Will shouts out Pride Month programming from our friends at the Regency romance podcast Tea & Strumpets. Jeff unveils a new partnership with audiobook retailer Libro.fm.
The guys talk about TV and movies they’ve been watching, including Prideland from PBS Voices, Mélange from Logo and the Netflix film The Half of It. Jeff reviews the new graphic novel from DC Comics, You Brought Me The Ocean, by author Alex Sanchez and illustrator Jul’ Maroh.
Alex and Jul’ join Jeff to talk about their collaboration on You Brought Me the Ocean, including how they came to the project and what they hope readers take away from this reboot of Aqualad’s origin story. Alex and Jul’ also talk about the anniversaries of their trailblazing works: Jul’s Blue Is the Warmest Color, celebrating 10 years in 2020, and Alex’s Rainbow Boys, celebrating 20 years in 2021.
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Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase.
- For more information on Black Lives Matter and organizations you can support visit BlackLivesMatter.com/partners
- Tea & Strumpets Podcast website
- The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite on Amazon
- Cat Sebastian on Amazon
- Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan on Amazon
- Libro.fm website (use this link to receive your Big Gay Fiction Podcast special offer)
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast Pride Month 2020 playlist on Libro.fm
- Prideland on PBS Voices YouTube channel
- Hollywood on Netflix
- Mélange on Logo’s YouTube channel
- The Half of It on Netflix
- Alex Sanchez & Jul’ Maroh Interview
- Alex Sanchez: website | Facebook | Twitter
- Jul’ Maroh: website | Instagram
- You Brought Me the Ocean by Alex Sanchez, illustrated by Jul’ Maroh on Amazon
- Blue is the Warmest Color by Jul Maroh on Amazon
- Blue is the Warmest Color film on Netflix
- Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez on Amazon (see the audiobook on Libro.fm)
- Julie Anne Peters on Amazon
- David Levithan on Amazon
- Brent Hartinger on Amazon
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
- Frolic Podcast Network website
Interview Transcript – Alex Sanchez & Jul’ Maroh
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: Alex and Jul, thank you so much for coming to the show. It’s wonderful to have you here to talk about “You Brought Me the Ocean.”
Alex: Well, thank you. It’s great to be here with you.
Jeff: So right before we got into this interview segment, I reviewed the book on the show. I told everybody that I thought it was just such a wonderful and beautiful story. Alex, I’d like to hear from you as the writer, tell us what this book is about in your words.
Alex: Well, I describe it as a superhero origin story unlike any you’ve ever imagined in that it’s also a coming out story and a wet and steamy romance between a couple of teenage boys, one who’s a normie and one who’s discovering his superpowers.
Jeff: He’s been left in the position of not knowing he’s got the superpowers. It’s one of those unfortunate scenarios where a part of him is hidden for other reasons. It’s like a double coming out, if you will.
Alex: Exactly, exactly. That was part of the fun of writing this story was thinking about how, as superheroes, the whole superhero story acts as a metaphor for us as queer people, when we can accept ourselves, love ourselves, come to terms to really be true to who we are, then we discover our power. So integrating that story with a superhero story, it was like this wonderful, wonderful metaphor.
Jeff: Yeah, you’re right. It’s unlike any origin story we’ve ever seen, and especially with an established character as well.
Alex: Yep, this is the character who will become Aqualad. It was interesting working on the project that that DC, this is part of roll-out of graphic novels reaching both traditional comic audiences and also audiences who don’t normally read comic books, too. So reaching out to broader audiences and looking at stories that, yes, they have a superhero aspect, but they’re really focusing on the emotional story.
Fiction is all about emotional truth. And when we read fiction, really delving into the character’s emotions. So our wonderful editor, Sarah Miller, was constantly emphasizing, “Let’s look at the emotional dynamics.” And then, of course, we had a wonderful artist, Jul Maroh, who was able to capture so much of that emotion on the page and in the drawing.
Jeff: And Jul, coming over to you. This artwork is gorgeous. How would you describe the style that you’ve brought to this and then what inspired that style?
