Being famous and beautiful can open many doors for a person. If you're merely a social climber trying to move up a level, these features are no doubt handy to have. But if you're a spy with these attributes, you've got the potential to become a whole new level of dangerous.
This is the idea behind Titan Comics' "Scarlett Couture," a new series written and illustrated by Des Taylor. The title promises to be a fun spy story, with a unique visual look that turns high fashion into high stakes on a global playing field.
CBR News spoke with Taylor ahead of the series' debut about what readers can expect from his mash-up of international intrigue and the world of fashion, how his background as an illustrator for magazines like "Cosmo" informs his tale, and the process he uses to create comics that feel cool, classic and just a bit saucy.
CBR News: "Scarlett Couture" is both the name of your comic and your main character. What can you tell us about Scarlett and the trouble she finds in this series?
Des Taylor: Scarlett Couture is the daughter of billionaire fashion mogul Chase Couture. Their company (and fashion brand Chase Couture) is a front for a branch of the C.I.A. that gathers intelligence for other government agencies. Scarlett, however, is a bit of a hothead, so if she has a chance to save the day -- she'll take it! Waiting around for the decision-makers on the Hill is not really her style. Although she is a very capable field agent, her compulsion to dive in gets her into hot water with her handlers.
In this tale, Scarlett is investigating the murder of a fellow spy which leads her and her team into a bigger, more sinister plot. The book is a fun, easy read inspired by 60's spy films. With all the dark and grittiness in comics today, I wanted to do something sexy, lighthearted and fun. I hope people like it.
Where did you come up with the idea for this comic?
It's a funny story. While I was freelancing as an illustrator for "Cosmo" and "More Magazine" in the UK, I was invited to a party where a famous footballer was in the VIP section of the club. A lot of guys that idolized him were trying to get in so they could see him, but the doormen wouldn't allow it. Then all of a sudden, about six girls walked up and the doorman just let them through.
In my drunk mind (I'd had a few cocktails by then), the footballer was a major James Bond-like villain, and I pictured the girls as spies assigned to get near him to plant a bug. With that in my head, I raced home and started to pencil the character. At first she was named Suzy Fortune, after a friend from Art College.
That sounds like a worthy spy name, too. What can you tell us about the different characters we'll be meeting in this comic?
Scarlett is our main protagonist, while her mother, Chase, is the Helen Mirren-type head of the C.I.G. (Covert Investigations Group). Then there's Spencer (her handler and the head of field ops) and Trent Wayland (Scarlett's field partner who is just as destructive as she is). Finally, her field team consists of Kelly Garcia, Claudia Wang, and the beautiful-but-deadly assets, Sapphire and Stone.
Scarlett's father also makes an appearance in the series. He's a Lieutenant of the NYPD and helps Scarlett cut through a bit of the red tape she encounters in her investigation.
Can you give our readers a little bit of information about your artistic background?
I did an art foundation course at the College of North East London before heading to West Herts College to study Graphic Design and Image-Making. While I was studying, I designed comic strips for Michael Jackson's fan magazine "Off the Wall" (later to be called "King"), which garnered me an audience with the man himself in 1992 and again in 2002. After that, quite a few doors opened for me and I started illustrating for fashion magazines and big brands like Hamleys, Pink, Chameleon Visual, Theo Fennell, Universal Music, and La Perla (to name a few).
Your art has a "fun" feeling to it that seems to fall somewhere between Fleischer's Superman and a drawing of Jessica Rabbit.
Ha! God, I'll have to admit an episode in my life now. From college, I used to draw and color everything with pencils and magic markers and never used computers. I never thought of a need until one day I had a deadline for "More" magazine. The work they needed got lost in the post, and with seven hours till the magazine was going to print, I had to figure out how to redo the artwork. I fired up an old Mac (which I was just using to listen to music and surf the web), opened up Photoshop, and asked my designer friend to help me scan and color the art. I have never looked back since.
While he was showing me how to use the program, I noticed how he utilized layers. Something sparked in my head and I started to play around with photos and art. Call it fate, but "Roger Rabbit" was playing in the background on TV, and that was the match that lit the fuse.
Can you tell us more about the process for your art? Is it done fully on the computer, or is it multi-media?
It's a mixture of computer graphics and original pencil and ink. I'll take the original line work and scan it into Photoshop. It's there that I add all the colors, tints, textures and take photos to use as foreground and background photography (I take thousands of pictures for reference, no matter how minuscule). If I can't find what I'm looking for, I'll create 3D models using Google SketchUp to help give the illusion of animated cells. It's a lot of work, but the reward comes at the end from the reaction from friends, family or clients.
In addition to the cover you illustrated, you have a photo cover for the first issue. How did the idea for this come about?
The lovely Viktoria Dobos attended one of my exhibitions a few years ago, and she was the spitting image of the character. I asked her boyfriend if she would be up for a bit of modeling, and to my delight she was really excited about doing it. After showing the pictures to Ricky Claydon at Titan, he came up with the idea of doing a photo cover. We did three shoots in total and got videographer Simon Beckett to shoot some video to promote it. To our surprise, that ended up in "the Hollywood Reporter."
We are now looking to shoot a brand new video to promote the trade. It's hard work, but so much fun when you see the final result -- plus, Viktoria's an ace! She comes up with the craziest ideas and wants to fight and do her own stunts!
While another round of "Scarlett Couture" would be great, are there any other projects that you are working on right now?
I am doing a secret project with a major publisher and it should be announced soon. Apart from that, my next project ties into Scarlett's world and is called "Eva Strongbird and the Marine." It's a WW2 action comic -- think of it as Indiana Jones meets "The Guns of Navarone." It will be written by Disney animator Robb Pratt. Most folks in comics will likely remember < href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSIlr2-mw-w" target="_blank">his "Superman Classic: Bizzaro" short. Expect the comic to be a mishmash of Robb's and my own cartoon style.
"Scarlett Couture" #1 is available now.