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Bryan Talbot's Grandville

John Sewell
Member
#1 · Posted: 19 Nov 2009 19:10
Anybody else read this latest graphic novel from the creator of Luthor Arkwright? I bought a copy yesterday, and it's a lovely-looking piece of work!

It's set in a steampunk parallel universe, where France won the Napoleonic Wars, and is the dominant World power. The UK is a recently independent "small and unimportant country connected to the French Empire by the Channel Railway bridge." The story concerns Detective Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard, journeying to Grandville (Paris,) the most important and largest City in the World, with his adjunct, Detective Roderick Ratzi, to investigate a mysterious murder. Oh yes, a couple of important details; LeBrock is a badger, and Ratzi is, er, a Rat.

The world of Grandville is populated by anthropormorphic animals - Talbot gives one of his inspirations as Rupert the Bear (the opening sequence even takes place in Nutwood, with Rupert's father visible mowing the lawn and trimming his hedge in a couple of frames!) His other named influences are the illustrations of Gerard and Robida, Conan Doyle and Quentin Tarantino, which looks about right to me when reading the book!

Interestingly, humans of a sort are present in this World too. Nicknamed "doughfaces", and treated as menial workers, they're explained as "a hairless breed of chimpanzee that evolved in Angouleme." Curiously, Talbot has drawn the first two doughfaces we see in ligne-claire style, and the one on the right has a very similar face to Tintin. On the next couple of pages, we also see a hotel bellboy who looks very much like the earliest version of Spirou!

We also meet a suspiciously familiar-looking terrier by the name of Snowy Milou, a witness to murder whom LeBrock traces to a seedy opium den. In his drug-induced stupor, Milou talks of strange dreams; "I was...somewhere warm... the Congo I think... I was on the Moon you know... with the doughface... there was a crab... with golden claws... and Captain... Captain... Havoc?"

As you might pick up from the above, this is definitely not one for the children. There's a certain amount of swearing, some fairly bloody violence, and badger sex (!) It looks absolutely stunning, with Talbot showing the same flair for carefully detailed steampunk that he pioneered with Arkwright, and the Gothic Empire storyline for Nemesis the Warlock. The book's presented in a large format similar to European BD albums, which is appropriate, as it's definitely got a distinct European feel to it, quite apart from the setting, and the gorgeous artwork would suffer if it was shrunk down to the standard size for US comic books.

Check out http://www.bryan-talbot.com/grandville/index.php for more - nice to see that a sequel's in the works already!
Harrock n roll
Moderator
#2 · Posted: 19 Nov 2009 20:50
Strange synchronicity !

I was just writing about Grandville in another thread about comics in London, before I spotted your post. As I mentioned over there, I was at the launch of the book held at The Cartoon Museum a month ago, where Bryan gave a short talk about the work. Actually, I was 'badgered' into going to the talk to make up the numbers at the talk (my wife works at the Museum), so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. As soon as I saw the book I instantly recognized the BD style of the format (nice red cloth-bound hardback, clear line style, high production values). I also spotted the Belgian character Becassine within the pages. Bryan Talbot mentioned that he's attempting to create a Tintin stlye series. He is a self-confessed Tintin enthusiast. Actually, he seems to be a fan of just about everything!

Admittedly, I was never a big fan of the early Luther Arkwright stories, although I absolutely loved Heart Of Empire, the follow-up. I don't know if you're aware of his last book Alice In Sunderland? (see this thread). Alice is a tribute to a great many different illustrative styles, and includes a brilliant pastiche of Tintin in the style of Crab With The Golden Claws on pages 192-193, right down to the Neil Hyslop lettering. That too is a highly recommended work, probably one of the best British comics ever produced (imo).

As you say, there are elements of Quentin Tarantino in Grandville (lots of guns pointed at arm's length), blood-splattering shootouts, etc., so it's definitely not for the kiddies. I thoroughly enjoyed it though, it was a great read, and it's well worth seeking out.
John Sewell
Member
#3 · Posted: 19 Nov 2009 21:36
Aha! Becassine's the character with the Tintin-like features I noticed. Thanks for clearing that up!

Alice In Sunderland is a marvelous, mammoth achievement, which deserves every plaudit thrown at it. The scope is so wide - everything from the Venerable Bede to the ghost of Sid James! I live in the Northeast (right next to Whitby Abbey, which must be a favourite of Mr Talbot seeing as it briefly features in Alice and Luthor Arkwright) so a lot of the areas in the book were very familiar.
george
Member
#4 · Posted: 15 Jan 2013 09:15
The third volume of Grandville has now been out for some months. I'm two-thirds through and I'd say it is another triumph for Bryan Talbot.

As ever there are some background cameos from a number of popular comics characters, from the Smurfs through to Ally Slooper. And rather in the foreground is an Angus Mortimire a red-bearded professor.

Perhaps of more interest to this board is a balding butler named Nistair. Hmmm, I can't quite put my finger on why he is so familiar... :-)

George

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