If you’re familiar with Tom Taylor‘s Marvel and DC Comics work, you know he has a knack for mixing tense character drama with all-out action. Whether it’s the ferocious all-new Wolverine or the dark heroes of the “Injustice: Gods Among Us” comic adaptation, Taylor’s superhero work shows iconic characters in a dramatically new light. Now, thanks to an animated series currently streaming in the U.S. on Netflix, fans of Taylor’s work can travel to totally new depths of his creativity.
“The Deep” is based on Taylor and artist James Brouwer’s series of OGNs of the same name, originally released in 2011 and 2013 as “Here Be Dragons” and “The Vanishing Island.” The story follows a multiethnic family of adventurers, the Nektons, as they explore the ocean floor and encounter the unexpected. The animated series, which premiered in Australia in 2015, expands the family’s adventures to 26 half-hour installments.
Taylor spoke with CBR about adapting “The Deep” alongside artist and art director Brouwer, and even gave us a sneak peek at the next OGN — “Voyages of the Aronnax.”
CBR News: “The Deep” has already made a splash (appropriate pun) outside of the US, and is now streaming stateside via Netflix. How would you describe “The Deep” and the Nekton family to its new audience?
Tom Taylor: “The Deep” is a truly all-ages adventure series about a daring, multiethnic family of underwater explorers who live on a submarine. While other explorers look to the stars, the Nekton family know there are an infinite number of mysteries shining from the darkness below. More people have been to the moon than to the bottom of the sea. Our family explores this final frontier here at home — uncovering monsters and myths, legends and lost worlds.
“The Deep” exists because I’m a comics fan. I developed this love of comics when I was young and I desperately wanted my own children to develop this too. However, I can’t proudly show “Injustice: Gods Among Us” to my six-year-old and say, “Look what daddy wrote! Superman is putting his fist through… why are you crying?”
I wanted to create “The Deep” to be exciting, entertaining and accessible for everyone, regardless of age. I wanted something families could enjoy together. Where everyone on screen isn’t a sitcom portrayal of a character; everyone is competent, everyone is important — and everyone is working together.
“The Deep” started out as two graphic novels, published in 2011 and 2013; what was the process like adapting it for an animated series? The premise seems tailor made for animation.
I think a family show focusing on ancient mysteries of the sea was crying out to be created. Who doesn’t want adventures with sunken cities and megalodons? I was very surprised when I was originally writing the comics and I couldn’t find anything like “The Deep” out there. But the most important thing was the tone, and everyone involved in the show, from series director Trent Carlson and everyone at DHX and A Stark Production, has the best interests of the Nekton family at heart.
We also got very lucky from day one, with Exec Producer Robert Chandler seeing exactly what this show could be, and Steven Wendland and Alison Warner at Technicolor loving everything to do with “The Deep” and supporting James and I every step of the way. For a show of this size to put so much faith in the creators and allow us to be so involved speaks volumes. There’s something to be said for a massive production where everyone shares a vision and an ethos.
“The Deep” is an all-ages show, but features a family dynamic and interactions that adults will definitely relate to as well. Was it hard to strike that balance? Are there times you have to pull the show’s tone in the opposite direction if it veers too far one way?
Absolutely. That is probably one of the hardest things about “The Deep” from a story point-of-view. Any of our writers or myself might have an idea that can be exciting, nail biting, hilarious — and entirely inappropriate for this show and this audience. Our show has a policy of “non-violence,” which is very, very rare for a kids action adventure show. But demonstrating that a non-violent show can have huge appeal, and be exciting, is very important to me. It’s a challenge to have to come up with non-violent solutions every episode but it’s one that our writers embrace — it uses different muscles.
The pilot episode, “Here Be Dragons,” shares its title with the first OGN. How closely related are the two, and how often did you pull from the source material for the series?
There are elements from the books across the series, but episode one is definitely an adaption of our first graphic novel, while our second book, “The Vanishing Island,” is actually pretty much episode 26. There was just that small problem of the 24 episodes between.
26 episodes is a lot more material than the two OGNs. Are there any new concepts of characters that you were excited to explore in the television series?
Book three was always going to be a story starting in a floating black market with underwater pirates aboard their submarine, The Dark Orca. Working on the TV series pretty much derailed the comic for a while, with illustrator James Brouwer serving as Art Director and me working as the head writer, but we were able to bring these characters into the series in a big way. We were also able to expand on secret organizations and mysteries in the TV series in a big way.
When cooking up undersea obstacles for the Nektons to encounter, how closely did you stick to real ocean life, and how much did you invent?
We occasionally create anomalies — enlarged creatures, extinct creatures or creatures from myth and legend, but almost everything is based on some kind of truth. For instance, the sea monster the Nektons go searching for off the coast of Greenland is based on an actual reported sighting in the 1700s. I love trawling the Internet for bizarre deep sea mysteries and ocean-related cryptozoology. And, of course, there are so many things we haven’t seen or don’t understand.
“The Deep” also finds you taking on a head writer role for a staff of writers. What was it like guiding multiple writers into the series’ depths?
Pretty challenging. For a facilitator, I make a great writer. This was my first time working in television and, as the head writer, I’m usually the starting point. The amount of people relying on me across the chain is pretty daunting, especially as I’m very bad at just letting things go. Fortunately, we have a very patient, experienced and supportive team here in Australia; Avrill Stark and Mandy Mackintosh at A Stark Production, and our story editor, Philip Dalkin, along with script consultant, Kym Bagley. Without them, I’d probably just be a useless puddle of incompetence, sloshing back and forth in front of my computer.
I think the greatest parts of creating the show have been our story conferences. This is when we’ve brainstormed with all of our writers in one room, along with producers and other creatives from across the world.
Are there any serialized elements or continuing plot threads the audience should keep an eye out for?
Absolutely. The episodes all work as standalones, but there is an arc. It’s no secret our family is searching for lost Lemuria and, as we get closer to our end goal, other forces are trying to stop them, or get there first. There are also some big revelations along the way, and mysteries to solve. There’s a real feel that we’re heading somewhere big, and we definitely are.
The series’ animation is very close to the graphic novel’s art, which makes sense, as James Brouwer is the art director. How did you both go about making sure the show remained true to the comic’s look?
There’s something so beautiful, warm, hilarious and friendly about James’ art and his characters. I think this was a huge part of what drew Technicolor to optioning “The Deep” in the first place. So, we started with everyone across the board wanting to capture that feel in the show. With James as art director, and his design team all working in the same room as him, this was made much easier. James works very closely with the Director and modelers in Canada, too.
What does the future hold for “The Deep”? Are there more OGNs on the horizon, or a second season?
I’m happy to announce that James and I have been quietly working away on a prequel set in the 1800s called “Voyages of the Aronnax.” I actually wrote this years ago, but we should have it ready soon. I’m happy to share a preview page here today. We’re also hoping the original graphic novels will be available through a US publisher/distributor very, very soon.
As for season two, after the great response in the US, Canada, Australia, the UK and Germany (with many more countries to come this year), I’d say there’s a very good chance. Have faith in the fish!
All 26 episodes of “The Deep” are currently streaming on Netflix
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