The only comic I’ve read since being a kid is Viz, so I wasn’t sure about buying a comic book even if it was about the city I call home.
When I first saw Alice in Sunderland advertised it was on a poster in a window of a central London comic shop. I went inside to find out more but as soon as I got through the door I knew I’d never find what I was looking for.
The first thing that hit me when I entered the shop was the stench of sweat from the sort of men who wear heavy long black coats on a hot day and biker boots when they don’t own a bike.
I was the only woman in the shop, my first time ever in a comic book store and what a cliché it was. Yes, I can confirm that comic store guy from The Simpsons is alive and well and living in London. I pretended to browse the books without having a clue what I was looking at, all the while clocking my fellow shoppers.
Most of them were greasy geezers with an intense gaze and a whiff of BO. There might have been a ponytail or two. I scuttled out, amused by the cliché of the comic shop guys but disappointed that I couldn’t find out more on the book.
I forgot about it for a few weeks until a sparkling review in Time Out pointed to an exhibition of artwork from the book at the Cartoon Gallery in London, so off I went in. And when I came out, I’d bought a signed copy of the book, it’s fantastic.
What makes it so special?
To a Mackem, it’s the history. The sensitive and generous way Bryan Talbot has covered the city from back then to now brought a lump to my throat more than once. Who’d have thought a comic book could have moved me so much?
You don’t need to know anything about Sunderland to enjoy this book because it’s also about the artwork, the journalism and extensive research that’s gone into making this one of the most special books I know I’ll ever own.