Jul: Well, thank you both. I wouldn’t call it gorgeous myself. But, thank you so much. No, because, I’m kind of the worst seller when it comes to my own work. It’s hard for me to agree when I see all the mistakes and lacks in it, especially moments later. And first of all, before answering your question, I need to apologize for whoever is going to hear my terrible French accent because I’m not an native English speaker, and I haven’t talked English for a while.
To go back to your question, I’m not sure if I have many adjectives for it because my line in this book is more synthesized than if you have to compare it to previous work. And, in fact, I really like what Alex just said about emotional truth because I try to focus on the emotions and feelings that he wrote in the script. So, yeah, I would say that all I did was to make justice to it, to Alex’s writing. And the color palette is quite reduced. There is one warm atmosphere that is divided in three tones and there is one cool atmosphere with three other tones.
The purpose of it was to create a contrast between Jake’s world in New Mexico that is very dry and desertic, and the entrance of water and of love through the more watery colors and tones that is related to Kenny in the story. And basically my decisions on the style were taken because of the schedule we had to respect. It was my first experience dealing with such a rhythm. So the purpose was really to remain the most efficient as possible for deadlines and for emotions, as Alex such had just described.
Jeff: The emotional impact does come through, both through the art and through the words. And the motion of the water was…for me, was just, wow, this is a perfect blending of the two elements of the creativity. How did you both come to work on this project?
Jul: Actually, that’s a funny story, because I received an email from our publisher at DC Comics, but our email ended in the spam box. So I’m actually grateful that I’m the kind of person, very neurotic, that goes every day to check on the spam because, otherwise, I would have missed it. I would have missed the occasion. And so, yeah, just go check your spam because there might be an email just changing your life there. So, yeah, this is what happened on my side.
Alex: Well, I also received an email originally when the project…they were just starting to put it together. So I got this email out of the blue from DC and they explained to me about these graphic novels, and I was sort of, like, “Okay, but why are you reaching out to me?” And then they asked if I was interested, and so I got on the phone with the senior editor. And what she explained was that in this series of graphic novels, they wanted one that best specifically will deal with queer sexuality, and that the character that they had chosen would be Aqualad, and that they’d asked around for who would be good to write about LGBT teens, gay teens, specifically, and my name came up.
And so they asked me to do a pitch for it. And I’d never worked this way. Usually, as an author, it’s like I write a manuscript and then I need to present that to my agent and then she presents it to publishers. So I was sort of, like, “Okay, so what’s the pitch?” So I went on the internet and looked at some sample pitches and sent them this one paragraph pitch of what would be the story. And from the very start, they, again, were saying, “We want to look at the emotional story so don’t do too much research into the character and what’s been done. Don’t focus so much on their superpowers but really who they are as an individual.”
Aqualad I just wasn’t familiar with that character. So I did some research on the internet, and that’s where I saw that, like a lot of these characters, they go through different iterations, different versions over the decades. And in a recent version, they had the character set in New Mexico to get them as far away from possible as water for that contrast. And so I thought, “Well, that’s interesting, let me use that element.” But then they had him living in Silver City, and having been in that area, traveled through that area several times, I knew there’s this a town with this funky history, kooky history of having adopted the name Truth or Consequences. And as I started thinking about the story and about being true to who you are, I thought, “Well, that would be a wonderful…another somatic element to introduce in there.”
So in that way, I pulled some elements from previous versions of Aqualad, but DC, from the very start, they were very encouraging of saying, “Really make this story your own. You have freedom to shape and develop this character as you like.” And so there were some other elements in there in terms of the love triangle with Kenny and Maria but, again, giving that different twist and giving them other different twists. So it was putting this all together, and then they liked that pitch, and so then after that they asked for a longer sort of synopsis. So I came up with a 12-page synopsis, and that really was the sort of the basis for what became the script for the novel.
Jeff: And it does have touchstones because I’m not wildly familiar with Aqualad, but I watched “Young Justice” and was exposed to Aqualad there, and there are elements of your story that follow pieces of his origin from that as well, which I kind of liked in my… And you’ve got other DC characters that make random cameos as well, which is also fun from just kind of placing it in context sort of thing.
