Interview with Colleen Coover & Paul Tobin of Bandette
As part of my New York Special Edition coverage I got to spend some time with Paul Tobin & Colleen Coover, the dynamic duo behind the multiply Eisner nominated series, Bandette. Everyone knows I love a good girl caper, so how could I resist interviewing these two?
How would you describe Bandette?
Paul Tobin: Just a charming, carefree adventure tale about a teen thief. In many ways it was a reaction to how grim most adventure characters tend to be: I wanted a character who faced an amazing array of problems, but was resolutely happy in her life, and who was strong enough, character-wise, to earn that happiness.
Colleen Coover: I always describe it as a faux-French crime caper. “Faux” in that Paul and I are Americans making an American comic that is set in Europe, with a very European sensibility.
I love that Bandette gets to be flirty and a little full of herself. What were the influences that went into building her as a character?
PT: Oh… SO many. Nancy Drew, Mary Marvel, Tintin, European comics as a whole, Danger Diabolik, classic heist films, Modesty Blaise, Audrey Hepburn, the movie Amélie, every pretty girl who’s ever rode past me on a bicycle, the Weimar “cabaret” years, my love of art and collecting, heck…you can probably even toss in the corny Elvis movies. Bandette is an amalgam of everything I love.
CC: For me, Bandette is very much an Audrey Hepburn type, especially Hepburn as she was in Roman Holiday, How To Steal A Million, and Charade, in ascending order.
A lot of people reference 60’s Batman when talking about Bandette. Do you agree with that?
PT: It’s not really an influence on my part. It’s a different kind of whimsy.
CC: A lot of tropes sneak into Bandette that were common in the Silver Age of American comics, I think mostly unconsciously. There’s the secret lair, Bandette’s apparently unlimited material resources, helpful labeling of props like “Knockout Spray,” to mention a few. There’s a sequence I specifically asked Paul to write where Bandette changes into her street clothes; it was very similar to a scene in Batgirl’s first comic book appearance, but I don’t remember stealing it. I probably have that scene so firmly ingrained in my brain I thought it was new!
Bandette’s fashion is very classic, but chic and gives the book a timeless (or even out-of-time) feel. What considerations went in to designing her look?
PT: We wanted it to be classic looking, indeed, and very simple. It’s always a mistake to overly design a costume, because it’s just a stumbling block artistically, and I think it can say negative things about a character. Bandette is about freedom…she’s not go to have a complex costume. Plus, this way, it’s easier to cosplay! One thing we do in the series…something that was a very conscious decision on Colleen’s part…is use the “Tintin” method of fashion, in that the main characters always wear the same clothes, for the most part, except in special circumstances. It tags the characters much better.
CC: I sort of channel a number of creators, though I don’t try to copy them directly. When I’m drawing B.D. Belgique, I think of the works of Jacques Tardi, when I draw Daniel, maybe I think of Dupuy and Berberian. Other characters and situations come from Hergé, or Uderzo, or Jordi Bernet, or Alex Toth. I think the influence on me for Bandette’s overall look and characterization is probably Hayao Miyazaki, though I just thought of that now. Sometimes the work that influences you is a surprise!
You both have racked up another batch of Eisner nominations for this book. What’s that mean for you?
PT: It’s nice, of course. And it opens some doors. In some ways, I’m more happy with the Eisner nods for my creator-owned Colder series, and my I Was The Cat graphic novel. Or, I should say I’m happier with them in addition to all the nominations for Bandette, since it’s a nod that I’m consistently knowing what I’m doing, which is a relief, since it never feels that way.
CC: Particularly in current times, with all the comics of such very high quality from so many publishers being produced, it’s intensely gratifying to have our work mentioned alongside all these others!
What’s the best thing about working on Bandette?
PT: Whimsy. I get to be charming and happy. And I get to inject the story full of adventure, which I love, and of course I get to play it off some really nasty villains, which means I have this razor edge of keeping things charming, always a smile on Bandette’s face, which is a fantastic challenge that I adore.
CC: I like being able to continually develop the world of Bandette issue by issue, and being able to sharpen up my art with this single project over time. I also love finding out what happens next each issue!
What can we look forward to coming up for the book?
PT: The next arc is called “The House of The Green Mask,” and it plays with the villain that was introduced in the prose story contained in the second collected hardcover. He’s a nasty piece of work, he is. Beyond that, more rivalries, more thefts, and probably a chase scene or two.
CC: Bandette gets angry! For a little while. And she eats popcorn!
What else are you both up to?
PT: I’m working on a few titles, right now. For Dark Horse, I’m working on my creator-owned Colder series, as well as Plants vs. Zombies and Witcher. For American Gothic Press I writing Gunsuits, and also Bornhome. And I’m scribing Angry Birds for Rovio/IDW. There are also three unannounced series, at this point. And then my Genius Factor series of middle readers prose novels begins in March of 2016, and there will be another book every nine months after. Also, there are two other novel series currently being shaped up to be shopped out. So…I keep fairly busy. There’s probably some other things I’m forgetting, to be honest.
CC: I am working exclusively on Bandette, aside from the occasional bit of cover art for various other comics here and there!