18 Jun Des Taylor
Photo courtesy of Des Taylor
Des Taylor is an acclaimed British pop art comic book illustrator and TV personality. He is the creator of the comic books Scarlett Couture, The Vesha Valentine Story, The Trouble with Katie Rogers and, his latest, The Blue Lotus Adventures. His artwork is collected all over the world by a clientele that includes the late Michael Jackson, Theo Fennell, Geri Halliwell, DC Entertainment, and many more.
By Victoria Adelaide | June 18. 2018
Victoria Adelaide: How did it all start?
Des Taylor: The earliest recollection I have goes back to 1977. I’d just seen Star Wars for the first time. I went home and there weren’t Star Wars toys at that time; you had nothing to play with. So, I decided to draw what I saw. My mother went out and bought paper, some crayons, etc. and I just started drawing things like the Death Star battles, X-wing Starfighters, Darth Vader—anything I could think of drawing from Star Wars; that was it. Then, it just grew. I started reading comics, saw how the artists depicted the superheroes, Spiderman, Superman, and then, I just wanted to draw.
VA: Who was your main influence at that time?
DT: I would say the comic artists: John Romita Sr., John Buscema, Neal Adams, and José Luis García-López. These guys were the cream of comic book artists. Any sort of Superman or DC marketing tool you see on packages and in big shops, José Luis García-López drew them. I just wanted to be like those guys. Later, when I attended art school, I learned about Pop Art, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and those cats. Then, I understood more about what I wanted to do artistically.
VA: Do you think of yourself as a storyteller?
DT: Well, most artists and authors put down a story, or have a story ready, and then they draw. I don’t work that way. I have it in my head, so I draw all the key scenes I’d like to see and I add the plot. Then, I have to figure out the beginning, middle, and end. So, I work in reverse. I have so many characters in my head that I want to do and so many stories I want to tell. In that way, yes, you could say I am a bit of a storyteller.
Illustrations by Des Taylor | Courtesy of Des Taylor
VA: Scarlett Couture—how did you come up with the idea?
DT: I was in a nightclub in Mayfair. There was Joe Cole, a footballer, who used to play for West Ham. He was in the VIP section and they weren’t letting any fans near him to get autographs or anything. But there were five or six girls who went up to the doorman and asked, “Can we get near him?” and the doorman said yes! I was surprised. So, I was thinking: in a normal person’s head, that would just be some girls who wanted to see a famous footballer; however, in my head, it was like, “Could you imagine if he was an evil drug baron and somebody wanted to get near him to plant a bug on him? Those girls would be best able to do it.” So I started thinking, “What if there was a spy agency that didn’t use the James Bond action types but used supermodels and people who worked in fashion who could get near a person without them suspecting. Like a hairdresser. If the drug baron wants a haircut, the hairdresser would be the perfect person to have a listening device in a comb. And, while the guy is talking, you could pick up everything.” There are so many male action characters; I wanted to create a female one that would be pretty much like James Bond with a lot of style but something that would be a bit different. That’s where the idea for Scarlett Couture came from, just from observing that moment in the nightclub.
VA: You also had Michael Jackson as a client. Can you tell us about that?
DT: Yes, Mr. Jackson. Back in school, a friend of mine was a fan of Michael Jackson. One day, she asked me, “Could you draw me a picture of Michael Jackson in your cartoon style?” I said, “Yeah.” So, I did it and little did I know that she was going to send it off to his fan magazine, Off The Wall. Adrian Grant, who was the editor of the fan magazine, and Bob Jones, who was Michael Jackson’s PR manager, saw it. Jones sent it to Michael. Then Grant called me and said, “I’ve seen your work; it’s a fan who sent it in. I got your number from her.” At first, I thought it was a prank. Then he said, “There’s somebody who’d like to speak to you,” and then Bob Jones got on the phone and said, “Michael likes your work. Would you be interested in doing some work for the magazine and Michael would like to buy a piece from you.” I was like, “Wow.” (laughs) So, I did this piece of work; it was during the Dangerous Tour. At the time, I was working at Ladbrokes Betting Shop in London and I got a phone call saying, “Michael would like to meet you backstage.” So, I asked my manager if I could leave early that day because Michael Jackson wanted to meet me. Of course, he laughed and he didn’t believe me. I had to get the editor on the phone to speak to him so he would let me go. When I arrived backstage, I walked passed Janet Jackson, Jack Nicholson, Frank Bruno, and God knows who else. I was pushed around the corner; there were a lot of photographers and then, lo and behold, Michael Jackson was standing in front of me. He shook my hand and said, “Hello, I love your artwork.” I just didn’t know what to say and the stupidest thing came out my mouth, “Alright mate, how are you doing?” He just laughed. His exact words were, “You sound like Michael Caine with rocks in his mouth.”(laughs)
VA: If you were not drawing, what else would you like to do?
DT: Well, I’ve never done anything else. My mother wanted me to get into music and my drum teacher wanted me to get into acting, so maybe I would have gone into acting. But I always wanted to draw great stories and, honestly, I cannot really see myself doing anything else.
VA: What are you working on right now?
DT: I am working on the next Scarlett Couture book. I’m also doing another comic book called The Blue Lotus Adventures.
VA: What is your greatest ambition?
DT: Well, I was nearly there three or four years ago, when we almost got my creation, Katie Rogers, to be made into a TV show. That’s the goal, to get one of my creations to be a TV show or film.
September: Convention in Belgium
October 26-28: L.A. Comic Con, Los Angeles
Collaboration with seamstress Elly Prizeman | Art Class
...I have so many characters in my head that I want to do and so many stories I want to tell.``