Alex: Well, that was one of the stipulations from DC. They were like, “You need to set this in the DC Universe, however you can establish that.” And so one of the things I loved about this process was just that it was so collaboratively. Usually, writing a novel, it’s such a lonely, solitary process of just me and the page. But in this case, working with Jul and working with Sarah Miller, I just loved that creativity, that collaboration, our creativity feeding off of each other, stimulating each other.
Jeff: And Jul, did you get to feed into the story, or how does this collaboration work between script and art as it’s all formed?
Jul: I always have an opinion, you know. I always have something to say and to fight about. So, no, it went well. My opinion was always taken into account. And, yeah, it was possible to discuss issues or questions. And, no, I was very happy with the collaboration, I must say. Yes, it was my first time to work on the story … to share this kind of work like this, I had never done that before. And I’m a very stubborn person, but no, it went well, very well. Yes.
Alex: It was very exciting for me as the writer that when I write a story, usually, I have a vague idea of what the characters look like. So to actually see what Jul came up with, it was so exciting because it was like, “Well, you know…” At first it was this reaction, “Well, that’s not how it I saw them, but how did I see them?” And then it’s like, “But, yeah I love this. I love what they’re coming up with.” So it was a very exciting process, a very new process for me.
Jeff: If I’m not mistaken, Alex, this is your first time to work in the kind of graphic novel medium?
Alex: It is, and it was so wonderful watching Jul’s process, how they came up with this, that it’s taken me back to my childhood love of drawing, and drawing on my own novel is just marvelous. And, again, the way they were able to just capture the dynamism and humanity and emotion, it was just amazing.
Jul: When Alex speaks like that, it sounds like everything was on my shoulders, when actually what he wrote in the first place was very good and very prolific, very efficient. So, of course, I did this good work because it worked so well on his side.
Jeff: Given this was your first graphic novel, how did that pivot how you wrote? Because, obviously, you’re taking away describing settings and potentially describing things that you would put into a novel, and yet they have to get on the page. Did you leave elements for Jul that would almost be like stage direction of a sort, or is that where some of the collaboration came in as well, how to represent those things?
Alex: Well, both of those. You know, this was a whole new process for me because even though I had that story, synopsis. Then when it came to breaking it down into a script, it was a real learning process for me. You know, I had some concerns about that with DC. I told them I’ve never done this and they’re like, “Okay, we’re going to give you training for this.” And they were very, very good at that. And I also got some examples of comic strips off the internet.
And so that gave me sort of the format. And then working with our editor and sort of breaking it down into panels, individual panels per page. And then it was…I can’t remember exactly what the direction was, but it was basically describe the setting, the characters what they’re thinking, feeling, dialogue, and then let the artists do their magic. And so it was conveying my idea of what’s taking place in terms of the narrative, in terms of the story, in terms of the characters, but then really letting the artist interpret.
Jeff: It sounds like a lot of work, but it also sounds like a lot of fun.
Alex: Well, it was, to watch their creative process as they were going through this. And then when the first full illustrations, color illustrations started coming in, it was so much fun, it was so exciting. And then it’s like, how Jul was able to just crank these out on really this schedule. What was it, Jul? I think like five pages a week.
Jul: I don’t want to think about it. I just felt… First it was four pages, colored, guys, four pages each week, and then 5. But, yeah. No, no, no, it was something.
Alex: It was amazing. If you can imagine an average of six panels per page, four or five pages per week. But Sarah and I were both, like, “We can’t wait for Friday. We can’t wait for Friday to see them come out.”
Jul: I couldn’t wait for Friday but for another reason. Yeah.
Jeff: How long did the book take from inception of the idea to turning it in as the final product?
Alex: Well, from the first pitch until we finally had a contract, that was about six months because of the DC process. And then when I started working on it, it was in the spring. And so I think we wrapped up in December. So about a year and a half, a year and a half on my end. And I guess for Jul, maybe about a year.
Jul: Basically a year. A bit less. Yes. Yes.
