Cover Reveal: The Gulf

Tundra is very excited to be publishing The Gulf on March 5, 2024! Written and illustrated by Adam de Souza, The Gulf is a graphic novel for YA readers that follows a group of friends in their final days of high school who run away from home in order to join a commune.

Scroll down for the full cover plus a Q&A with Adam de Souza!

Cover Art: Adam de Souza
Cover Design: John Martz

The Gulf
By Adam de Souza
240 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover and Paperback
ISBN 9781774880739 | Tundra Books
Release Date: March 5, 2024
Ever since Oli found a pamphlet for a remote island commune as a kid, it’s all she can think about. Now that she’s nearing the end of high school, feeling frustrated with the mounting pressure to choose a career and follow a path she has no interest in, the desire to escape it all has been steadily increasing.

Everything comes to a head when Oli’s relationship with her best friend goes south and she claps back at a school bully with more than just words. Oli flees to find the commune on a Gulf Island off the coast of Vancouver, taking with her Milo, who can’t help but hide his feelings behind the safety of a video camera, and Alvin, a shy teen who sees more than he lets on. Behind them trails Liam, Oli’s ex-best-friend and sometimes love interest, who wants to apologize for the way things went down. All four are grappling with a world that cannot be changed . . . and simply trying to find their place in it.

This YA anti-coming-of-age road trip adventure, by talented up-and-coming comic artist Adam de Souza, captures at once the angst and humor of being a teen during a time of great transition.

Q&A with Adam de Souza

Where did the initial inspiration for The Gulf come from?

The story came from reflecting on my own aimlessness during the final years of high school, as well as my interest in alternative lifestyles. A decade removed from high school while writing this story, I felt I could finally put a name to what that aimless feeling was a symptom of, and that’s what I was inspired to write about.

Why did you choose the Gulf Islands as the main setting for this story?

I have spent a lot of time exploring the various Gulf Islands on the Salish Sea throughout my life and they’re among my favorite places to spend idle days. They’re wild in this unique and distinctly West Coast way and I hoped to capture that visually. Their seclusive nature seems to attract people that make a living in the precarious cracks of what we deem normal; the islands are places where I find it easy to imagine a different way of living.

What is one thing that makes Oli’s “coming-of-age” story unique?

I wanted to write a story about a character who reflected the experience I had when I “came-of-age.” You expect some grand epiphany or that the things that don’t make sense will snap into some understandable order, but that moment never came. Oli’s story is meant to be an anti-coming-of-age story that rallies against the notion that “it will all make sense when you’re older” because it’s okay if it doesn’t – and it frankly makes sense that it won’t – but at least we can try and untangle it together into something more equitable.

You are both the writer and illustrator; how did you go about creating the book? Does art or dialog come first to you?

The whole story of The Gulf came from a specific wordless sequence at the climax of the book. There were a few other scenes that I drew out after that, but generally it’s a bit of a push and pull between visuals and writing. After I draw out a key sequence, there’s a lot of scaffolding outward that has to happen via writing. While scripting, I try to make sure that I am writing around an absent image instead of leaning directly into prose.

Were you influenced/inspired by other media such as movies, books, art, etc.?

Most of my inspiration for writing comes from reading books and watching movies. Knowing how to express a lot of what The Gulf is on a thematic level came from reading about communes and what those societies were grounded in philosophically and politically.

How many cover drafts did you do before this one was finalized?

I submitted around ten different designs for the cover alongside what became the final design. Picturing the book sitting on a bookshelf in a store made it hard for me to choose so I was happy to defer to the team at Tundra.

How did you create the cover? What tools or programs do you use?

The covers started as small “thumbnails” in my sketchbook. I scan those drawings onto my computer and then I do a more solid sketch on my iPad in color. After a cover is chosen, I ink it on paper with a pen and I color most of my work digitally in Clip Studio, Procreate, or Photoshop.

How is working on this book different from your other projects, like your comic strip “Blind Alley”?

There’s a sort of laissez-faire quality to writing a comic strip that comes from the four-panel form; you can’t rush anything as you have only the smallest little bites of story. I have a plan for my comic strips, but there’s nothing formalized and no maximum page count. For better or worse, the weekly structure allows me to follow any whims that catch my fancy. I am definitely a writer who loves to chase down a tangent and I find those character, setting, or “vibe” building moments incredibly important.

Writing The Gulf was almost the opposite in terms of process. The story was outlined, scripted, and then drawn out before being committed to ink. It involved a lot of collaboration and was a rewarding process. By the time I actually started to ink the book, I felt like I knew the story and characters inside and out, which made me feel more confident in my decisions. The process of working this way has encouraged me not to shy away from actually spending time scripting.

What books have you been reading lately?

I have been reading The Half-Life by Jonathan Raymond as well as The Social Instinct by Nicola Raihani. I’ve also slowly been reading through the Moomin comics, which are delightful and always make me feel like drawing.