Interview with creator Matt Dembicki of XOC Pup Graphic Novel
Xoc explores the ocean’s wonders through the eyes of a great white as it treks from the Farallon Islands off the coast of California to the warm waters of Hawaii some 2,300 miles away. Along its journey, the 17-foot shark encounters natural prey and predators—from skittish seals to brazen orcas—as well as man-made impediments that threaten not only the giant fish, but the balance of the ocean’s ecology.
OutHouse: Your books seem to show a passion for ecology. Is this something you’ve always loved?
Matt Dembicki: Yeah, I guess so. I had a previous book called Mr. Big and that was about a snapping turtle that lived in a pond, and that had some elements of environmentalism in that as well. But I’ve always had an interest in sharks, so I decided to carry this over into the ocean. You know ever since I saw Jaws, I’ve been fascinated with sharks for decades. So this was a good way for me to get that out as well as give an environmental/ecological message.
OH: Did you have to do a lot of research into oceanography to be able to write this book?
MD: Oh yes! I initially did these (Xoc) as mini comics, and then Oni picked it up and we did it in color. And I did a lot of research by talking to shark experts, I look at their original research they’d done, I looked at various books; all to make it as authentic as possible. So a lot of it based on these two researchers that studies and track the Great White(sharks). One did actually track it from California to Hawaii and another one tracked it from South Africa to Australia, but it was interesting the see the parallelisms between the two, so I incorporated all that kind of information into a comic format.
OH: So it’s very educational at the same time?
MD: Oh Yes! You try to be authentic to what would happen, how the creatures look and how they would act. There is a scene between a sperm whale and a squid that would be natural enemies in the ocean and kind of focus on that.
OH: Who has shown the biggest interest so far, what is your target age group?
MD: Mostly it’s the tweeners. But everyone loves sharks or everyone has some type of feeling about them –whether it be a fascination or fear – and everyone who has stopped by reacts to that. I remember growing up, being a 13 years old, loving sharks, fearing them, in awe of them, and wanting to be near them and learning everything about them. I have two boys and they are the same way and so I geared it sort of towards them, but it is a book that has animal violence. It does have sharks eating seals and other things that is not for the squeamish, but what I tell other folks is that it’s not anything you would see on a National Geographic special. It’s not over the top, but it holds a lot of excitement. The book comes out July 25th, so check it out.
OH: You just had another book come out too.
MD: I also just finished District Comics - An Unconventional History of Washington, DC. It’s all about offbeat stories of Washington D.C. ranging from the first newspaper, a couple civil war stories, one about the punk band Bad Brains in the 80’s, to the inauguration of President Obama. All the stories are told with a unique narrative, they are all research based as well. Like one story we have about J.F.K. funeral and it’s told through the perspective of a bugler who plays Taps and he botched one of the notes. He’s no longer alive so we talked to the family and looked at the letters they received, so it’s all told from his point of view. The same thing with the inauguration of Obama in that it’s told from the perspective of a police officer who designed the badges for the inauguration. So he kind of had an artistic flair and they asked him to do it, and it became a real collector’s item. So much so that people were actually stealing it from inside the police department. The book is all kind of fun stuff like that, fun facts that you might not have heard before.
OH: That must have taken a long time to research.
MD: It took about a year and a half. It’s all together now, so it will be coming out in late August/early September. It will available at the Baltimore Comic-Con and the small press expo in addition to Amazon.
District Comics is a graphic anthology featuring lesser-known stories about Washington, DC, from its earliest days as a rustic settlement along the swampy banks of the Potomac to the modern-day metropolis. Spanning 1794–2009, District Comics stops along the way for a duel, a drink in the Senate's speakeasy, a look into the punk scene, and much more.
Featuring stories by:
• Scott O. Brown, award-winning man of comics and Harvey Award nominee
• Chad Lambert, five-time Howard E. Day Memorial Prize finalist and writer for Kung Fu Panda and Megamind
• Jim Ottaviani, creator of The New York Times bestseller Feynman