Jeff: One of the things that I love so much in this story is one of the tropes that you’ve kind of flipped in it of…in this case, Kenny, who’s the star athlete, is also bullied. Whereas, usually, we see the jocks doing the bullying. Was that kind of in the concept from the beginning? Because I think thought it was a really nice twist to show that jocks are not immune to this.
Alex: Well I think what happens in terms of my own creativity is these elements come out that I hadn’t exactly seen that way. So it’s always wonderful when a reader says, “Oh, did you notice this?” And I’m like, “Actually, no, I didn’t notice that. But that’s wonderful to hear you point out.” And I think what’s happened is that there has been such a cultural shift, certainly in my lifetime in terms of even though, yes, bullying and homophobia still exist, that the increased acceptance of queer people, LGBTQ people, it’s just been a dramatic cultural shift.
So, that flip that you’re mentioning, it didn’t even cross my mind. It just accepted… Yeah, of course, there are LGBT jocks. And of course, we know that, we see them, we see them in the news now. So that cultural shift influenced us as artists and writers. It’s just, yeah, sure, that’s natural. It’s not a stretch anymore.
Jeff: What do you both hope people take away from this story and this book?
Alex: Yeah, I agree. I think that that’s a great word, empowerment. You know, for them to find their own power, for them to be true to who they are. I think part of…you know what’s exciting? What’s been exciting in my work has been hearing from so many young people how my books have inspired them, and then hearing from them inspires me to do more. So it becomes this circle of inspiration and empowerment.
Jul: And, well, maybe the fact that in the story, it seems that the road for Jake could be already settled for the rest of his life if he wanted to go into college or, I don’t know what, etc. He has his best friend, he has already his habits. And on the contrary is, today he’s about to switch totally. And that’s also a way to say that you can become whatever you want. There is no road that is already…yeah, that there is no destiny that is already written for you in that kind of sense.
Jeff: You did exactly what a good author is supposed to do, and you left me wanting more. So any chance that we get more of Jake and Kenny coming from you two?
Jul: But also Maria would have her story as a martial art superstar, I believe, that’s the way it should be written.
Jeff: That would be a very cool… You could have a whole universe of stories with these characters.
Alex: I think it’s going to depend on DC. I’ve loved working with DC and I would love to work more with them, definitely. And then I would absolutely love to collaborate with Jul again. So there are a lot of pieces in play, but I would love for it to happen.
Jeff: Excellent. Fingers crossed, because like I said, the book ends where it needs to end, and I know that, but I wanted more. So there’s a couple of anniversaries that we should talk about since we have you both here. And Jul, for you, this year is the 10th anniversary of “Blue is the Warmest Color,” which was a very acclaimed book and film. For those of our listeners who may not know about that, please tell us what that’s about.
Jul: Well, it’s a lesbian coming out story. And at the end, she dies. No, sorry, I told you I was the worst seller of my work. And, no, but I like to do this joke, to say at the end she dies. Because, of course, that’s something we know from the beginning from the first page. So I like to do that. But no, I would say that I believe that the best publicity for this book is one email that I received one day because I’m very fortunate with the fact that readers keep writing to me since 10 years about this book, and that really keeps me up, I must say.
And so one day, there is a boy who wrote to me, like, “Look, I’m a guy, I’m straight, I play football.” You know, the kind of details just to tell me that his reality was far from the reality, from the characters from the book. And so he’s telling to me, “I’m all this, but, look, I cried so much reading this book.” So who would say that, if the book made cry this straight guy playing football, maybe you should give it a try. I just wanted to say that.
Jeff: I think that’s a great selling point for the book and the film, that it can bring that emotion.
Jul: I need to meet this guy. I think he’s my best ad for the book. Yeah.
Jeff: How do you feel that the work holds up after 10 years?
Jul: I would say that spreading queer stories is still very necessary, because hate crimes are still happening everywhere, not to say imprisonment and the death penalty for this. So, for example, here in Italy, many queer refugees try to make their way from Africa and Middle East. So I would say that we need to keep creating and publishing, filming queer narratives, because this is a weapon against hate.
