Comic book fans are probably familiar with the works of Tom Taylor. The prolific writer has written stories featuring some of the biggest names in Marvel and DC, including Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, Justice League, X-Men, and Avengers. Instead of focusing only on paid work projects, Taylor also engages in stories owned by creators. One of his most recent collaborative works Neverlanders With artist John Sumareva, which is described as “a gritty modern fairy tale set in the world of Peter Pan” and is set to be a series of graphic novels for young adults.
ComicBook.com spoke to Tom Taylor about reinventing the Peter Pan story for NeverlandersThe series featured Jon Sommariva, The Lost Ones to replace the Lost Boys, and plans future volumes. Neverlanders comes from Random Penguin HouseRazorbill imprint and now available.
Reimagining Peter Pan
ComicBook.com: To start things off, can you discuss what led you to choose Peter Pan as the story you want to re-imagined?
Tom Taylor: I grew up with Peter Pan. It was one of those stories. He was the boy who could fly and the boy who didn’t have to grow up. And I think every kid has something very attractive about that. A lot of kids really want to grow up, they want to be adults, they want responsibility, they want to be able to do what adults can do, but a good portion of them don’t want any of that. The idea of forever young, there is something really exciting about it. To bring that into a modern world and we don’t have a bunch of Lost Ones, but you have a bunch of Lost Ones, I think only that idea is starting to come to me. I’m like, “Oh yeah, there’s definitely something here.”
I read it when I installed it Neverlanders By artist John Sumareva, You were on vacation with your family. Were there any specific ideas he brought up on the project that you were both working on in the early stages?
So I was in Fiji with my wife. In fact, it was just the two of us. It was our anniversary and I wasn’t supposed to work. And I had the laptop there, I don’t know, at 1:00 AM or 3:00 AM. I’m on a tropical island. I’m basically in Neverland. And so I started writing down this idea and by the end of it, I think I filled two or three hotel notebooks with these ideas and was texting them and all of a sudden it came to me. John Sumareva, who I’ve been wanting to work with for years, and just knew he would turn this into something incredible. I started texting him in the middle of the night in Fiji, and he was instantly excited. And I was kind of teasing him. I was doing this thing where… I used to be a professional warlock and fire eater, so I know how to attract some kind of audience.
So I hit him with sprains. He’d be like, “Oh my God.” We go back and forth, and he was sending me drawings by the time I woke up the next morning. And once he started creating characters, that was when they started coming to life for me. For Bee, Justin, Gracie, Luz, and Felix, like Paco, they’ve been there alive, and it’s easy to write. You often write on your own when you start to get an idea, but having John Sumareva actually send me pics of art and send me pics of Neverland and stuff within hours of my coming up with that idea set me on fire.
When you were creating the cast, was there a character whose role took on a life of its own and who grew while you were working on the script?
Gracie, the youngest member of the Lost Ones, the funniest, the most ridiculous, the most adorable, and the person you’d want to fall in love with. She is instantly that character that I love. That character just wants to be friends with everyone, but she can’t stand anything, and she’s very loyal. And she’s the kind of person, like Harley Quinn, who owns every scene she’s in. She steals every scene you’re really into, but in a great way.
I think if Neverland was made for one person, I feel like Gracie would be the one that Neverland was specifically made for. She eats everything and takes everything in it, not questioning anything. It’s definitely a character that I at least enjoy reading. I’m sure other readers will too.
Oh, that’s really nice to hear, man. It’s excitement and enthusiasm. And there’s actually a section at the beginning of the book before they get anywhere near Neverland, where something kind of bad happens in our world, and a bee kind of pretends it didn’t happen because she doesn’t want Gracie to have to grow up. This is a small prelude to what is to come. Gracie’s relationship with Tinker Bell and with Ashera the mermaid… Gracie says she owned a doll and bought a fish at the market. I cut off the legs of the doll and hung on the tail of the fish. And then she becomes a friend of a mermaid. it’s great.
Justin and Bee characters look ready to explore. What should readers look forward to when it comes to these two, specifically, as the story continues?
So obviously Bee and Justin, I think a lot of people felt like this book was going to be all about Bee. It’s obviously central, and it’s really a big part of her story, but in fact Justin seems to have more of a mentor here with Rob. It’s the guy who’s there and he’s there reluctantly.
He’s the guy who has something really painful that happened in his life at some point, and he feels so protective of his found family from all the kids he lives with in the junkyard. Justin knows to go to a different place, to a different world that he can’t control, and feels like he really should step in. Obviously, Bee, what we found out with her, I don’t want to spoil too much, but some big things happen to her and Neverland that no one really expected, which is great. And every time someone reads it, they say, “Oh my God.” I’m like, “Yeah, right?” So Bee has a lot to come, but both… definitely with the second book, there’s going to be a lot of character growth for both of these characters. There will be a lot of Bee in the second book, but big things are coming for Justin, too.
