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Q&A  •  7 September 2022

 

An inside scoop on the new Peter-Pan-inspired book, Neverlanders

Tom Taylor and Jon Sommariva told us all about creating distinct characters, the moment inspiration for Neverlanders struck, and what their animal superpowers would be.

How would you describe Neverlanders?

Tom: Neverlanders is essentially about a group of homeless kids who are taken from our world by the last lost boy to go and fight for the heart of Neverland against evil greedy, adults who are wanting to take it and take the future from the next generation.

Jon: For me, it was just an excuse to draw a lot of really cool stuff. We’re kind of having our cake and eating it too in that we’re getting to work on sort of a superhero comic that’s wrapped up inside of a fantasy story. I get to draw fantasy stuff: goblins, mermaids, fairies. We got to do our own thing. . . it’s a super cool project to work on.

Where did you draw your influences from for each of the new lost boys to make them distinct?

Jon: I think one of the first things that was important to me was to put some of my culture and background into the characters a bit. Then, from that we wanted to have a good mix of male and female so it wasn’t just the lost boys. . . then, it was just a matter of making them look really cool [by] finding animals and characteristics that would match the personalities of those characters.

Just through telling the story, Tom was able to give the characters their personality and that informed the way that I would draw them and the acting and the gestures I would give them. It’s almost like they came to life on their own in some weird way.

Was it always Neverland, was it always a Peter Pan story?

Tom: From day one it was that. I was in Fiji on a tropical island in a hut. I was not supposed to write, that was a rule from my wife. . . in the middle of the night, I couldn’t sleep. I had this idea, probably because someone told me I couldn’t write.

I started writing Neverlanders, I filled several hotel notebooks. . . I wrote to Jon that night and told him the twists and turns of the story. Jon was back to me before I’d woken up in the morning, going ‘YES, YES, YES, THIS IS AMAZING!’ And he was on board.

Jon: I can definitely recall those messages coming through . . . there were just these one-line [messages] that kept popping up. It was like he was pitching it to me. It was very dramatic, building, and building. . . finally he hits me with the punchline, ‘they get into a caravan, they fly off into the sky and they go to Neverland.’

It was an instant, “Yep, let’s do this.”

And here we are.

When the characters get their superpowers, they’re all connected with a different animal. Which animal would you be, and what power would you have?

Tom: I’d be a quokka and it would just give me the power for people to take selfies with me and feed me.

Jon: Funnily enough, as a teenager with my friends. . . they used to call me the fox. Probably because I had red hair and a bit of a pointy nose. I’d be sneaky, cunning.

Was there one character, in particular, you felt more connected with?

Tom: Gracie steals every single scene she’s in. . . as soon as there is a Gracie scene it is my happy place.

But I think we feel for all the characters. Justin was a character that starts off quite grumpy, then watching his journey. . . we’ve gotten very close to him. Watching the mentorships with him and Rob, he’s become a really important character that I don’t think we foresaw.

Jon: Literally you’re asking us to choose who’s your favourite kid, so it’s difficult to do. I had fun drawing all of them and giving them their moments. Tink is obviously a lot of fun. We get to have fun with our version of Tink. We wanted to go the complete opposite to other versions you might’ve seen in the past . . . Gracie of course, she is really so much fun. I think in terms of character design, Gracie is just really, purely my style. She’s got that graffiti lizard exaggerated limbs and her positions are always a little bit more animal and exaggerated, so that’s definitely a lot of fun to draw.

What was the inspiration for Otherland, where lost adults go?

Tom: Otherland is where lost adults go, where adults run away from responsibility go . . . [it sets up] this dynamic up between the kids and the adults was to have that climate crisis allegory – this idea that there are adults who are literally trying to steal the future from the next generation. . . and they have to fight for this.

 

Want to read it with your class? Take a look at our Neverlanders teachers' notes

Feature Title

Neverlanders
Neverland has become a war zone and it’s up to a new group of lost teens to set things right in this gritty YA graphic novel series from #1 New York Times bestselling Australian author Tom Taylor and powerhouse Australian comic artist Jon Sommariva!
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