Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin discussed a number of ongoing and upcoming projects at their Spotlight panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego, as well as giving an overview of their early careers. They started in the early '90s, with Tobin's first anthology "Attitude Lad," featuring Coover as an artist, and Coover's first solo project, "Small Favors: Girly Porno Comic Book." They moved through the pair's first all-ages book, "Banana Sunday," a 4-issue series published by Oni Press in 2005, and into Tobin's stint at Marvel, working on the Marvel Adventures all-ages line.
"I really tried to make it an all-ages line," Tobin said. "I'm so sick of when people say, 'all-ages, so you mean 7 and above?' No, 8 and above is actually an age."
It was at Marvel, under editor Nate Cosby, that the duo developed their commitment to characterization. While Tobin oversaw the Marvel Adventures line, Coover was drawing lighthearted one-page backup stories for "X-Men: First Class." Of these stories, Tobin said, "There have been periods in comics when creators tend to forget that's it's ok to just have a fun story where two characters get together and actually have a good time. Maybe they don't save the world, but they have some nice ice cream and a couple of laughs, and that's really great."
"No matter what genre," Tobin said, "to me the most important thing is always the characterization. If characters can't talk, then I don't really care who wins in a fight." Characterization came to the fore with "Gingerbread Girl," the pair's original graphic novel, serialized online and published by Top Shelf in 2011. Coover described it as, "a bizarre little art film of a book," in which a girl believes that her father has taken part of her brain and used it to create a clone.
Their next project was the current series, "Bandette," described by Coover as "a faux-French crime caper about the world's greatest thief. It's faux-French because neither of us are French, or read speak French, or speak French, or really know much about France. We stayed there for three weeks once." Tobin and Coover listed a number of inspirations for the series: girl detectives, cat burglars, heist movies, Modesty Blaise, and a lot of Tintin. A launch title for digital publisher Monkeybrain Comics, "Bandette" won an Eisner award in 2013 for Best Digital Comic.
The first five issues of "Bandette" are collected into a hardcover edition from Dark Horse, "Bandette: Presto!" Coover announced that the second volume, "Bandette: Stealers Keepers," collecting issues 6-9, is due out from Dark Horse in Spring 2015. Like the first hardcover, the book will contain extra material. The volume's cover, though not finalized, was premiered at the panel.
Tobin also announced an upcoming run of ten issues for his Eisner-nominated horror series, "Colder," coming out in October. The slow-burn series published by Dark Horse and illustrated by Juan Ferreyra, has been a breakout book for Tobin, formerly pigeonholed as an all-ages writer. "Now there are people who go, 'You're a horror guy, why do you do all-ages stuff?'" he laughed.
The first issue's cover, drawn by Ferreyra and inspired by the tagline "Dark Horse gets under your skin," frightened Dark Horse editor Scott Allie's wife so much that she refused to be in the room with it. After hearing this, Tobin opened the artwork and Coover also refused to enter the room. "So as a good husband, I set it as my screen saver for two weeks," said Tobin.
Coover showed her art from "Batman '66," an 8-page story with the series' first appearance of Yvonne Craig as Batgirl, as well as Eartha Kitt as Catwoman. "Previous to this story, our other studio mate, Jonathan Case, had drawn Julie Newmar as Catwoman. So when we introduced the Eartha Kitt version, that was just it, we didn't explain it. We didn't say why this was a different Catwoman, just like on TV."
Tobin teased more to come from another of his series, "Plants vs. Zombies." He has two other current titles based on video games: "The Witcher" and "Angry Birds." He said that while it was enjoyable to work on all of these books, they have dampened his ability to use video games as a mental break from writing: "now all of my go-to games are, like, 'oh man, I need to get that script done.'" Coover and Tobin worked together on an Adventure Time story that played off the video game trope of the questing board, "The Flip Side." With art by Wook-Jin Clark, the series is published by BOOM!
During the panel, promotional masks were distributed for Tobin's new book with Oni Press, "I Was the Cat." The hardcover, due out on August 6, was available as an early release at the Oni Press booth during Comic-Con. The story plays on the image of a villain with a cat: "I got to thinking, what if all of these historical cats that we see, what if they were all the same cat. What if this was his nine lives, and he was the overlord, he was the one trying to take over the world."
Tobin is also working on a crossover for between Prometheus, Aliens, and Predators. Tobin and three other writers (Chris Roberson, Joshua Williamson, Chris Sebela) are combining the worlds into one "mega-story" under the direction of Dark Horse editor-in-chief Scott Allie.
In the prose world, Tobin has an upcoming series of middle-grade novels with Bloomsbury, tentatively titled "Pay Attention to Egghead." with the first set to publish in early 2016. "Writing prose is very strange because having worked in comics for decades, there are times when I'm working on a script and the comic that I'm working on will come out three or four months from then. But I'm working on the third book for this right now and it won't be out until 2018. It's really strange to think that far ahead of time. It's a different type of discipline."
There was time for only one question from the audience, which was directed at Coover: "You seem to mostly draw people that are enjoying themselves. Is that true, and why do you think that is?" Coover replied that she discovered while drawing "Gingerbread Girl" that drawing people that weren't having fun made her sad, so she has since tried to stick to happy things. "The whole function of Bandette is to have fun, that's her entire reason for being," said Coover. "Even when I'm drawing the really evil bad guy, he's having fun, it's just really evil and bad. He's actually one of my favorite characters to draw because of that."