Hot on the heels of winning its country’s biggest sci-fi literature award, the Aurealis, for “Changing Ways,” Australian publisher Gestalt Publishing is set to dive deep this fall. On August 4, the publisher will release “The Deep: Here Be The Dragons,” an 88-page original graphic novel by award-winning multi-media writer Tom Taylor and artist James Brouwer.
Taylor, the creator of “Rombies,” is known primarily to North American audiences for his work at DC Comics/Wildstorm (“The Authority) and Dark Horse (“Star Wars: Invasion”). With “The Deep,” Taylor explores something he’s completely surrounded by in his native Australia: the oceans. Along for the fantastic journey are the Nektons, a family of aquanauts based in an Ã¼bercool submarine that’s a cross between Doctor Who’s Tardis and Captain Nemo’s Nautilus.
In this CBR exclusive interview, Taylor talks about his all-ages underwater adventure story for the first time and also shares the first 10-pages illustrated by Brouwer.
CBR News: “The Deep” is a wonderful concept, almost a “Fantastic Four” meets “Fantastic Journey” kind of vibe. How did this project originate?
Tom Taylor: Squids. Giant squids. Colossal Squids. Blame the squids. Seriously, I have this fascination with them. It’s not quite [Ben] Templesmith levels of squid-obsession, but I love colossal squids because of what they represent; something unobtainable in a world where everything else is a convenient button touch away.
Here we have one of the most enormous creatures on Earth and even with all of our incredible technology we are yet to see it alive in its natural habitat. It’s like we’re living right next to a myth.
This creature’s existence begs the question, what else is down there? This leads to my wider fascination with deep sea exploration, and it’s this fascination that drives this incredible family of aquanauts aboard their submarine, The Arronax, as they strive to learn the secrets of “The Deep.”
Now pour all of this into the beautiful mind of James Brouwer, and suddenly this book comes alive. No one could have done this book better than James. I smile every time I see a new panel from him and those who’ve seen a sneak peak at the book have already fallen in love with the Nekton family.
Why the decision to set this story in the deep ocean as opposed to say, deep space?
We can send people to the moon. We can see what’s happening on Mars. And we are always striving to travel further away from our planet. Yet we have all of this mystery right here on Earth. In this age, with all of our power and resources, there are still huge parts of our own world that remain untouchable and completely unknown.
However, I’ll leave it up to the youngest member of the Nekton family, Ant, to explain it. He’s pretty clever. These are Ant’s words:
“My family are explorers. We have been for generations. Some argue that there is nowhere left to explore, that everything on earth that can be discovered has already been found. They say that to truly explore we need to leave our planet.
“While others look up to the stars, my family knows that there are also stars beneath us, that there are an infinite number of things that shine brightly in the darkness below.”
“Most of our world lies unexplored, unexplained. There are things lurking in the seas that have only ever been spoken about in myth.
“My family are explorers. We have been for generations. We explore… The Deep.”
‘Nuff said. While “The Deep” is a big adventure story, the pages I’ve seen certainly have an all-ages feel. Was that the intent and if so, why?
“The Deep” exists, first-and-foremost, because I’m a comics fan. A huge comics fan. I developed this love of comics when I was young and I desperately want my own sons to develop this too. However, most comics aren’t geared toward, or attractive to, children. I can’t show some of my favorite stories to my five-year-old son and say, “Finn, look at this, it’s called ‘Preacher’ and… why are you crying?”
Similarly, I have found some comics under the ‘all-ages’ heading aren’t for all ages. They’re for kids. Not adults. Not parents wanting to share something. They’re often simplistic, dull and safe. I don’t find enjoyment in them and I get bored trying to read them to my children.
Wanting to write something I could share with my children was why I was so quick to leap at writing two “Star Wars: Adventures” graphic novellas, “The Will of Darth Vader” and “Luke Skywalker and the Treasure of the Dragonsnakes.” Well, that and getting to write another story about Yoda and Luke on Dagobah. That kicked ass.
The insanely talented James Brouwer also has young children and we both share this desire to have something we can share with them.
Pixar has taught us that so-called “kids'” movies can appeal to everyone; can touch everyone; can excite and enthrall everyone. And it’s this ethos that we’ve tried to bring to “The Deep.”
Are you a fan of the type of programming that airs on Discovery Channel like “River Monsters” and the annual “Shark Week?”
Like most people, I can happily watch any doco late at night with my one-year-old half asleep on my arm. I’m a massive fan of trawling obscure websites and searching through bizarre — and generally completely made-up — cryptozoology posts. I love reading about monkey-mermaids and vampire frogs and learning about Lazarus species and the like. I don’t need Shark Week. I live in Australia. We have plenty of sharks. And we have far scarier things that are far more common, can kill you far easier, and can hide under your toilet seat.
When telling a tale with a family as the central cast, it’s easy to fall into typecasting the members into specific roles. Can you tell us about each member of the Nektons and what separates them from their traditional fictional counterparts?
Well, first up, The Nekton family aren’t from anywhere. At no point in this book will you learn their ethnicities or countries of origin. The sea is huge and covers the globe, and so do they. I’ll give you a quick run down but for more info head to www.exploringthedeep.com.
Will Nekton, the Patriarch of the Nekton family, was actually born on a boat, and grew up alongside the children of the Bajau Sea Nomads as his parents spent a lot of time in the Coral Triangle. He is a former Olympic swimmer, a brilliant oceanographer and easily excitable.
