Interview by Hayden Mears.
Seven Secrets is an astounding comic book. Writer Tom Taylor and artist Daniele Di Nicuolo have crafted an offbeat, heartfelt and shocking spy thriller that frequently finds new ways to enthrall and amaze us. Now, after 18 gorgeous issues, the popular BOOM! title is wrapping things up.
The book’s official synopsis reads:
“For centuries, the Order has trusted in Keepers and Holders to guard the Secrets in seven briefcases against all harm but when their stronghold is attacked and the secrets put in peril, the entire Order must face their greatest fear—an enemy who knows too much and is willing to kill to get what he wants.
Now, the Order’s newest member, Caspar, must discover the truth of the Secrets before the enemy does, or risk losing everything.”
Pretty great, right? Even better than its spy movie-esque plot, though, is how effortlessly it elevates its premise. Seven Secrets goes to great lengths to teach us a thing or two about family, forgiveness, and empathy, even as it delivers some of the medium’s most exciting action. It goes harder than it has to and doesn’t let up, making it one of the best books on the shelf right now.
Because we were feeling sentimental, we reached out to Taylor and Di Nicuolo to talk about Seven Secrets‘ final issue, the series as a whole, and what’s next for them.
HAYDEN MEARS: Now that we can discuss Seven Secrets as a completed story, what, if anything, were the biggest differences between your initial concept and the book that’s now out there in the world?
TOM TAYLOR: I think the biggest changes were all character driven. We knew all but one of the secrets, but we didn’t know the relationships. We didn’t know exactly how much Eva and Sigurd knew or how much their love for Caspar would inform this story. I think Daniele’s heartbreaking and powerful moments between Caspar and his parents made us fall in love with this poor family, and then we were all doing all we could to preserve them and bring them back together. Amon and Canto’s relationship came later in the piece too, and the issue that explored their history was one of the favorites for the whole team. I also didn’t know what a big part the Queen would have to play before Daniele drew her, and I instantly wanted to see more of her.
Also, Titus became such a favorite for all of us. I originally wrote his death scene in issue 5 or 6 and I just couldn’t kill him off. When it came time for Titus to die, and Caspar, subconsciously, used one of his two wishes to bring him back, I think that was just me wishing he didn’t have to go.
DANIELE DI NICUOLO: Well, we knew since the beginning where we wanted to go with this story.
The finale and the main secret that connects all the other secrets have been always the point where we wanted to get. But I think that change how we got there, in the end. It often happens that characters are take life during the narration, and they somehow push the story in a different direction, and it’s probably what happened with ours. Canto is a perfect example: his destiny was far more sad and short at the beginning, but seeing how strong he was on the page, made him conquest a totally main role. In fact he quickly became a fan favorite, and I have to say that I’m pretty proud of his design!
MEARS: How are you both feeling now that you’ve wrapped everything up?
TAYLOR: It’s bittersweet. I’m so glad we got tell this tale. And I’m glad we managed to keep the secrets a secret for the years we worked on this. But I will miss this world and especially these characters.
DI NICUOLO: Both sad and grateful: sad of course cause a path that lasted more than 2 years (probably the craziest and weirdest and worst 2 years that the entire planet experienced in the last century), but also grateful and happy cause Tom and I had the chance to tell the entire story, in the way that we wanted to tell it, till the end. It something that it must not be taken for granted, and we are very grateful to Boom! Studios and readers to have given us this opportunity!
MEARS: Daniele, which moments were most challenging for you to draw?
DI NICUOLO: Tom gave me a lot of room to stretch my action muscles, and luckily my experience on Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers has been a perfect training for those scenes! But probably the hardest parts were the little, subtle moments of pain, loss, love and redemption that I wanted to show in the best ways. The quiet moments during the crazy storm (that becomes even crazier during the finale).
MEARS: Tom, did you have a favorite character to write?
TAYLOR: I think it’s a toss-up between Titus and the Queen of England. But Tajana was a great one early on. And Alex and Ching were both favorites for me and Daniele.
MEARS: What do you feel makes this collaboration so special? What specific qualities does the other bring that you feel elevated the project?
TAYLOR: From the moment we started, Daniele and I knew we shared similar storytelling values and priorities. Daniele’s action obviously jaw-dropping. Everything flows with this incredible speed and impact and Walter Biamonte’s colors only add to the kinetic energy on those action pages.
But it’s Daniele’s emotion that gets me. Little Caspar looking up at his father on a bridge. Eva telling Caspar that she loves him in secret. All the characters who said goodbye to each other.
