During their panel at Comic-Con International last month, Top Shelf Productions highlighted several projects they'll publish next year, including Gingerbread Girl, a new graphic novel by the husband-and-wife team of writer Paul Tobin and artist Colleen Coover.
The duo, probably best known for their respective work at Marvel right now, took the time to answer a few of my questions about the new project, how they collaborate and what else they're working on.
JK: What's Gingerbread Girl about?
Paul: At heart, it's a strange bird of a character study focused on the main character, Annah, with a changing group of narrators (including a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a magician, a pigeon, a thug, a store clerk, a doctor, an English bulldog, and many more) searching for the truth behind our "Gingerbread Girl," who believes that her mad scientist father extracted a part of her brain (the Penfield Homunculus) and used it to create a sister for Annah.
Colleen: The book explores the reasons for Annah's emotional distance, too.
JK: Did you have fun coming up with the different voices for each narrator?
Paul: Very much so. I tried to make each of them very distinct, and to vary their knowledge levels. One of the narrators, for instance, is a thug who really doesn't care about Annah or the mystery. He just wants beer. Anything besides that is completely secondary to him... an afterthought. Another narrator is an eminent neurologist who sees things entirely in medical terms. Another narrator is a pigeon that... isn't very smart. The whole crux of the mystery plays with these different voices, so it was very important that they be distinct.
JK: Did you come up with the idea together, or did one of you "recruit" the other to work on it?
Paul: The idea was mine, and I "recruited" Colleen to work on it. She would probably use a different word than "recruit."
Colleen: You didn't exactly say "Wife, Do This Thing," though. I mean I wanted to do it, you know? We love collaborating. Gingerbread Girl is the most recent book we've done together that wasn't superheroes.
JK: Speaking of which, you've both been pretty busy at Marvel lately. What made you decide to pursue an original graphic novel?
Paul: Certain types of stories need to be your own. This wouldn't have worked within the context of anything but a creator-owned project. Beyond that, I started in the indy field, and I will always want to straddle the fence. Writers that choose one type of writing, or one company, always seem a bit strange to me. Be loyal to the writing... not the genre.
Colleen: And you just like to mix things up sometimes, so you don't get bored of doing the same thing always.
JK: How do the two of you collaborate? Does Paul write a full script and then pass it to Colleen, or is it more organic than that? I'd imagine having the writer and artist under the same roof would have some advantages.
Paul: I always work with full script. I know, of course, the types of things that Colleen likes to draw, so I skewed things in the direction of her tastes.
Colleen: Although he does like to throw me a curve ball and have me draw something out of my comfort zone every once in a while, just to keep me on my toes! Which is awesome because it helps me grow as an artist and storyteller.
JK: How did this project land at Top Shelf?
Paul: We've always had an immense amount of respect for Top Shelf, and it was always in the back of our minds to collaborate with them some day. And Chris Staros and Brett Warnock have been longtime supporters of Colleen's work, so they were feeling the same from their side. Then, after Colleen and I moved to Portland we ended up living just a few blocks from Brett... and our "inevitable" timeline was considerably shortened.
Colleen: This is a very Top Shelf kind of book, I think. It's more of a "Contemporary Fiction" story than a "genre" piece, and that's what they do best.
JK: Are there plans to serialize it online before publication?
Paul: Absolutely. We'll be putting it on Top Shelf's swanky website a few pages at a time over the course of several months. We're really excited about the advantages of online serialization... there's something about a series of bite-sized bits that makes the end result all the more savory.
JK: What else are the two of you working on, separately or together? And do you any other creator-owned projects in mind after this one?
Paul: I'm currently working on Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man, and Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes, and Conan for Dark Horse, and another soon-to-be announced project for Dark Horse, and a new ongoing title for Marvel, and two other unannounced projects for Marvel. And... uhh... I think that's it. I'm also mulling over a new creator-owned project with Colleen. Most definitely.
Colleen: My four-issue backup in Thor & the Warriors Four, which teamed up the Power Pack with Hercules, just wrapped up. And now I'm writing and drawing another short piece for an upcoming book at Marvel, while contemplating what I want to do next for an independent project.
JK: You guys weren't at Comic-Con. Why did you decide to stay home this year?
Paul: Because the SDCC is an enormous Godzilla-sized cat that likes to sharpen its claws on what vestiges of sanity we have left. Also, deadlines just weren't permitting this year. With all of our various projects we couldn't take the week off before the con (necessary for preparation) or the week of the con (necessary because, duh, the con) or the week after the con, necessary for recuperation and settling bar tabs.