Kaiko Nekton is the Matriarch. Her parents safeguard one of the largest marine reserves in the world and it was into this world that Kaiko was born. A marine biologist, conservationist and submarine pilot, Kaiko is fiercely protective of all sea-life and will do all in her power to defend it.
Fontaine Nekton, the older sibling, is already a fantastic Aquanaut and a naturally gifted navigator. She is a bit stubborn and hard-headed, but amidst all the excitement and enthusiasm, sometimes her more considerate nature makes her the only sane voice on board the Arronax.
Antaeus “Ant” Nekton, the youngest member of family, has grown up surrounded by adventure and at no point has he realized his life is far from the norm. Ant shows almost no fear or trepidation when trying something new or potentially dangerous. A gifted child, Ant is already surprising his family with his intellect and is constantly experimenting and inventing.
Jeffrey is a fish. When pressed for more information, Jeffrey was strangely silent. We suspect a deep, dark past.
Hey, man. Thanks for naming the fish after me. [Laughs] The sixth member of the cast, as you mentioned, is the Aronnax: the Nekton’s double-titanium hulled, state-of-the-art submarine. Can you give us a quick tour of this submersible fortress of science?
Um… sure… mind your head. Don’t touch that if you’re a fan of oxygen. Here at the helm of the ship, where Kaiko Nekton pilots the Arronax, you can get a look at the double-titanium hull which can withstand incredible pressures, it’s the reason your ribs haven’t been pressed through your lungs. Keep coming and we’ll head past Fontaine’s room, which I guarantee she won’t let us peak into, and you can’t actually open the door to Ant’s room; he has too much junk piled up in there. I think he’s actually given up on reaching his bed and has started sleeping in the Moon Pool chamber. Speaking of which, here is the Moon Pool chamber. This chamber is where we keep the smaller submersibles like the Rover and the White Knight. We use the Moon Pool to get in and out of the water. The last place on the tour is Will Nekton’s study. It contains the single largest collection of ancient charts and maps to be collected in an underwater vessel… probably because keeping so much ancient fragile paper underwater is asking for trouble. That map? Um… we’re not supposed to talk about that. The tour is over.
OK. Without giving away too many details, or discussing the aforementioned map, the subhead teases that we might see some sea monsters in this OGN, more specifically sea dragons. What can you tell us about what lurks in the deep?
The sea is deep and full of secrets. Are there monsters down there — insanely scary leviathans that could chew up a sub and spit it out as if it was an entree? You’ll just have to read the book to find out.
Did you research sea life in an effort to fully populate the world of “The Deep” or are you playing mostly with childhood fantasies here?
Nope. Piles of research. I’m a researcher. I wrap myself up completely in whatever I’m writing at the time. It’s one of the fun things about being a writer. You get time to explore things you’re passionate about. With “Rombies,” I spent forever researching ancient Rome. With “Star Wars,” I spent forever on Wookieepedia.
Is there a human antagonist in “The Deep” or is this truly a story of man — and family — versus wild?
There is one person the Nekton family aren’t the biggest fan of, but aside from her, the Nektons aren’t really against anybody. They’re conservationists. Our adventure begins when our Aquanauts are alerted to something strange off the coast of Greenland, which correlates with some real-life historical facts. Yes, there are dangers in this book. Yes there is conflict. But the family Nekton aren’t against the wild. They want to learn more about it in order to preserve it… and they may have another motive.
Likewise, this OGN reads very much like an animated feature. Any chance we’ll see the Nektons adapted for film or television?
I’d be lying if I said the thought hadn’t crossed my mind, and the incredible James Brouwer and I, along with the good people at Gestalt Publishing, have been very meticulous about every aspect of this book, from the uniforms to the logo, to the masthead as we do think it’s destined to have a life beyond this book. There has been some interest already but I’ll leave all that up to the publisher. I just want to write comics, the greatest storytelling medium in the world.
Should “The Deep” prove to be a success commercially and critically, do you have plans and ideas for further adventures starring the Nektons?
The Nekton family will definitely be back in more adventures. If I don’t see James Brouwer illustrating these characters more I may explode… and that would be messy and inconvenient. Honestly, I can’t keep these stories in my head. I have to know if they find… and what they do to overcome… when that giant… and then that whole island just…
Finally, what else are you working on these days? Any more Star Wars work in your future?
Yep, the brilliant Colin Wilson joins me again for the next installment of the “Star Wars: Invasion” saga ‘Revelations,” which begins in July. On top of this, I believe I can announce here for the first time that I’m doing a two-part stand-alone story for “DCUO Legends” called the ‘The Brainiac-Sinestro Corps War.’ It’s an enormous story to take place over two issues, especially when you involve the Green Lanterns, and I’m absolutely thrilled to get the chance to write Hal Jordan and some other major players in the DCU.
Other things may be in the works at DC too. My creator-owned series with Skye Ogden, “Rombies” is also underway and the first issue is being serialized for free online at Gestalt Comics.
The last thing I’m actually allowed to talk about is, after the success of “Star Wars: Blood Ties,” Chris Scalf and I have begun work on a new creator-owned series called “Voice of a Dragon.” I’m also working on a machine that will mean all food can be eaten in pancake form. It has a slight bug which could flatten the entire galaxy but it’s a small price to pay for pancake soup.