Jeff: I absolutely agree. Yeah, it’s so important, even now. And Alex, next year is the 20th anniversary of “Rainbow Boys.” As I looked at that I’m like, “Twenty years, really? Has it been that long?” It’s hard for me to believe. Tell us about “Rainbow Boys” and the trilogy that came from it.
Alex: So “Rainbow Boys,” yeah, came out in 2001. And in fact, it came out right the same month as the 9/11 attack. And I thought, “Well, that’s so much for that book.” But it has survived. And the way it came about, it was at a time where, as you know, where LGBT characters didn’t usually…hardly ever appeared in young adult fiction. And when they did, they either you ended up committing suicide or dying tragically. And so there was this message of us as a people not deserving to exist and that we could never be happy. And what the publisher saw as so groundbreaking about “Rainbow Boys” is that the sort of literary device, the narrative device was a love triangle between three high school senior boys.
But the fact that they were connecting with each other, not just romantically, but as friends, as people, a community. And it was sort of a reflection of what was happening at the time where more and more LGBT young people were coming out and were connecting with each other. And the first Gay-Straight Alliances were forming in schools, and so I put in those elements, and at the same time it was at the time of HIV, of course. And so, to show young people connecting, and not just surviving, but thriving, and being able to be friends and to love and to show that coming of age, coming out experience of young people.
That, at the time, many publishers wouldn’t go near the book. They were like, “No, no, we couldn’t possibly accomplish this.” Even getting the models for the front cover was a challenge. The modeling agencies, the one agency was like, “Well, we couldn’t allow our young people to be on the cover of a book like that.” And so, at the time, it’s hard to look back on it now and see that, yes, in many ways, it was groundbreaking. And yet again as we discussed before, it became sort of this fuel for inspiration where it inspired more and more young people. And it also helped to open a lot of doors for other books that then came out subsequently Julie Anne Peters’s books, and David Levithan’s, and Brent Hartinger’s, and a lot of those other early books that really blew open the doors.
So, even though there’s still nowhere near as many books being published with LGBTQ protagonists and themes, there are more and more, and it’s great to see DC as among those publishers that want to give that accurate portrayal of the diversity of our world, and the fact that being queer is as normal as any other orientation. And so, again symbolic of the cultural shift that’s occurred. So it’s exciting for me to have been there early on and to continue being part of this process.
Jeff: Yeah, and inspirational wise, I mean, this book was an inspiration to me to start writing YA, too. So you’ve inspired definitely kids, but I think you’ve inspired writers as well to tell the stories.
Alex: Thank you. Part of what’s exciting with this book as a graphic novel is, graphic novels are booming more and more because, I think, they create this bridge between the visual and prose. And so now, hopefully this book will open the door for more and more LGBTQ stories, queer stories, queer artists, queer writers, so there’ll be more and more graphic novels with these things.
Jeff: I hope so. I hope so. I’ll ask you the same question I asked Jul. How do you think “Rainbow Boys” holds up after 20 years?
Alex: Well, it was funny. I was giving a presentation in October of last year, speaking at an LGBTQ youth convention. And one of the authors brought up they’re like listening to cassettes, and they’re like, “What’s that?” And my response was, “Okay, okay. We’ll just read it as historical fiction, you know.” That on the one hand, it does portray a certain period in time.
But when I’m writing, I’m always looking at well, what are the universal themes, enduring themes? And so, love, and friendship, and family, and connection, they’re all part of the story. And so, if young people today the book was written before they were born, well, they see it as historical fiction, but the stories are still true.
Jeff: Yeah, it’s amazing that the early 2000s now are historical, but it’s true. Since we are in Pride Month, we’re asking all of our guests to share with us what pride means to them. Jul, we’ll start off with you.
Jul: Yeah, a great deal. It means a great deal. I would say that it means to stand for yourself and for your differences, to not self-abandon in some way. And it’s difficult to embrace on beauty when people in society actually expect you to be something else. So it’s important to stand for the other queers, and we have those also equally. And so I would say that it means to feel proud in a sense that says, “I’m not going to feel ashamed as you’d want me to feel, and I won’t take your patriarchal bullshit any longer.” So it’s an act of resistance, really.
