Propaganda – Bryan Talbot’s The Tale Of One Bad Rat
by Bryan Talbot
Bryan Talbot became known for Luther Arkwright and his sci-fi, vertigo fantasy work. All excellent stuff and wonderful examples of a creator of great skill, but up until this point it could easily have been argued that his work was narrow and very genre limited. With the publication of The Tale of One Bad Rat it became obvious he was capable of an entirely different tale.
The Tale Of One Bad Rat is the beautiful & moving story of Helen, a young runaway, abused by family, beaten and broken by life. She has just two good things in her young life, her pet rat and her love of the books of Beatrix Potter. These two things carry the young, injured Helen through her abusive home to dismal squats in London until taking her finally to the landscaped splendour of the Lake District. It is here where she has to come to terms with her shattered life.
Talbot creates both real beauty and real sadness within the book as he takes the reader along with Helen on a journey to find a home, a sense of place and true happiness. Talbot’s art rose to another level with this book, his highly detailed pencils were allowed to flow a little more and the artwork becomes more fluid and expressive, ideal for this touching, human story.
If you don’t know Bryan Talbot’s work this is a great place to start; if you’re an Arkwright fan, this is a wonderful deviation from what you might have come to expect and whoever you are, existing fan or not, this is a perfect example of the sort of story comics should be telling. Quite marvelous.
Bryan’s latest work Alice in Sunderland is further evidence of the range Talbot is capable of, but in many ways Tale Of One Bad rat is still his masterpiece. It’s not as showy as Sunderland, not as wide ranging. But it’s focus and intensity only makes it’s emotional tale all the more affecting and powerful (in fact its so well told that to this day support groups trying to help victims of abuse use the book as an aide – Joe). For more Talbot related information it’s well worth a trip to the official Bryan Talbot fan-page.
Richard Bruton is a lifelong comics fan and former Comic Book Store Guy; you can read more of his thoughts on comics and life on his blog Fictions.