“Holly came from Miami f.l.a.
Hitch-hiked her way across the USA.
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her leg and then he was a she
She says, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side”
Quite a whiles back Bryan Talbot tipped us off to a French fine artist who was making her debut in the graphic novel field, Véronique Tanaka; it was a new venture for a reclusive artist and Bryan had agreed to be her agent to help get the book, Metronome, published (as it would be early last year by NBM). It was a fascinating work of repetetive frames ticking through a wordless tale. It was also not by Véronique Tanaka. Or to clarify, it was by Véronique, except Véronique is actually Bryan.
“Well, the whole thing was an experiment. Totally different style, all done on computer, totally silent, on a strict sixteen panel grid, sixty-four pages in 4/4 time. The book is even read differently from bottom left on the verso page to top right on the recto page. And I’ve never done manga before. It was an experiment in comic storytelling. While I was working on it, I realized that no one would even recognise it as being by me so I thought, as part of the experiment, why not put it out under a different name? At first I considered English names, which got progressively more exotic until I thought a Japanese one would suit the style. Then I thought ‘Why not take it even further and make it a woman’s name?’ I did some interviews as Veronique and actually stated that it was a pen name. On page 35 of the book, in panels 13 and 14, the shadows behind the bridge spell ‘HOAX‘”, Bryan talking to Stephen Holland for Page 45′s newsletter, where the ruse and the reasons Bryan has lipstick and high heels stashed in his wardrobe are revealed.
NBM took the book believing Bryan was acting as Véronique’s agent, it was only after it had been accepted but before publication that he revealed the truth to them, when he said – “Terry Nantier… to his credit, he didn’t try and persuade me to put it out under my real name.” The book garnered some good reviews (personally I thought it was fascinating) but the sales didn’t match the good reviews and so Bryan has decided belatedly to come clean via the Page 45 Newsletter, Stephen Holland having been in on it from before publication (and equally as impressed with the book as I was before he knew it was actually Bryan experimenting).
Well, it certainly fooled me! I’ve got to say I quite like the idea of this – famous creators working under another pen name is far from unusual in the book trade, but the majority of the most famous rather spoil the idea by having “Joe Bloggs writing as Stack Powerhouse” on the cover, which makes the idea of having a different type of work from your normal ouevre taken on its own merits rather than as a work by the famous such and such rather redundant (frankly, other than to please the marketing department I never saw any sense in that approach at all, it’s like Batman wearing a top with ‘Bruce Wayne appearing as Batman’ on it.
I certainly don’t mind being hoodwinked – hey, we happily plugged the work from this ‘new’ artist that Bryan had pointed us toward (even ‘interviews’ he sent us). End of the day it doesn’t change my interpretation of the work, which I thought was excellent. And it actually increases my respect for Bryan – its quite a move to have established a solid reputation over decades of working in the medium then leave it to one side and try something different like this without the security of that established name to help sell it. I suppose on one level it shouldn’t be quite as big a surprise as it is, since Bryan, throughout his career, has consistently proven that he can create work that is both thematically and artistically quite different from previous works; its one of his enduring strengths as a creator and one of the reasons I’m always drawn to his new work. But as Stephen Holland remarked, its a shame Bryan turned down his offer of appearing at Page 45 in character to do a signing…
(panels from Metronome, by and (c) Veroni… er, well, actually that artistically cross-dressing Bryan Talbot scamp!)
Rumours that Bryan will be forced to sing karaoke versions of Walk on the Wild Side at the Bristol comics show next month may prove to be very accurate… Just as well he didn’t tell us all this a couple of weeks ago or we’d have assumed an elaborate April Fool’s gag… (source: Bryan Talbot via Dez Skinn’s Quality Comms comics forum)