Monkeybrain Comics has had a very good couple of weeks. Its initial launch announcement was so well received that it launched through comiXology, the digital comics site, two days early.
I talked to the creative teams on the launch titles, including Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin. They draw and write Bandette , the story of a young, exuberant “artful dodger” and the crimes she pulls off against people who really, really deserve it.
How would you describe Bandette ?
CC: “I think of it as a faux-French crime caper. (Which is not only descriptive, but pleasingly alliterative!)”
PT: “Colleen stole that description from me, so I have to decide on something new. I suppose that’s fitting, because ‘thieving’ is definitely one of the main themes of Bandette . So, a fun adventure story about a teen thief. The story of a young girl who’s decided to heist an adventurous life.”
What were the origins of Bandette ?
CC: “When Paul and I were discussing what we wanted to do for the Monkeybrain launch, we started out knowing it was going to have a young, Nancy Drew-type female lead. Then I decided that I wanted one of her allies to be a character I had made up for my sketch blog, BD Belgique, who I think of as like a cross between Captain Haddock and Columbo. Everything just sort of fell into place from there.”
PT: “I'd been writing Spider-Girl and Spider-Man and a lot of other Marvel books, and thinking of how many places I could take the characters if the usual restrictions were removed, and then Monkeybrain approached us with an offer to create stories with no restrictions. So we did. In one way, it was great timing on Monkeybrain's part, but then again I guess I'm always interested in stories of this type. Plus, on my blog, I've slowly been doing a rundown of my top 25 female characters in literature, so a strong female character was uppermost in my mind.”
AS: What's influenced the book's design and plot?
CC: “Really, we're trying to do a straight-up European style comic. That's the main aesthetic. The story is part Nancy Drew , part Tintin , part Danger Diabolik , part Fantomette (a character from a series of illustrated French novels we admire but are unable to read!). Throw in Arsene Lupin, Modesty Blaise and John Robie (from To Catch A Thief ), and I think you have a pretty good idea.”
PT: “It's drawn from lots of influences. Everything that Colleen mentions, as well as the works of Hugo Pratt, Guido Crepax, the Matt Helm films and a hundred other areas.”
CC: “So many reasons! We can make our stories as long or as short as we want. We can distribute to anyone in the world who can get to the Internet or iTunes or the Android store. We can sell for cheap. The consumer gets instant access, at any time of day or night. We can make money while building a library to be printed on paper in the future. We don't have to worry about printing costs, distribution schedules, product storage, or being taxed for leftover inventory at the end of the year. It's a win-win-win-win-win.”
PT: “I'm going to have to get a better security system! Colleen keeps stealing my answers. The ‘instant’ quality of digital release is very attractive. For instance, we did our big press release on Monday 2 July, announcing everything would be available on the 4, and then the response was so overwhelming that we just went ahead and released it right away. In print form, that wouldn't have been an option. Everything would have still been on delivery trucks. But, digital? Bang! We make the decision, and with a few clicks of the button it's available everywhere in the whole wide world. Amazing.”
Paul, the HP Lovecraft reference was a pleasant surprise. Is the book going to take a turn for the supernatural?
CC: “One of the things I love about the freedom of Monkeybrain is that I can take my story anywhere I want to go. So... is the book going to take a turn for the supernatural? Anything is possible... Bandette lives in a world of adventure, some of her own design, but also of mysterious origins. The Lovecraft reference is there partially for readers to key in on that, also because Lovecraft has been on my mind, since I'm contributing to a Lovecraft anthology ...”
Colleen, I loved how European the book’s design feels. What sort of research did you do to capture that?
CC: “Mostly I just read every comic I ever saw for 40 years! I'm hugely influenced by Uderzo, Hergé, Mobius, Hugo Pratt, Jordi Bernet, Milo Manara… the list goes on and on. So it comes very naturally.”
PT: “And it's not just from comics. Those Matt Helm films, and basically every stylish movie about a thief, or any movie that had Audrey Hepburn, or anybody in a gorilla suit.”
Bandette #1, like all the Monkeybrain books, is huge fun and is is out now at comiXology for $0.99