The loss and the joy. The humor and the heartbreak. This, I believe, is why our collaboration was special. And why so many people fell in love with the characters in this book. I have to say this is true of the whole team. Dafna and Gwen were with us every step of this, just as attached to the characters as we were, with suggestions and discussions and questions that were vital to the final story.
DI NICUOLO: Since the beginning I knew that Tom would have brought me one of my very best experience in doing comics. We both think that the central core of any story is set in the characters: you may have the most insane action scenes and fightings, but if you don’t care about the people that are fighting, if you can’t relate to what they are fighting for, those scene will be just empty shells.
On the contrary, Tom has this incredible skill of making you fall in love with a character, just in a couple of pages, and making you feel torn apart when he kills them (cause you know that he’ll kill somebody, in the end). So are the most tender, subtle moments between characters, their interactions and their heart that made this so special.
MEARS: One of the best things about Seven Secrets is its conscience. It’s present throughout the book but it comes to a beautiful head in #18. There’s a moving moment of forgiveness in the finale that really drives home the book’s good-heartedness. Not sure if this was your intent, but this reminded me that we could all stand to forgive a little more. How do you think being forgiven will help this particular character heal?
TAYLOR: It was always my intent for Amon and Caspar to have a very similar path that forks in different directions thanks to decisions that aren’t their own. And that fork led them to be on opposite sides of a multi-generational conflict. But like so many soldiers throughout history, the seekers aren’t all evil – we saw logical, compassionate people on the Seeker’s council who thought they were doing right by the world. They believed their own truth. Amon believes his way is correct. He believes he’s doing what’s right for the greater good. There was actually a point when I was outlining Seven Secrets when I was toying with the idea of revealing Amon was right and Caspar was wrong. In the end, we stuck to the original plan, but it was important for Caspar to recognize how alike he and Amon were. It was important for Caspar to question whether these people were their enemy or whether they believed they were right. In the end, Caspar had to see that Amon was trying to save the world, just as the order was. It was just that one of their sides was wrong. One side served the wrong entity and bought into a lie. It was important that Caspar forgive Amon for this, considering he could have just as easily fallen the same way.
DI NICUOLO: Amon had the best intentions (in his mind, of course), he tried to do something for a greater good, but he probably chose the worst way possible. This happened due to the terrible wounds that he brought on himself for the entire life. He’ll have to live forever with the burden of what he did, and the only way to be really forgive himself will be trying to be a better person, a better version of himself. What Caspar taught him is that there’s another way, a third way, to deliver what he wanted.
MEARS: An element of comics that isn’t talked about nearly enough is the lettering. What do you love about the lettering job on Seven Secrets?
TAYLOR: Are you talking about Eisner-nominated Ed Dukeshire? Ed brings so much to this book.
From the way faerie folk speak, to magically aligning balloons in the correct reading order when we’re convinced it’s impossible. His SFX work flawlessly alongside Daniele’s art, too.
Bringing even more energy to every page of action. I can’t say enough good things about Ed.
DI NICUOLO: Obviously Ed Dukeshare is a talented monster in doing what he does: it’s pretty clear just looking at the aesthetic choices that he does. But I think that what’s not praised enough about the work of a good lettering is that so, SO many times they have to solve the mistakes that we artist do, like invert the speaking order of the characters in a panel, or when we don’t make enough room for balloons. Ed it’s simply a saint: I never EVER had to change something of my art since I started to work with him, he’s always found a clever solution to remedy at my mistakes…thank you, Ed! Your Eisner Nominee is totally deserved!
MEARS: Tom, the spinoff potential here is huge. Any plans for more Seven Secrets (or Seven Secrets-adjacent) goodness?
TAYLOR: I mean, we did leave a secret for ourselves. A case that could be anything. It could hold more than one secret. But if we were ever to return, I’d also love to see the past. I want to see young Eva and Sigurd on secret spy missions. I want to see young Queen Jedda. I want to see Alexander the Great join the order. I want to see Gareth and Tajana’s relationship. But I also want to see what Caspar does next.
MEARS: Daniele, do you see yourself returning to the Seven Secrets universe if the opportunity knocked?
DI NICUOLO: Of course! The main story is over, but who never knows! I mean, the final page doesn’t really close completely the door on this world, right? Who knows how many other secrets could there be?
First: some rest! Haha, just kidding. Everybody knows that comic artists never rest. Right after finishing Seven Secrets, I did a quick collaboration with DC, but there’s the chance that it could become longer in the future…? Let’s see! I’m working on a Marvel project at the moment, it’s not been announced yet but all I can say is that I was a HUGE fan of the writer and I’m super happy to be able of doing this! I’d love to write something by myself, one day…let’s see if there will be room for this. And of course I’d love to work with Tom again!
Seven Secrets #18 is now available in comic shops everywhere.