DC’s line of original graphic novels for young adult readers has steadily gathered momentum since launching earlier this year, bringing exciting creators on board to offer their distinct interpretations of DC characters. In June 2020, Aqualad swims into the spotlight with You Brought Me The Ocean, a romantic drama written by novelist Alex Sánchez and artist Julie Maroh that sees Jake Hyde coming to terms with his queer identity while also discovering his superhuman abilities. Both creators make their DC debuts with this graphic novel, and their storytelling sensibilities make this a much more intimate and grounded take on a superhero origin story.
“The story for You Brought Me The Ocean was inspired by imagining what it would be like to be a teen, sorting out your sexual identity, falling in love, and at the same time discovering your superpowers,” says Sánchez, author of the award-winning Rainbow trilogy following three queer boys through their turbulent adolescence. “I admire Jake’s loyalty to the people he loves—his friends Maria and Kenny and to his mom. Unfortunately, when those loyalties conflict, Jake gets twisted into an emotional knot and makes some complicated decisions he then needs to figure out how to unravel.”
Sánchez collaborates with an artist well versed in queer romance, and the emotion and personality Maroh brought to their debut graphic novel, Blue Is The Warmest Color, enhances the feeling of Sánchez’s story. “I really loved [Alex’s] care for delving into emotions and all the spectrum of his vocabulary about feelings and body language,” says Maroh. “He clearly has a gift for building characters. I’ve devoured his script for this reason, and that is also why I took so much pleasure putting all the subtleties of his words into images.”
“I must confess that I hardly see it as a superhero book because Jake is just starting to discover his abilities, and also because the story is focused on Jake’s feelings, and how to come out as gay,” says Maroh. “If I adjusted my art style it would be for more practical reasons: to be able to deliver a graphic novel with tight deadlines while using a full color palette! This is why I chose a digital palette with only two tones: a warm one to complement Jake’s skintone and the arid environment of his town, and an aquatic one for Kenny’s green hair and the water-related atmospheres.”
What does Maroh see as the key characteristic of effective romance comic artwork? “For me, it means being able to reflect the characters’ feelings and emotions through images: make visible the invisible and find balance between dialogue and silence. I would also say that in a comic book portraying the specific experiences of a queer romance, like in ours, it’s also important to strike a balance between the particularities of queerness and universal aspects of love.”
“I loved watching the story come to life visually as Julie so amazingly evoked emotion through the characters’ actions and expressions,” says Sánchez. “Julie has such a talent for visually capturing the characters’ personalities and essences.”
This exclusive first look at the cover and interior pages of You Brought Me The Ocean, on sale June 9, highlights that attention to emotion, starting with the cover’s tender image of Jake and his paramour just before they kiss. The muted palette adds impact to the splash page of Jake using his superpower thanks to its bright pop of blue, and Maroh makes evocative use of page layouts to reflect Jake’s feelings of isolation. Maroh’s artwork is a far cry from the typical superhero visuals, but that broader stylistic range is a big reason why DC’s original graphic novels are so intriguing. Learn more about You Brought Me The Ocean in the official solicitation text below:
You Brought Me the Ocean
Written by Alex Sanchez
Illustrated by Julie Maroh
On sale everywhere books are sold June 9, 2020
Synopsis: Jake Hyde doesn’t swim––not since his father drowned. Luckily, he lives in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, which is in the middle of the desert, yet he yearns for the ocean and is determined to leave his hometown for a college on the coast. But his best friend, Maria, wants nothing more than to make a home in the desert, and Jake’s mother encourages him to always play it safe.
Yet there’s nothing “safe” about Jake’s future—not when he’s attracted to Kenny Liu, swim team captain and rebel against conformity. And certainly not when he secretly applies to Miami University. Jake’s life begins to outpace his small town’s namesake, which doesn’t make it any easier to come out to his mom, or Maria, or the world.
But Jake is full of secrets, including the strange blue markings on his skin that glow when in contact with water. What power will he find when he searches for his identity, and will he turn his back to the current or dive headfirst into the waves?