Jeff: And, Alex, how about for you?
Alex: Well I grew up at a time where homosexuality wasn’t even mentioned. You know, occasionally, maybe it was whispered about. But sex, in general, wasn’t talked about openly. And so I grew up very confused, and lonely, and ashamed, the self-hatred, all of that. And when I came out in my late teens, it was as Jul said, letting go of the shame and saying, “No, I don’t have to buy into that. That may be someone else’s perception, but that’s not how I view myself.”
And so for me, pride is both finding that love for myself and then for others, others like me. And to be able to… Again, going back to that sense of empowerment and, really, fully expressing who I am, and yeah, it is, as Jul said, an act of resistance, of defiance when there are people trying to put us down. And I think it’s a message not only for queer people, but for non-queer people. It’s like all of us, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, people are always trying to put us in boxes and tell us who we should or shouldn’t be.
And I think that’s why coming out stories, they’re so powerful as universal stories speaking to people about being true to who they are, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. So for me, pride goes beyond gender identity or sexual orientation. It’s really about fully embracing ourselves and others.
Jeff: Thank you so much for sharing those sentiments. It’s really powerful. As we start to wrap up, are there projects from either of you coming later this year that you could share some details on?
Jul: In my case, I must confess that now I am working on very slow projects and processes, so it’s going to take some time. But there is something coming later. When I’d be 80 years old, maybe it will be out.
Alex: Well, I find that very reassuring to hear because I’m constantly like, “How long can this take?” It just takes me so long to create anything.
Jul: Yeah, exactly. But in my case, it’s a story taking place in the Italian Renaissance. So there is a lot of stoical researches to do and it’s fascinating. So I never see the end of it because I start today looking for something, and at the end of the day, I discovered many details and fascinating things but not the only thing I was looking for, you know. So I just will myself, in this process, that is very no wishing, anyway, on a very personal level. But for the work, it isn’t. So it’s going to take some time. Yes.
Alex: And so, for me, just finishing up editing a middle grade novel that will come out, I believe, in spring 2021. So not this year, but sometime early next year, and it’s called “The Greatest Superpower.” So there’s a comic book element in there. And then now I’m working on a memoir of my immigrant experience, being an immigrant to the United States. And as I said, inspired by Jul, I’m doing some illustrations for it. I originally thought of it, “This could be a graphic memoir.”
And then as I started drawing, I realized, I don’t know how Jul did this because it just takes so long. You know, for me, just to do one panel, can take three weeks. And so it’s sort of like, “No, I better look at this more realistically.” But looking at what are the things that I can convey on the page through drawing that convey so much more effectively than through words? So playing with those two forms, so I’m having a lot of fun with that.
Jul: That’s so cool. I can’t wait to see it, Alex.
Jeff: Yeah, I look forward to see that as well.
Alex: Thank you, you are the inspiration.
Jul: Thank you. Thank you. But also just to hear about your story as an immigrant, that’s…I’m just going to wait.
Jeff: And how can people keep up with you both online to know when all these things are going to start to come out? Alex, what are your web locations?
Alex: The one that I do most is Facebook, Author Alex Sanchez. Also my website, alexsanchez.com.
Jeff: Fantastic. And Jul?
Jul: I have a website too, juliemaroh.com, but I’m not sure it’s very useful for this one. I’m more active on Instagram. That is also with my full name. Even if I can disappear for weeks, sometimes, but yeah, I guess I’m more active there.
Jeff: Okay. We will link to those in our show notes along with the books and things that we talked about here, so people can easily find them all. Thank you both so much for coming and talking about, “You Brought Me the Ocean.” I hope this book finds a very wide audience because it’s just really wonderful.
Jul: Thank you, Jeff.
Alex: Thank you so much, Jeff.
Here’s the text of this week’s reviews:
You Brought Me the Ocean by Alex Sanchez, illustrations by Jul’ Maroh. Reviewed by Jeff.
