We Talk Scarlett Couture with Des Taylor
Although relatively new in the field of comics, Des Taylor has already turned heads with his creator driven series Scarlett Couture from Titan Comics. Focusing on both the worlds of espionage and fashion, it features a compelling heroine in an unconventional role.
Graphic Policy: Can you talk a bit about the inspiration for the series and the characters? She is a bit more than just a female James Bond.
Des Taylor: The Idea for the series came in 2005 when I was working as a freelance illustrator for a fashion magazine. During one of their annual summer parties in a swish club in London, I noticed over at the VIP area some guys were trying to gain access to see someone ( As I recall it was Joe Cole – England Football Player) and the security weren’t letting them in. Soon after a group of 5 girls walked up and Security ushered them over to him.I started to vision in my head a scenario. “What if that was some sort of Billionaire Criminal… and the CIA needed to gain access to him to plant a bug? What better way than a group of Supermodels that can placate his ego… and at the same time plant the device on him?”
GP: You mention that this series is sort of based off of the appeal of supermodels, so are there specific supermodels that Scarlett is based off of?
DT: I based Scarlett’s look on a mishmash of Alessandra Ambrosia and actress Minka Kelly. They were the most stand out of the bunch ‘cause they look deadly in the eyes and really confident. I felt that was really important to have a mental image of the character’s face when putting pencil to paper.
GP: On that note why do you think that there are no red haired supermodels?
DT: Oohhh! Lily Cole and Cintia Dicker may have something to say about that LOL!
GP: Did you have to educate yourself a bit more than the average person about fashion?
DT: I’ve always loved fashion since I was a teenager and constantly bought Vogue. I obsessed over Cindy Crawford, Nicky Taylor and Christy Turlington. They were my faves. I think I had every photograph and book made by Herb Ritts back then…and I got a lot of stick for it from my mates.
I think I got the fashion bug whilst watching my mum sew fur and leather coats for a living when I was a kid. Inspired (Hey, my surname is Taylor after all ) I went on to study textiles at school. Unfortunately, I was the only guy in the class and all I ever did was help design outfits for the girls and never did much practical work. My teacher knew I was destined to learn Graphics and pushed me into art and design instead. I later went on to illustrate for fashion magazine’s like More! Company and Cosmo in London and then on to higher brands like THEO FENNELL and PINK. Through this experience I’ve learned a lot more than your average person about fashion and have used that knowledge in all of my comic book projects.
GP: Comics have the tendency to deal with modern trends which can make the comics pertinent to the readers but also to get outdated fast. As fashion also gets outdated quickly did you consider this when writing the series?
DT: Yes! It’s also the reason why I tend to adorn my characters in timeless 60’s inspired outfits and give everything a slight retro look. You can see this sort of style coming back in TV properties like MAD MEN, PAN AM, THE PLAYBOY CLUB and more recently THE MAN FROM UNCLE movie.
It seems that fashion has come to a full circle in this decade with no definitive trend to define it. Today people wear what they want, unlike in the 50’s ,60’s 70’s 80’s and 90’s people pretty much wore whatever the current trend was.
GP: The world of fictional espionage is one of international intrigue, but it doesn’t necessarily match up with fashion hot-spots. How do you choose locales that fit both?
DT: Oooh.. I don’t know about that.
New York, Paris ,London and Milan are the the main fashion cities and you can find a metric ton of fashion hotspots that serve for great locations for a spy to work. Off my head , the Open air cinema during fashion week at La Villette in Paris is a great place for a hitman to secretly take out a target. Franks Cafe in London is a bar at the top of a multi-storey car park in London. Perfect place for a meeting, swap of a brief-case and get-away. If I had the chance to write a Scarlett Couture novel I would go to town with great locations for clandestine work.
GP: Part of your approach seems to be taking the supposedly shallow world of modeling and giving it a bit more depth, for instance hiding a cypher on the glamour shot. Do you find it hard to give more meaning to what society considers to be shallow?
DT: I have quite a few close friends that model for a living (just see my Facebook page). They all have to live with that label that comes with being a professional model, you know the “All she does is stand still for a living, that’s not real work” or “All model’s are airhead’s” which isn’t the case. The models I know are ambitious,thick-skinned, constructive people. That’s why I thought the world of fashion would be the best place for a spy to operate and use the image society places on models to their own advantage.
DT: I try to make my female heroes relatable and try to write the character on how I THINK a woman wants to be represented. Whilst being sexy is the norm in comics and sci-fi for women, being cunning and tactically aware in adverse situations is not. I’ve tried to change that sort of thinking with Scarlett. If she is to work in the field effectively on her own she would need to be able to make the same decisions a male agent would react to in real time… but use women’s intuition when her backs up against the wall. Historically the best spies were women. Churchill knew this, that’s why he created the SOE (SPECIAL OPERATIONS EXECUTIVE) and if you read some of the tales about these courageous women you’ll understand why they were so deadly.
When writing Scarlett I even went as far as researching the best martial art she would use. I thought ” If she is fighting in heels she would need to keep her movements to a minimum and use her attackers force against them.” That’s why I chose Aikido. Most attackers on women will grab first and get up close and personal- which is why I chose Wing Chun. Some writers i’ve seen would have their heroine trade blows all day with some big goon.
Those who have been in a fight know that you can learn all the Tae-Kwon Do you can but once someone catches you on the chin…..you’re going down. I also think a female hero is more heroic as they have more up against them and are not expected to complete the mission and win the day. Characters like Ethan Hunt, Jason Bourne and James Bond are expected to kick ass and win the day. Carrie Mathieson (Homeland) isn’t. Which makes her more interesting.
GP: Can you tell a bit about what to expect in the future for Scarlett?
DT: At this moment I’m writing down some ideas. After SDCC I spoke with the Titan editors about doing SC series 2. I have to admit, I didn’t see the book becoming so popular so now the handwork starts. I’d also LOVE to find someone to write a future series or even a full paperback novel. That would be a dream!