Home Culture Cartoonists Bryan Talbot reveals he is Veronique Tanaka

Bryan Talbot reveals he is Veronique Tanaka


A year or so ago, our good pal Bryan Talbot started telling us about a new artist that he had met in France, a French-Japanese woman named Veronique Tanaka who had created a rather unusual graphic novel called METRONOME that not only worked as an animated movie but told a story through meta images and syncopated storytelling. We remember thinking that Talbot seemed awfully interested in this artist’s work, as he was acting as her agent, but, well, comics folks are an incredibly helpful bunch, and it’s not all that unusual for them to help each other out. The book was eventually published in the US by NBM, Tanaka was interviewed by several websites — including Publishers Weekly — and then, as with many flavors of the minute, she disappeared into the great scrum of comics, back to her original world of “conceptual art.”

Or did she?

It turns out, Tanaka never really existed.

As revealed today on The Forbidden Planet Blog, Tanaka and Metronome were completely the creation of…Bryan Talbot.

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.

To which we can only say…well played, Mr. Talbot! Thank goodness no one in comics journalism ever does an actual background check.

  1. Seems like now if the perfect time to announce that I am representing an original graphic novel by the late Howard Hughes…

  2. The reveal of Talbot-as-Veronique-Tanaka will certainly boost sales of a largely-unknown but intelligent, important work, so yeah, I’d say this is important. More Talbot is always Good News.

  3. I can’t say that I recall anything about this book and it’s creator, but who was fooled by this?

    I can already tell, by looking at that pic, that the very ‘penis-y’ nose on that character is NOT something that female creators tend to put in their work. At least, female comic book creators…

  4. I was not aware of Tanaka’s work nor of Talbot’s. But now am aware that they are the same person. Does that mean that Tanaka would be listed as a dependent on Talbot’s tax return? Or would her (potential) income allow her to deduct her art supplies and necessitate her own return. hmm

  5. Stephen King pulled this off for many years, writing as Richard Bachman. I wish Talbot had the patience to create a whole second career like the one Bachman had – it was a great “reveal” when a reporter finally called King on it. Like Tanaka, Bachman sold OK but never really well, but unlike Tanaka, he wasn’t a critical hit, either.

  6. I think another key difference with the Bachman comparison is that Bachman books didn’t have Stephen King blurbs on them, nor was King acting as a supporter and agent for Bachman, to help get his work press.

  7. I didn’t cover this book but I have a hard time working up any enthusiasm for the stunt. Cartoonists have been working under multiple names for as long as there have been comics. Writers do it all the time, too. Who cares?

  8. Multiple names, sure. But wholly invented nationalities and fake CVs in art? There is a difference, at least to me, in simply taking on a pen name to publish under, and giving a whole interview like the one “Veronique” gave to de:code about her background, and the idea that this is her first comic album after a life spent doing conceptual art (which, I would assume, was supposed to make us think that Veronique was coming to cartooning with a new perspective, based on that backgrond?) seems, to me, to push a little bit further than just taking on a new name to publish under.

  9. I guess that’s much more elaborate than what most people do, but still falls under “who gives a crap?” territory for me. Heidi’s assertion that there’s somehow some wholesale journalistic failure to double-check backgrounds seems absurd — why should anyone on earth double-check backgrounds for basic arts coverage? I’m interviewing Kevin Cannon right now; he could be Zander Cannon in a felt hat and elf boots for all I know. Or care.

  10. Tom: I didn’t “assert” any kind of “failure.” I did make a joke which could be interpreted many ways. I don’t think we’re in JT Leroy territory here — Bryan was hardly malicious in his experiment, and obviously there was an expectation that sometime the curtain would be lifted — but it was definitely more than a pen name.

    And as usual when you think there is “no story,” you spend a lot of time commenting on it.

  11. I’m not interested in the Talbot/Talbotina story; I’m in interested in issues of what constitutes a story and what constitutes acceptable practice. I mean, duh. Plus this took like three minutes for three posts. I spent more time in the last two hour daydreaming about Christina Hendricks in a pink sweater.

    Maybe someday I’ll be one of those bloggers that incessantly whines in post after post about how I have no time to do a job as freakishly easy as blog about comics, but until then I’ll feel free to not only blog when I can but spend a minute or two at the end of the day commenting on stuff that interests me, even if they come wrapped in a story that doesn’t.

    That last sentence is a joke that can be interpreted many ways, so it doesn’t mean what you’re about to suggest it means.

  12. Now is the time for me to admit that I’m just a pen name for Neil Gaiman, which he (I) exercise when trying to avoid flooding the comics market with work.

    There. Let’s see what that does for my… er, his… no, wait, I mean my sales.

  13. I thought the book looked intriguing but with so many new books that fall into that category I forgot about it and never pursued the initial interest. Now, I’ll definitely check it out. I took Heidi’s comment as the joke she says it was. It was an interesting story and like almost every other one of these comment section scrums I’m left wondering where the argument came from- did anyone pretend it WAS a big deal except for the nit wit (Horace) posting that it was not a big deal (which implies someone said it was a big deal but I didn’t get taht at all from Heidi’s post). Talbot probably would have kept it a secret but knew he could move more copies by coming clean- too bad he couldn’t have kept it going or possibly better yet chose to reveal the truth on April Fool’s Day which really would have confused everyone. Talbot rocks and he doesn’t get enough acclaim- let’s hope this boosts his standing even more. Now Tom can go back to posting more birthdays of cartoonists Frank Santoro has never heard of- just a joke! Really though Tom, I can’t see why you don’t seem to think it’s sort of neat or at least interesting- no one is acting as if Talbot admitted to being D.B. Cooper or something.

  14. Jeez, Spurgeon; considering half of your output seems to be Uncle Tommy’s Lambiek-Link Birthday Round-Up, I’d be a little less quick to toss around the ‘Who gives a fig?’s if I were you.

    It’s an amusing and interesting story, and even if it didn’t work out the way Talbot would have liked, it’s hepped people to a book they may not have been aware of or otherwise given a shot.

    I’d go into greater detail, but apparently some Spanish smut illustrator and a dude who made forgettable ’90s superhero comics have birthdays today, so I really have to get these cakes in the oven.

  15. I have no idea what to make of an attack that castigates me for not appreciating an elaborate stunt on the basis that it gets people to buy a new book AND for posting 20-30 opportunities to get to know new artists and their books every week, but it’s pretty funny and I appreciate your looking at the site.

  16. I have to agree with Patrick – it’s a real shame this was revealed so quickly. I could have been fun to see “Tanaka” have her own parallel career and life. On the other hand, since I like Talbot’s work, I’m more likely to pick up a copy of Metronome now.

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