Speaking of some Pride month joy. I want to talk about the DC Comics graphic novel that’s coming out this week called Your Brought Me The Ocean, which is written by YA author Alex Sanchez and illustrated beautifully by Jul’ Maroh. This is a coming of age, coming out story for the young man who will become Aqualad.
We find Jake who is living in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico and if there ever was a properly named town for this story this really is it. Jake has a lot of secrets. He’s gay and he hasn’t really shared that with anybody. He wants to go to college in Miami because he feels this draw to be near the ocean and to study oceanography, despite the fact that he’s living in the middle of the desert. He hasn’t been able to tell his best friend, Maria, that this is what he wants instead of going to school with her closer to home. He also has secrets kept from him about who his father is and why he’s got markings all over his body that glow, when they get wet.
To complicate his life further, Maria has this big crush on him. They’ve been best friends forever, and this is a classic best friends, one feels a certain way for the other but the other one doesn’t really want to take it out of the friend zone. Jake, of course, has his reasons but she’s missed all of the clues that he might be gay. And where he views it as friendship, she’s crushing on him really hard.
Jake, meanwhile, has his eyes on Kenny, a good looking swimmer. He’s smart. He is out. He’s very outspoken. And in an interesting twist, he is a jock who is bullied.
All of these secrets, weigh really hard on Jake, as he tries to figure out how to kind of move forward .
Jake and Kenny ended up running into each other after school one day, which gets Jake all freaked out and flustered. He actually asks Kenny out for a hike. It’s also a hike that he hides from Maria.
The boys learn a lot about each other and Jake even eventually shares his markings and that they glow. It’s the first time he’s really shared this with anybody. And when a freak storm comes up, they get caught up in a flash flood in a canyon. It’s such a romance blocker this flood, because they’re just about to kiss when the flood comes swooshing in. It’s the first time that Jake has understood that he’s got power over water, because he saves them from being washed away. Kenny, to his credit, doesn’t freak out too much about this as you might think when would.
From here the story really takes off as Jake has to come to terms with the secrets that he’s keeping and make some adult decisions on what he wants to do with his life. Kenny’s bullying situation, gets a wrap up and sparks fly between the two friends over why so many secrets have been kept for so long.
This is really a beautiful coming of age, coming out story with the romance between Jake and Kenny so super sweet. As Jake kind of fully embraces. not only his powers, but that he is a young gay man and what that means. The triangle with Maria factors in there too. It’s such a typical teen thing and the way that Alex portrays all of this and this story just drips of realism. Frankly, even though we’re sitting in the middle of a superhero origin story, Jake has a lot going on as he sorts out his feelings for Kenny.
He’s also got to confront his mom about what she’s been hiding from him and why she’s so intense that he stays away from the water. Alex really treats all this with his usual excellence. A long time ago he became one of my inspirations with his book Rainbow Boys and he really brings all of his YA acumen into this story. There’s teen angst, and boy, do they feel a lot as they’re kind of coming into their own.
There are great side characters too. Besides the three teenagers, the parents here really show the difficulties of knowing how to raise your kids. These parents are not perfect. Each one has their excellent points, but also some pretty deep flaws. But all of them–whether it’s Kenny’s dad or Maria’s parents or Jake’s mom–all want what’s best for their kids and to keep them happy and safe,
Jul’s artwork is breathtaking. she uses two very distinctive color palette, the colors of the desert and the colors of the water. How she’s brought these together–these are not superhero comic book drawings–but something that, honestly, I don’t even have the vocabulary to describe. She captures all the emotions of these teens so well along with the landscape. It builds more into how they’re feeling. It’s really remarkable. The more I looked at the artwork, the more I was truly taken by the storytelling that is in the artwork. And it’s its beauty.
Now this graphic novel is set in the DC universe. There are a couple of cameos, including Superman. Jake’s character follows fairly closely to things I’ve seen with Aqualad in the TV series “Young Justice” that was on the Cartoon Network a few years ago.
I truly adored this graphic novel. It was great to read an Alex Sanchez story for the first time in a while and to get caught up in this beautiful artwork from Jul’ Maroh. So I highly recommend Your Brought Me The Ocean.