Media Consumers for Entertainment Equality
Graphic Novelist Tom Taylor and artist James Brouwer‘s independent comic, The Deep – Here Be Dragons, was released by Gestalt Publishing on August 31st, 2011. Here Be Dragons is the first in a series of comic books about the Nektons, a family of ocean explorers. With a tone very similar to Pixar’s The Incredibles movie, The Deep is an all-ages story about an adventure-loving family. Beyond the gorgeous artwork from Brouwer and the lively script from Taylor, the comic features a multicultural family–a rarity in comics. But what makes the Nekton family compelling–far beyond the fact that they are multiethnic–is their love for exploration and for one another.
After reading The Deep – Here Be Dragons at ComicCon 2011, I knew I had to hunt down Tom Taylor and ask him for an interview with Racebending.com. Check it out below and make sure to hunt down your own copy of The Deep if you haven’t already. While mainstream comics may sideline characters of color, we have faith in this fish!
RACEBENDING.COM: The Deep is one of very few comic books to feature a multiethnic family. How far into the design process was it when it was decided the Nektons would be a mixed family of color?
TOM TAYLOR: I wanted the family to be multiethnic from day one, and I think, in James Brouwer, we found the perfect person to depict the Nektons. I never wanted the Nektons to exist to make a statement but, having said that, I think it’s important to show that not all hero families look like the Incredibles. Everyone needs heroes. And everyone deserves to recognize a part of themselves in their heroes. Put simply, the sea covers the entire globe and so do the Nekton family.
Everyone needs heroes. And everyone deserves to recognize a part of themselves in their heroes.
RACEBENDING.COM:The Deep is an underwater exploration and adventure story featuring the Nektons, a tight-knit family unit. How did you decide to go with portraying a family instead of say, a rag-tag gang of explorers?
TOM TAYLOR: First up, I think when you’re writing for an all-ages audience you need characters and situations that all ages can identify with. Not many children can identify with, say, a grizzled, old military bombs expert who fought in the Second World War.
A family is something almost everyone has been a part of, and you don’t need to take the time to explain how a family comes about… explaining how a family comes about is for a very different book.
I’ve never understood the level of exposition some people insist on in all-ages material. While I believe it’s important to build a world, I think you can do this as the story progresses, without stopping to explain history. If a ten-year-old has a choice between reading about the number of years Kaiko Nekton studied Marine Biology followed by her long, drawn-out relationship with William Nekton prior to their marriage and then blah, blah, blah… or whether they’d just like the story to hurry up and get to the insanely-huge scary dragon, I think I know which they’d choose. And I think I’d choose the same thing.
RACEBENDING.COM: What kind of species of fish is Jeffrey?
TOM TAYLOR: No one has asked that yet! Jeffrey is a Pseudanthias bicolor. And he thanks you for asking after him. Jeffrey knows he’s the real star of the book and is hoping more people will ask questions about him.
RACEBENDING.COM: Have Fontaine and Ant spent their entire lives with their parents out at sea, and if so, has that impacted on how they relate to other people, including other kids their age?
TOM TAYLOR: They’ve attended school and probably have quite a few ‘land-friends’. I don’t think either of them are social outcasts by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just that, like with many children, there is a family business and they’re expected to help with it. However, instead of working in a market, or a local shop, their family business happens to be adventure.
For Ant, this is the greatest thing in the world. For the older Fontaine, there are times when she wishes she could just be part of a ‘normal’ family. We touch on this briefly in The Deep: Here Be Dragons.
RACEBENDING.COM: The Nektons constantly travel the world, and as a result don’t really identify with any particular country or nationality. How does that play into their identity as a family and as worldwide explorers?
TOM TAYLOR: As a family, they’re very close. They’re a very strong unit. The fact that they don’t come from anywhere isn’t actually about the family. It’s about the readers.
By being deliberately vague on this, we’re saying the Nekton family could be from the same country as you. They could be the same nationality as you. They’re citizens of Earth, just like all of us. As worldwide explorers, this means that their path can be their own, and the agenda of any country or government doesn’t come into play at all. They’re free to go anywhere they need to and help anyone they want.
Part of the joy of exploration is freedom. Not being tied to any country makes the Nektons even more free in my mind.
RACEBENDING.COM: You’ve written for bigger publishing houses–DC and Dark Horse Comics– but The Deep is published by Gestalt Publishing, an independent graphic novel publishing house out of Australia. In your experience, is there a difference between “mainstream” and “indie” publishers when it comes to the inclusion of diversity in comics? What can “indie” comics do for diversity that mainstream comics can’t, and vice-versa?
TOM TAYLOR: Working on licensed properties is a lot fun. Sending Luke Skywalker flying through the air to attack genocidal aliens or pummeling on Green Lantern with giant robots is a great gig.
However, there’s sometimes more creative freedom involved in working on a non-licensed property. Without constraints imposed by outside influences and continuity, the only person holding you back is yourself. With this in mind, it is up to a creator, not a publisher, to decide on the diversity of their story.
There’s sometimes more creative freedom involved in working on a non-licensed property…With this in mind, it is up to a creator, not a publisher, to decide on the diversity of their story.
TOM TAYLOR: Indie publishers really have a unique opportunity to appeal to a wide audience.
RACEBENDING.COM: What can fans do to support “indie” books like The Deep?
TOM TAYLOR: The more demand for comics featuring diverse characters, the more likely it is more will be produced. So, putting it very simply, buy them. Go to your local comic book store and ask them to order it in. Help to create a demand.
The other thing people can do is spread the word. Indie books survive on the back of a dedicated army of fans. Facebook, twitter, all forms of social media should be used.
Never be afraid to tell a creator you like their work in a public forum. Review them on places like Amazon and mention why they appeal to you. Spread the word. Help the comics that matter to you get the attention you believe they deserve. We live in a world where, thanks to the Internet, everyone has a voice. Never be afraid to use yours.
Help the comics that matter to you get the attention you believe they deserve. We live in a world where, thanks to the Internet, everyone has a voice. Never be afraid to use yours.
RACEBENDING.COM: In addition to The Deep, which features a “blasian” family, your Star Wars works include Blood Ties and The Will of Darth Vader, which features characters of color, and Star Wars: Invasion, which features Kaye, a heroine and leader. How can fans advocate for and support diversity in their comics and stories, including in big franchises like Star Wars?
TOM TAYLOR: Again, talk about them. Let people know that this is important to you. Email the publisher and say keep it up. Tweet the creator and say well done. Talk about the characters everywhere. Encourage your friends to do the same.
“Let people know that [diversity] is important to you. Email the publisher and say keep it up. Tweet the creator and say well done. Talk about the characters everywhere. Encourage your friends to do the same.”
RACEBENDING.COM: Volume One wraps up a storyline but also ends on a cliffhanger. When can fans look forward to reading Volume 2 of The Deep?
TOM TAYLOR: Here it is people; the exclusive announcement: Wolfgang at Gestalt Comics, James Brouwer and I have just worked some things out and book two is being fast-tracked to appear in the middle of 2012. It is titled, The Deep: The Vanishing Island!
Racebending.com would like to thank Tom Taylor for this interview.
NOTE: The opinions espoused by the interviewees represent their viewpoints alone, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff of racebending.com