Exclusive Interview with Tom Taylor! (2017)
There’s something we we like about Tom Taylor, and it’s not just the jaunty cap. Tom has a rare talent of taking epic characters and giving them equal helpings of humour and human drama, sometimes at the same time. He finds the heart of comics biggest names and uses it to deliver some of the best comic moments of the past decade.
He’s a good writer is what we’re getting at. And once again Tom was good enough to talk with us about his work.
Enjoy the audio or read the transcript below!
G-Funk: House of Geekery is here at Supanova Perth in 2017 and we have with us Tom Taylor.
Tom Taylor: Hello.
GF: How are you, Tom?
TT: I’m good, thank you. How are you?
GF: I’m good, and I feel special because we almost have an annual interview going on at this point.
TT: Yeah, I’d say we do.
GF: It’s nice. We’ve see you go from doing ‘The Deep’ to being…would it be fair to say one of the sought after talents for Marvel and DC?
TT: Sure. People seek me out when they’re like, “hey, where’s Tom?” And they’re like, “he’s over there,” and they seek me out. I don’t know, I’m very happy at both companies, everyone seems happy with me, the books are selling…what more could you want?
GF: That’s fair. As I was having breakfast this morning I was reading ‘All New Wolverine: Volume 2″ and your name was twice as big as anyone else’s on the front page.
TT: That’s a bit sad. It might be because they broke it up because I’m the only one on everything, along with Cory Petit, the letterer.
GF: Makes sense, makes sense.
TT: I’m going to go with that, rather than the big head thing.
GF: Oh, go for it. You might not get…no, I’m not going to say that. That’s terrible.
TT: I know, right?
GF: The name will get bigger and bigger.
GF: Until it’s just the book itself.
TT: That’s right. Just my name. That’ll save me time writing the script.
GF: Yeah, it works. “T (flip), O (flip)…” Quite often we talk about what you’re doing now, what’s coming up…I’m taking a different angle this year.
GF: As a writer, where did it begin?
TT: Where did it begin? I started writing in primary school. I remember writing a sequel to ‘Lord of the Rings’ in primary school, I’m surprised it hasn’t been published.
GF: Peter Jackson’s optioning the script right now.
TT: That’s right. It’s something I’ve always done and something I’ve always wanted to do. My uncle was a writer, my grandfather was a writer, he was an editor on The Age and did a lot of writing as well. It’s always been in the blood a little bit. My cousin was the head of writing at RMIT as well, but very, very literary based whereas I’ve always been about entertainment. So I guess having been an entertainer…I was raised on youth musicals, I was raised on the stage and singing and performing and then becoming a professional juggler. From that into writing plays and then writing comics.
GF: Was comics always the agenda?
TT: I don’t know if it was the agenda, it was certainly something I definitely wanted to do, I just never thought that it was possible from this country. It wasn’t something that was on the radar. It’s my favourite storytelling medium and bar none. Yes, I have a TV series (The Deep) but comics are just…there’s something beautiful about comics, there’s no limitations. I remember that I had plays on around the world and one had won a very big competition and I put out my plays on the internet and said “any comic artists who wants to do this?! I’m an award winning person and stuff!” They said “yeah, sure you are.” Then Colin Wilson saw this post on the internet, that I was kinda getting attacked. I don’t know if you’ve been on the internet, but occasionally it can get hostile!
TT: Yeah, right? Colin Wilson said “leave him alone guys, want to get a coffee?” He read the script and loved it and eventually adapted it into a comic for me. That one comic about a briefcase in Flinders Street Station got me a gig writing Star Wars.
GF: That’s a big step.
TT: That is! Professional juggler and fire eater and then ten minute play about a briefcase and then: Star Wars.
GF: Finding out that you can juggle explains why you can have so many books going right now.
GF: You’ve had…five come out in the past month?
TT: I have no idea. It’s been insane. I’ve had The Deep coming out through Boom!, we’re on season 2 of The Deep as well, the TV series so it’s not just comics. We’ve had ‘All New Wolverine’, ‘Justice League/Power Rangers’ and ‘Injustice’, obviously, which is weekly.
GF: How do you balance that workload?
TT: Oh, I have no idea. I stay at this sort of level of panic that’s just constant and I just get it done.
GF: Sleepless nights?
TT: Yeah, a lot of sleepless nights. I often do my best work during the night. My kids and my wife are used to waking up in the morning and seeing me awake. In the last week or so I’ve been turning that around and getting up in the morning, we’ll see if that continues.
GF: I’m sure flying to Perth and and back will really help your sleep cycle!
TT: I know, it’s a real disappointment! I’m going to be two hours further out! I did wake up at six this morning. And then I went back to sleep.
GF: Fair enough. Where did your, for lack of a better term, relationship with comics begin?
TT: That’s a really good question. My grandmother used to buy me comics, my father would take me to a second hand record store and buy me those and I’d get ‘2000AD’ from the newsagency. That and ‘Tintin’ and ‘Asterix’, obviously, and I was raised on DC superheroes. The Australian black and white reprintings that my dad would get me for a buck or, not even a buck, 10cents, that he’d get from the second hand places. I had all of that and I always promised myself, because I was raised quite poor, that when I was an adult, once I had money, I’d buy myself comics. That was my big thing. So I had this promise to five year old or ten year old Tom, my whole life, then I thought “I guess I’d write them instead”.
GF: Makes sense.
