit comics in the Edinburgh FPI yesterday in the form of Bryan Talbot, creator of Luther Arkwright. Bryan has spent several years researching and working on his new work Alice In Sunderland, a large, hardback graphic novel with Lewis Carroll’s Alice books at its core, but going off onto all sorts of related tangents which influenced Carroll and his work, from local history in and around Sunderland, folklore, the family history of Carroll and of Alice Liddell’s family and some of Bryan’s own personal life. There can’t be many creators who can work in Lewis Carroll, the Venerable Bede, smugglers, naval heroes, the Jabberwock, mass murder, cholera, the Civil War, white rabbits and the ghost of Sid James and make it all work.
I’ve been dying to read Alice in Sunderland since I interviewed Bryan last summer and I haven’t been disappointed. Sure I am biased since Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are two of my all-time favourite books and have been since I was a boy; as an adult I still adore the sheer dreamlike imagination of them but also came to admire the incredible intellect behind them, Carroll’s astonishing use of immensely clever word play (and number play too, for that matter – check the Annotated Alice to see what I mean). No wonder Alice has been such an incredibly influential work, re-interpreted endlessly in more books, films, animations (despite liberties with the books I do like the old Disney version because of the richness of the animation, but my favourite animated version is by Jan Svankmajer – the Prague Alchemist of Film and one of my favourite animators), songs, games and, of course, comics.
With such a mixture of local history and literature and folklore I think Alice in Sunderland is one of those graphic novels which can easily crossover into the mainstream – if you don’t normally read anything in comics form and assume it is pretty much all capes and tights, ignore your preconceptions and have a look at Alice; there are many different and wandering routes through the rabbit hole and this is one of the more scenic ways. I posted some pictures from the signing on the FPI Flickr stream and also tried shooting a couple of very brief video clips as an experiment to see how it came out: