By Bryan Talbot
Alice in Sunderland is a graphic novel like no other. Bryan Talbot takes the city of Sunderland and the story of Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell (the 'real' Alice) as the spine of his story and around them spins a spectacularly diverse range of different stories. He explores Carroll's links with Sunderland and shows how the city inspired his masterpieces. He delves into the city's history, from the Venerable Bede to George Formby, from its heyday as the greatest shipbuilding port in the world to its present multicultural mix. Talbot's artwork is a spectacular mixture of different styles: black and white ink line and pencil drawing, watercolour, collage and digitally manipulated photographic artwork. His stories are told from the stage of the Sunderland Empire theatre, an Edwardian music hall, and the book is a genuine variety performance. In "Alice in Sunderland", he shows - triumphantly - how local history is national history in microcosm, how one story begets another. The result is a landmark book in the graphic field.