TT: Yeah, it’s worked out. It’s certainly…I think I’ve always loved those comics and I’ve always loved Superman in particular. Superman 1978, that movie is probably the biggest influence on me. It came out the year I was born, it was the first time I could imagine that a man could fly. I like happy joy things, I like people that want to help, and he’s that.
GF: Ironically you have two evil Supermen in your books.
TT: Yeah, I know, right? It’s disappointing. Having said that I was able to create a good one on Earth 2, create a new Superman and I still get to tell some good Superman stories as well. We get to write Batman/Superman and tell a really nice story there.
GF: Which authors do you look at as inspirations or role models?
TT: I’m not entirely sure. I read a lot, especially as a kid. I don’t read as much any more, I guess because I’m writing so much. I read every fantasy novel, in particular from Ursula Le Guin to Tolkien to Fiest to David Eddings and then Robin Hobb, who’s now a friend of mine.
GF: She’s super cool.
TT: She’s awesome. She’s invited me to come and stay in a treehouse in Washington.
GF: No kidding!
GF: I’ll have to tell my missus because she’s so addicted to those books it’s causing problems.
TT: My wife is a HUGE fan and she’s far further ahead in the thing, so Robin will be talking to me late at night via Twitter while she’s editing and try and gee each other up – “tell her to write faster!” (Laughs).
GF: Kinda like you and me and ‘The Deep’! Where is it?!
TT: I know, I know. So, fantasy novels, John Wyndham…I was reading novels from grade 1, I was a voracious reader and that’s informed a lot of it. And then television, movies and then, obviously, comics. People like Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis in particular. People who tell great stories about good friendships and amazing action and deep shocks, you care about everybody on the page.
At this point the convention loudspeakers chime in.
GF: The PA is going to shout at us for a sec.
Did it just say ‘it’s loud’?
TT: ‘This is loud’, yeah.
GF: Yes, we know. Thank you.
GF: Is he done? I think he’s done.
TT: Yeah. Reading. People. Things like The West Wing. Favourite series ever. Aaron Sorkin. I love good dialogue and mammoth, good rhythmic stuff so all of that has been an influence on my writing.
GF: You have to write some very famous characters with some very complex backstories. Wolverine, well I guess Laura doesn’t have that complex a backstory…
TT: Oh yes she does!
GF: Batman, Superman, HE’S TALKING AGAIN. STOP IT!
The PA voice has made a dramatic return.
GF: So how do you approach these characters?
TT: First and foremost as a fan. If I’m not a fan I make sure I am before I start writing them. I believe in a bit of fan service, in giving the fans what they want and needing to understand the character backwards, in order to be a fan yourself, you owe it to people. Obviously Superman, Batman, all these characters…Wolverine and Iron Man, of course I’m a fan already, and then any other character I read I find out what their great stories are and why people like them and try to give them more of that. And twist things a bit.
GF: I was going to say that there’s often a weird twist. You often give people things they didn’t know they wanted. A couple of examples: giving Harley Quinn a daughter in secret, giving Wolverine a wolverine…where do you get the idea of giving Wolverine a wolverine?
TT: As in an actual wolverine?
GF: Yeah, Jonathan.
TT: Jonathan the actual wolverine. Honestly I had this story planed with Squirrel Girl. It was bit of an uphill battle to get that story happening but my editor was really behind me. I wrote him a very long email when I had a fever and I was quite delirious. In the morning when I woke up I thought “oh man, did I really write that? Am I behind this story as much as I said I was in that email?”
GF: Wait, was Jonathan the wolverine a fever dream?
GF: And the Fing Fang Pheromones?
TT: It was just a joke because Squirrel Girl can talk to squirrels so she figured Wolverine could talk to wolverines. It grew from there and he became a fan favourite along with Gabby. It was more that I wanted to give them a family because Wolverine has always been this loner. Logan doesn’t have time for anything and he has to go and battle and fight whereas I wanted Laura to have to look after someone and have someone look after her and that’s what she gets with Gabby and that’s what they both have with Jonathan and it worked really well.
GF: It has, and it’s almost audacious, the idea of it.
TT: It’s absurd, yet people have gone along with it, which is fantastic.
GF: The Harley Quinn daughter is such a bizarre, weird idea that I don’t think fans would want, but it became this very emotional scene.
TT: I think that’s part of the tragedy of Harley. Every time someone writes her…every time she’s portrayed as a one-note character who’s there to be a bit wild and crazy…
GF: She’s quirky!
TT: …she’s quirky, exactly. It’s a real disservice to her. She comes from this hideous, abusive relationship with this prick of a man and I’m very happy to have her away from that. But she’s also highly intelligent, she’s a doctor, of course there’s more to her. Yes, there’s tragedy there but we’re now writing her to this point that she’s no longer a victim, and I think that’s incredibly important. She’s still the person who has the guts to say what needs to be said in any situation, and she can say it to anyone. She can walk up to Darkseid and tell him that his face looks funny. Those characters are incredibly important.
GF: Before we let you get back to work, do you have any projects coming up that you want to talk about? Promo corner.
TT: Sure. We’re obviously still working on The Deep TV series, season 2 will be out later this year. ‘Injustice’ is everywhere, you can join us there. ‘(All New) Wolverine’ is still going, I’m writing more and more and more, that’s great. There’s a number of things I can’t talk about yet, but you’ll hear about them soon. Got ‘Wolverine Generations’ coming out, which will be great as well. Yeah, come play with us. Or I get bored.
GF: Cool, cool. We’ll be back round. And we’ll see you around. Thanks very much, Tom!