|PAUL TOBIN & ALBERTO ALBURQUERQUE
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DF Interview: Paul Tobin, Alberto Alburquerque answer questions – any question – about Mystery Girl
By Byron Brewer
Mystery Girl is a new ongoing series from Dark Horse Comics about a girl who knows everything. Her name is Trine Hampstead, and if you ask her a question, any question, no matter how big or small, she’ll know the answer. As you might expect, she puts her skills to good use as a detective, but there’s a catch: She doesn’t know anything about her own past.
Writer Paul Tobin and artist Alberto Alburquerque will unleash this most unusual book upon comicdom in December, but before then they sat down with Dynamic Forces to give us the full 411 on Ms. Hampstead and her world.
Dynamic Forces: Paul, tell us about how this new ongoing book from Dark Horse came about.
Paul Tobin: For some time, I’ve been wanting to do a book with mystery elements, but I’ve been mulling over how to do a fresh take, a new angle, where the mystery elements were there but that didn’t fall into the “and each clue is another step towards the end of the mystery and the book” formula. Then, I thought, “What if it were mystery stories, but the stories weren’t about the mysteries?” The result of those thoughts formed the basis for Mystery Girl, and I’ve had such fun working with Dark Horse on titles like my creator-owned horror series Colder (with artist Juan Ferreyra) that I decided to land it there, and editor Brendan Wright has been a great guy to work on my creator-owned Bandette series with artist Colleen Coover, so it just seemed like a natural fit.
DF: Name dropper! (smiles) … Oookay. Was this book inspired by any particular work of fiction or other media?
Paul Tobin: I can’t say that any one particular piece was a go-to inspiration. It’s more inspired by entire genres, like mystery, though like a lot of my works I could cite Nancy Drew and Tintin as inspirations. I don’t really try to capture the feel of either of those works, but the basics of how to tell a story come from those works, as well as things like Caniff’s Terry & the Pirates strips.
DF: Tell us about the girl called Trine Hampstead.
Paul Tobin: She’s a young London woman who, when presented with any mystery, can instantly tell you the solution. She’s already solved everything. That’s her ability: if there’s a mystery, then Trine has solved it. This allows our book to be about the ramifications of solving mysteries rather than the mysteries themselves. Mystery books traditionally end when the mysteries are solved, but in reality life goes on, and our stories look at what happens once the mysteries are solved. And one more thing: the only mystery that Trine can’t solve is the mystery of how she can do what she does, where the ability comes from. That’s a frustrating aspect of Trine’s life, that she has this personal mystery, a huge one, that evades her.
DF: Alberto, did you do any character designs for the book? Was there a character you had difficulty with?
Alberto Alburquerque: Yes, before every project I usually draw some designs for the main characters. Trine was a tough one because she’s the most important one and it requires a lot of study (for example, we decided she was black in the process of design).
Paul Tobin: Yeah. I had a look in mind for Trine. She needs to be a little jaded, a little experimental, a bit insolent, and entirely wise. It did take a time for us to nail down her hair, her clothes, everything.
DF: Tell us a little about your approach to interpreting Paul’s plots.
Alberto Alburquerque: Paul’s scripts are really clear and he’s so nice as to include a lot of visual references for me in them so I almost only have to worry about the general layout of the page. Usually, I don’t change a lot of things from the original scripts. However, if I see something in a different way, I always ask first or do the change in the storyboard step and see if Paul and Brendan like it.
DF: What has been the most rewarding or the most difficult aspect of drawing Mystery Girl?
Alberto Alburquerque: The most rewarding aspect has been working with Paul in a longer project. We’ve been trying to work together for some years now and we’ve done some short stories but nothing of this magnitude. Also, co-owning the series is a great feeling! Haha. The most difficult thing is probably drawing the covers. It’s really tough to find the right image and, besides that, I wanted to paint them traditionally…so extra tough! Although once you’re happy with one cover, it’s really rewarding too, so you can include this on the previous point! (laughs)
DF: Character is usually king in any Tobin book. How will each of you go about handling that crucial aspect of this comic as it pertains to Trine?
Alberto Alburquerque: It’s all Paul’s fault!! Hah! Seriously, Paul has things really figured out and I try to give the characters what Paul wants to see in them. Always putting something of me in them, of course. I try to make the characters move in a determinate way or have some facial expressions that define them. In Trine’s case, she has a lot of attitude! She may be young but she’s been through a lot and that makes her really strong. I hope you can see that through the drawings as well as through Paul’s dialogue.
Paul Tobin: Part of what I wanted to do is to establish Trine by how others see her, so we’ll see a LOT of cases that Trine deals with. Each issue has a look at several mysteries she’s solved, and then we have a big over-arcing mystery that’s the basis for the first storyline. I think that side characters are so often overlooked as a way of establishing character, but the basic truth is that no matter how strong a character you have, they fall flat if they don’t exist in a believable world, so that was a major focus for me.
DF: If each of you had to explain this book to a new reader, how would that explanation go?
Alberto Alburquerque: I’ve tried to explain the plot several times but if I had to define the series with a short line, I’d say it’s a short of X-Files in which some of the supernatural stuff is happening to Scully. The series has mystery, supernatural elements, big plotting, action…It’s a cool one to draw!
Paul Tobin: Flat out adventure and mystery, starring a woman who knows everything, but can’t foresee the ramifications of what that means.
DF: Storywise and visually, what can we look forward to in Mystery Girl?
Alberto Alburquerque: A lot of intrigue, mystery, action…What I said before. Visually, I’ll always try to adapt to the situation. If the script requires action, I’ll try to do it as spectacularly as I can. If it requires pause, I’ll try to make it interesting, and so on. But again, it’s all Paul’s fault! (smiles)
Paul Tobin: The first storyline deals with the extremely well preserved remains of a mammoth, the location of which was lost in the 1930s. The answer to that mystery continually surprises Trine, step by step, and drags her out from her comfortable London home to embark on an adventure. There’s a nasty hit man, some wonderful strippers, a slew of mysteries, and a main character with a medium-strong grasp of reality, and a tight grasp of getting s**t done.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Paul Tobin and Alberto Alburquerque for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer our questions. Mystery Girl #1 hits stores in December!
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