Right off the bat, I asked him where his female focused art angle came from. He does women so well that it’s easy to overlook his body of work with male characters. Without a word, he grabbed a copy of his sketch book and flipped it open to a page smack dab in the middle of an amazing spread of superhero pop art, particularly his 50s style Superman. Misconceptions, zero. Des Taylor, one.
His Superman work has an amazing charisma and vibrancy that will re-affirm your hope that the golden age of comics remains alive and well. That same ability to capture something pure and vibrant also comes across in his effervescent charm, which seems to be the spring from which his creativity flows from.
His ability to channel that golden age of comics has gone into the launch of his new Madefire Motion Book The Trouble With Katie Rogers, which highlights his indelible approach to female characters.
“What I wanted to do is create a superhero…,” says Taylor. “I was thinking we’ve got enough people that can fly, invulnerability and stuff.”
Like many of life’s inspirations, his came in the form of a lady or ladies for that matter. Taylor created the Katie Rogers character as a composite of two friends – Lauren Cox and Rosie Solomon. While recuperating from a broken patella back in 2005, Cox visited him, inspiring his idea for Katie Rogers.
“It’s really funny because I asked her (Cox) if she could get me a pad and a pen. She goes, ‘yeah’. I was like, where are you going today? She said, ‘Well first of all, I’ve got to pick up this and this and the other…’ and I thought, this is it. Think of all the things that one female has to do in one day?”
Taylor then conceived a story that would appeal to women, bringing them into the male dominated medium of comics. His brain got to ticking, fleshing out various incarnations of Katie built around the world of fashion until the idea of making her a publicist stuck.
“Literally it started to build from there,” says Taylor. “In the first book I did, I focused pretty much on her, and it didn’t do as well as I thought it would do. In the revamp, I focused more on clients. They would be more interesting with the craziness of celebrity.”
By switching the focus, Taylor was able to make Katie Rogers more of a camera eye to view this crazy world of high fashion in which she worked.
“You read in the tabloids all of the time about (Amy) Winehouse, things she used to do,” says Taylor. “Running out half-naked in the street because she’s cracked up or something like that. You never really knew about the publicist. You knew what the publicist was trying to do is damage limitation. Cut out all the other stuff she really did that night…”
That appeal of the manic world of celebrity and the crazy behind the scenes stories influenced his revamp. The switch was also brought on by the influence of Solomon who Taylor says is the “personality” of Katie.
“She used to have such a feisty way about her,” says Taylor. “If she was around a client, she’d speak the Queen’s English, and then, say afterwards, if anybody really got on her nerves, she’d be there to put you in your place. I think if you saw her, you wouldn’t think this tiny creature is telling 40-year-old men that they should be here, there, do your effing job…I thought that’s the personality that I want.”
Within that personality, Taylor found the kind of qualities for Katie Rogers that made her more complex and relatable than a character like Carrie Bradshaw from Sex In the City.
“I didn’t want a Sarah Jessica Parker who’s very much all about me,” says Taylor. “Katie has a care for her clients. Her clients come first. Her trouble is she can’t balance her own life with the people she’s trying to represent.”
And just the same, Taylor cares about how he represents his female characters. Comics’ history remains littered with male writers who have objectified the female form into a sort of fantasy playground. With the exception of writers like Terry Moore, Alan Moore, and Joshua Dysart, women characters have been rendered with little skill or imagination by male writers. What makes Taylor qualified to break the mold?
“I try and draw Katie, or most of the female characters I do draw, I try to draw them relative to how I believe a woman wants to be represented…,” says Taylor. “It’s like working in fashion. You understand there’s a difference between glamour, fashion, and porn. There are three things there.”
Coming from a unique angle that remains foreign to most men, Taylor spent a lot of time in the fashion industry working as an illustrator for More Magazine, Cosmopolitan, and others while absorbing that particular segment of a female dominated culture.
“It’s really funny,” says Taylor. “If you see a woman in lingerie and it’s shot black and white, that’s fashion. You see a woman in lingerie, color, spread out on the bed, it’s glamour. And obviously, you can figure out porn because there’s no lingerie. I try to do the border between glamour and fashion.”
Instead of putting his characters in unnatural or traditional superhero poses, Taylor tries to channel the natural form and character of the female form when rendering his story art.
“If Wonder Woman was sitting down on a bench, and some passerby approached and said ‘can I take a photo of you?’ what would that pose be? It would be very natural…she’d probably have her legs crossed.”
Ultimately, Taylor’s writing and drawing is informed by trying to understand the women around him, especially those closest to him. Married with a small daughter named after his character Scarlett Couture, he’s aware of his responsibility to represent them in a way that will make them proud as well.
“I feel when I created Katie, Scarlett…I want her to be able to one, relate to these characters, two, be proud of her dad because could you imagine if I was to do something really out there?,” says Taylor “It’s not just for her. She’s got to go to schools. Obviously if schoolmates found out her had did this, I’d never want her to be ashamed of me. That’s what plays a lot in my mind now…”
While you can’t please everyone all of the time, it’s Taylor’s earnest approach to creating female focused stories that could make all the difference in the world to a new generation of female comic book readers.
The Trouble With Katie Rogers is available through Madefire with a sneak preview right here.