Catwalks and Spies: A Chat with Des Taylor

Prior to the Scarlett Couture #4 : Project Stardust hitting the stands on 29th July, we caught up with writer, artist and creator of the book and the stylish despop website, Des Taylor.

CC: Des, thanks for taking the time to speak to me about your work and specifically Scarlett Couture, Scarlett1which I have to say is a great read and a great looking book.  It’s clear there is a retro vibe in play, who or what has been your main influences?

DT: I’d have to say that 60’s fashion has been my main influence on my work and in the book. It’s a period in which style was at it’s most unique, from clothes to cars to furniture. Just look at the Bond sets of the Sean Connery era, the style of the women in Matt Helm, FLINT and Man from UNCLE.

These styles are always in the back of my head when creating my art and I love to throw a little hint now and again in the Scarlett books. There are not enough pages for me to tell you how many of my favourite designers inspired the look of the character. I’m still looking for an excuse to put her in a Paco Rabanne Metal Mini Dress.

CC: Currently, do you have an artist whose work just blows you away?

DT: This will always be Bruce Timm and Darwyn Cooke and Tim Sale. Everything they do is just pure gravy! (Good stuff) I own most of what these guys produce because the artwork speaks for itself. Classy! They also know how to make dark comics fun and are great visual storytellers. It was Michael Jackson who famously said “ Learn from the greats and become greater ” and whenever I see their work it makes me want to become a better artist.

CC: What are the difficulties, if any, in doing a book like Scarlett in an industry that is having such knee jerk reaction to gender roles, specifically women?

DT: I always thought the book was going to be a hard sell in a world dominated by tough guys and superheroes. It would have been so easy to write the character as some sort of ‘Charlies Angel’ type and play it safe, or restrict the stories to the world of fashion. A Film producer once told me that Hollywood doesn’t want to buy into female characters that can save the day in real life because the audience won’t see that as believable. Hence why you get your Lara croft’s confined to fighting walking statues, Alice (Resident Evil) fighting zombies or your Trinity’s in the Matrix, all fighting in SCI-FI scenarios or having ridiculous abilities. But to have a female Bond, Bourne, Ethan Hunt or Jack Ryan? Studios aren’t willing to bank on that.

I had that in my mind all the time I put the pen to paper with Scarlett. I’d like to try to change the way people think about tough women. A female character is often described as sexy, strong, and independent but never really referred to as smart, tactical and cunning.

For example look at the opening 10 mins of Cap Winter Soldier, when Cap is taking out the terrorists on the SHIELD vessel, pure stealth mode whispering “ Natasha, what’s your status?. Then look at Natasha’s scenes, she’s talking about dating , shouting into her comm and goes in all guns blazing making a racket.

CC: Scarlett is strong female character, how hard is it to still make her relatable in a way that the other characters in play have an actual impact on her?

DT: I made sure there were a few character flaws to go with the characters ambition. She wants to be the best field agent she can be, she’s a black belt in Kung Fu, can speak various languages and can operate military vehicles but none of this is any use without a team to guide you through your mission and no matter how much you think you know, there is always something to learn. In the first Issue you see her get sucker punched by some goon who gets through her Wing Chun. By Issue 3 she’s already wanting to learn Krav Maga after seeing how her partner uses it efficiently.

Scarlett’s major flaw is she can’t just sit back and do nothing. Her agency protocol is to gather information so that other government agencies can respond. If Scarlett sees a way of stopping something terrible from happening she will. One day, this attitude may have serious consequences in a future story.

CC: Will she ever recognise the reason why her two main male partners dislike each other?Sacreltt3

DT: HAHAH! Yes! I’m already plotting that in the next story. I’m just debating how major an impact it should be.

CC: Of all the heroines you have drawn, who is your favourite and why?

dtwwDT: Wonder Woman. One, she is the hero that has the best accessories, best outfit and the best looking. I also love trying to interpret her in different outfits. Why? Name me one woman on the planet that would wear the same clothes 7 times in one week LOL!

CC: I have to ask, a red-head and a police officer father, is that a little Barbara Gordon homage in issue 2?

DT: HAHA? NO! What’s really funny is how some comic fans have said Scarlett was a Black Widow rip-off cause she was a red-head spy and named Scarlett after Scarlet Johansson. Before Black Widow made it to the screen (2010) I had created Scarlett Couture’s look and name in 2005. People have short memories in comics and seem to forget the other redhead female protagonists that tow that line, like Scarlett (GI. Joe) Dakota North, Vicki Vale, Jean Grey ( Famke Janssen) and more importantly Sydney Bristow in Alias , who WAS an influence on my character. Remember the pilot episode? In the red wig?

Scarlett’s dad being a NYC police lieutenant was written so she could operate in the city, get access to crime scene information and get special privileges being daddy’s girl. Plus, Redhead’s are hot!! Have you seen the amount of Mary Jane Watson illustrations I’ve created? My wife was a red-head when I first met her!

CC: Can you explain a little about the process you use to create Scarlett? Is it pencils, then onto a computer for example? 

DT: I tackle every frame like an animation cell. First I sketch out the characters then Ink and scan them into PhotoshopScarlett2 for coloring. Once that’s done I work on the foreground or background objects like people , cars, furniture or buildings using photos or creating bits in Google Sketch-Up. So it’s all a mish-mash of media put together to have the desired effect.

CC: What’s next for you and Scarlett?

DT: Well, during SDCC I spoke with the TITAN editors about starting on Series 2. Such was the success of the first outing. I’m really happy about that as it gives me the chance to round-up the events of Series 1 and also perfect the artwork and storyline to my high standards. You might also see another one of my creations popping up as a bonus book. We’re still having talks about how that would work.

Sounds great Des, am sure that fans of your work, including me, will be looking forward to that. Thanks again for taking time out of your schedule to talk to me.

Fans of Scarlett Couture and of Des Taylor’s work, can check out more images at www.despop.co.uk and don’t forget to check out the review of issue 4 of the current series in our reviews section.

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