A nice capstone for a year of graphic novel triumph as DOTTER OF HER FATHER’S EYES by Mary and Bryan Talbot has won the Costa Award for best biography. The Costa is a respected UK literary prize, and the Talbots’ win is emblematic of wider acceptance, says the Guardian.
“We are living in the golden age of graphic novels. There are more and better comics being drawn today than ever in the history of the medium and there’s such a range of styles of artwork, of genre and of subject matter.”
Judges called Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes “a beautifully crafted” work “which crosses the boundaries between literature and the graphic genre with extraordinary effect”.
A follow-up piece goes even further:
With the award of a Costa prize to Mary and Bryan Talbot’s Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, the rise of the literary comic intersects with the decline of cradle-to-grave biography, in one of those wonders of happenstance that is the dream of prize administrators the world over.
Since they took over from the Whitbread awards back in 2006, the Costas have struggled to find new life in a roster of prizes that has often appeared to be outmoded.
The biography category has looked particularly jaded – a monument to a form that arguably reached its peak around the time Richard Holmes and John Richardson won with Coleridge and Picasso in the late 1980s and early 90s, but which mislaid its mojo somewhere in the dying days of the 20th century.
The choice of Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes is a coup on two fronts: it strikes a blow for one of the edgiest literary forms of the early 21st century, while anointing a work with the highest literary pedigree.
We’re thrilled with this win for several reasons, but mainly because DOTTER is such a wonderful book, accessible yet deep. Mary Talbot juxtaposes her childhood with a popular but distant father who is a Joycean scholar with that of James Joyce’s own daughter, Lucia; the result is a chronicle not only of two women’s search for fulfillment in their own lives, but of how society shifts to either encourage or retard women’s progress towards the same. It’s reminiscent of FUN HOME in a way, but broader in scope.
The prize is also yet another feather in the cap of Bryan Talbot, who has emerged with a remarkably varied body of work that never sacrifices storytelling for art and yet maintains the tradition of comics’ own unique sensibilities. From the heartbreaking TALE OF ONE BAD RAT to the exhilarating LUTHER ARKWRIGHT to the steampunk GRANDVILLE series—Talbot exemplifies the cartoonist as a literary figure in his own right.
DOTTER is published in the US by Dark Horse. Here’s a preview.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.