I like how you mentioned that Bee is front and center, at least in the cover art etc, but you and John do a good job of spreading the page view to all the different characters, making sure everyone gets a chance to shine, and it doesn’t seem like one person is being overshadowed by the others . So you are definitely doing a great job distributing wealth.
I’m really glad you think so, man. It was one of those things we discussed with the characters, and we all love them. We love all these characters, we’ve been with these guys, I don’t know how long we’ve been working on this book…two and a half years, maybe more. So we’ve been working on this book for years. We wanted Felix and Luz and Tink and all of these characters to have big moments for themselves, Rob, and even Crocodile Agatha. Crocodile you get great moments. It was really important to us that they all had these moments to shine and they weren’t just a bunch of characters. We wanted all of them to have stories, and we want that to continue in the next book as well.
Abernathy and Robb’s History, Future Volumes
And again, it doesn’t spoil much, but there is clearly a twist at a certain point in the story. How much backstory will readers be able to see between Abernathy and Robb in future volumes?
Well, it all depends. Sure, I know what happened. So this book is pretty quirky, and there’s another twist coming in the second book. Another thing that we hope people will have is, “Oh, that’s so cool” and chant on the sidelines. And only in this reveal will we actually reveal some of the dramatic story of what happened between Robb and Abernathy, those other Neverland characters we meet in the first book. So, yeah, for any reader to go, “Oh my God, what?” Yes, don’t worry. We plan to exploit that.
How many books do you hope to publish in this universe?
Look, we signed a two-book deal with Penguin. Whether this continues will depend entirely on the readers and how they interact with it. And if we get the sales we hope to get, certainly if we get the readers we hope to get. We really hope this resonates with a lot of people. I think so far everyone who’s read it has loved it, which is great. We haven’t received much criticism yet. It was really well received, we couldn’t be happier about it, but it all depends.
John and I play in a different space. I’m used to working in the world of comics, with DC, and at Marvel. Working with traditional publishing, we’re kind of out of our element, in a way, in this case totally lost. So we’re like, “I don’t know, who’s buying this? I think we’ll find out soon.”
But I hope you will find a great audience and great readers. And if so, the sky is the limit. Our plan isn’t just to stick with Neverland. We have already introduced Otherland. But we have an idea for this series that this magical world they go to, first started left, straight is wider than we can comprehend, and it’s bigger. And so we want to explore the universe and build a universe there.
I like the way I grew up on Otherland because I see this series of sub-events being about how another country came to be and how people became, the adults ended up there.
Look, now we need secondary books. yes. I like the idea of Otherland, this is where adults escape to avoid responsibility. It is a place of greed and selfishness. I mean obviously another island, the whole story is an allegory of climate change. It’s about brave adults who take heart and the future from the next generation. And so another city was really a big part of that. And how John drew it, and how he came up with it to be literally the opposite in every respect. There is nothing alive there. Everything is industrial. It’s all polluted, dirty, dark and full of lazy looking people scratching themselves in the streets. I really went for it.
Work for different publishers
You’ve mentioned some of your other work at different publishers, and I love the way you just write a wide range of different types of paid work that your creator owns. WHat is a typical work day or work week like for you? Do you split your days between multiple projects? Or do you focus, or at least try to focus on one a day?
So what I do is wake up at a certain time. Sometimes it’s 9, sometimes it’s midday. Then it’s just blind panic. That’s how I work. Just panicked, just, “Oh my God, this has to be done now.” I try to focus on one thing per week. Obviously, when you’re working on the comics, the letters come in, they’re going to be like, “Tom, this should be in the printers in an hour and a half.” And you’re in Australia and we’re in Los Angeles…
So things can go awry, and obviously, because I have so many projects, you need to have eyes on different things, at different times of the day. But I try to work on one scenario per week, if I can. In fact, I’m really lucky. I work with a group of friends in different places.
So I’m working with a guy named Gary Edwards, a publisher and writer. He and I work in a coffee shop every Monday, then I work at C.S. McCat’s house every Wednesday, she’s a New York Times bestselling fantasy author. And so we work together. We just sit at her table and eat lunch, writing down what we need in a day. This can be all day and somewhat night.
And because she’s such a great storyteller, we help each other out as we move forward. I helped her with her book, I helped her with the comics, and now she’s coming over to write some comics for us in DC now, which is great. Then on Thursdays, I work with Jay Kristof and [inaudible 00:13:35] The hit cat, fiction author, and international best seller, we just sit there and catch up and talk for a long time. Then at the end we put on our headphones and we all write our stuff down, helping each other out if we need it. So I think without that, I’d be a lot less productive.