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DF Interview: Paul Tobin puts the art back in thieving with Bandette
By Byron Brewer
Bandette is a young costumed "artful dodger," leader of a group of urchins dedicated to serving justice … except when thieving proves to be a bit more fun. The comic book story of Bandette treads a thin line between Tintin and Nancy Drew, with a few other costumes thrown in.
Want to know more? We did too, so Dynamic Forces met with writer Paul Tobin to get the skinny on this masked moppet.
Dynamic Forces: Okay, Paul, elephant in the room first: What does it feel like to not only be nominated for an Eisner but to actually WIN an Eisner?
Paul Tobin: Feels pretty good, really! I suggest everyone do it at least once. And it was even better in my case, because I had what I think is the extremely rare pleasure of standing up there with my Eisner in my hand, while my wife was winning her Eisner at the same time, so… yeah. That was nice.
DF: I usually reserve discussion of the artist with a writer until toward the end of an interview, but how is it co-creating Bandette with your wife, Colleen Coover? Do you ever disagree as to the vision of this book, and if so who reigns supreme?
Paul Tobin: Strangely, working with Colleen is very little different than working with any of my other co-creators. I still devise the entire script by myself, working through everything, writing in the same format as usual. Colleen doesn’t even look or talk about the scripts before she’s working on them, so from a professional standpoint it wouldn’t make much difference if she was in Argentina or Madrid. And, luckily, we so far haven’t had any real disagreements on Bandette, but if we DID, I assume that I would win, because I’m the only one with the entry code for the robot battle suit I use in all debates.
DF: I know Bandette has been ongoing awhile, but for the uninitiated tell us about how this book came to be.
Paul Tobin: In a way, it started because of group of fellow creators were frustrated at the inability to tell exactly the stories we wanted to tell, exactly the way we wanted to tell them. Chief among the Disgruntled Friends was Chris Roberson, who, along with his wife Allison Baker, decided to form Monkeybrain Comics, a digital avenue where we could all really cut loose. Chris and Allison asked Colleen and I if we wanted to be one of the flagship titles. And that was a “Yep. Yes. Absolutely. We would like that.”
DF: Now tell us about this femme superthief and the Urchins.
Paul Tobin: Bandette is a teen thief. The world’s BEST thief, in her own mind, and in reality as well! She’s carefree despite that clamor and the chaos that surrounds her life. Definitely good at heart. Certainly enamored of candy bars. And the Urchins are a group of young friends who hang out with her, and who aid in her various thefts and reckless adventures.
DF: Any particular inspiration behind these fantastic characters?
Paul Tobin: Definitely. I’d say Tintin is there. And Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese. And the heist movies of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Matt Helm and Modesty Blaise. Danger Diabolik. The movie, Amelie. Anything with Audrey Hepburn or that’s written by P.G. Wodehouse. The list goes on!
DF: Tell us about the malevolent secret society known as FINIS.
Paul Tobin: Ooo. Bad guys. Led by a real #*@&# named Absinthe… a cold and ruthless overlord who will stop at nothing. He’s the dark side of the series, and it’s a constant balance to keep HIM as truly evil, and Bandette as being unrelentingly charming and carefree. It’s a balance that keeps everything fun, though. The comic is, in many ways, a direct reaction to how so many comics never have a lighter side, how it almost seems illegal for Batman to crack a joke or even smile, whereas I never wanted Bandette to stop having fun, to stop laughing in the face of danger, and knowing that just being with her friends is worth more than any van Gogh painting.
DF: What makes this such a fun character to work with? You and Colleen both certainly seem to enjoy her adventures!
Paul Tobin: I suppose because it’s fun to have fun. I love playing other characters off of Bandette, whether that’s Matadori… Bandette’s most heated rival and possibly best friend, or Daniel… who has a possibly-maybe returned crush on Bandette, or Monsieur, Bandette’s chief contender for the role of the world’s greatest thief. And, then, there’s special inspector B.D. Belgique, the rough and tumble cigarette-puffing policeman who was actually the very first character in the book, invented even before Bandette!
DF: Yours is a digital first comic from Monkeybrain. Talk, in your opinion, digital vs. paper publishing.
Paul Tobin: It has its benefits, for sure. For one, we never run out of stock. If we think we’re going to sell X copies, and we sell 10X copies, we don’t run out of our supply. And then there’s no problem with missing back issues, since they’re always all available, and all without any warehouse fees on our side. Nice! One of the problems that comes to mind is the immediacy of the medium: we published the 1st Bandette only a few days after Colleen finished it, and while it was great to have it in front of an audience so quickly, there was an immediate flood of “Wow! When’s the NEXT one?” Another nice aspect is that I’ve been doing 2 or 3 page “Urchin” stories, stories that focus on the so-called “secondary” characters and bringing Bandette’s whole world to life with the help of guest artists. It wouldn’t be possible in the print world to call up my editor and say, “Hey! I need to do a 3 page comic.”
DF: Bandette’s second collected edition is slated to be released soon, right?
Paul Tobin: April 28th! It concludes the FINIS/Absinthe storyline, and has lots of goodies, including a new prose short story that will intro a new villain and give a good look at a certain character, and some behind the scenes secrets from some of the events we’ve been seeing in the comics.
DF: I hear something is going on with Bandette, Dark Horse and Free Comic Book Day. Can you give us any details?
Paul Tobin: It’s a brand new 8 page story, one that stands alone, but will also serve as the kickoff for the next storyline, “The House of the Green Mask.” I can’t say too much at this point, but it will have some hints of Bandette’s past, and she’ll steal something, and be charming. Also, she’ll eat popcorn. Excitement!
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Paul Tobin for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. As Paul said, Bandette’s second collected edition is due out April 28th!
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