Interview: Paul Tobin on Dark Horse’s Mystery Girl

Mystery Girl #1

Mystery Girl #1

Paul Tobin is the writer of such comics as Bandette, Colder, Jungle Jim, The Witcher, and more. His new series from Dark Horse, Mystery Girl, features a woman with an amazing power who has no idea where the power came from. Westfield’s Roger Ash recently contacted Tobin to learn more about this upcoming series.

Westfield: From the solicitation, we know that Trine Hampstead can answer any question except for why she knows these things and what happened the last 10 years of her life. What direction do you take that premise in the series? A different way to ask it is… is this a mystery book, an adventure book, etc?

Paul Tobin: I consider it an adventure book with a mystery background. I love the classic like the Tintin books, and Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese, and such things as Caniff’s Terry & the Pirates, and I wanted to bring some of those elements into the comics, all seen through the eye of what I really enjoy in storytelling, which is the exploration of character. As a reader, I never enjoy any premise unless I enjoy the characters involved, and if I enjoy the characters, I find that I can enjoy almost any premise. So, that’s where I focus, on the characters, and then I just let the stories explode from there. In Mystery Girl, I’m keeping things pretty grounded in the real world, but there will be touches of fantasy, too. I never want Trine to be too comfortable.

Westfield: What was the genesis of the series?

Tobin: I’ve been wanting to do a mystery comic for a long time, but I couldn’t ever quite settle on exactly how I wanted to do it, the hook that would make my story different than a hundred others. But one thing that I’ve always had in my mind is the ramifications of stories. Those women that Batman saves in the alley still have to go on with their lives. Those guys that Mike Hammer beat up in the alley have to pay their hospital bills. And, when Sherlock Holmes solves a mystery, he walks off, but he leaves behind all these people who have to go on with their lives after finding out, for instance, that the oldest son was the murderer, and that the family’s fortunes are in ruin. THAT’S what I wanted to talk about in mystery stories, the gut punch of what happens afterwards. So, I decided it was a mystery story, but the detective… Trine, in this case… could simply KNOW all the answers. And then we find out that knowing all the answers leads to a whole lot of problems.

Westfield: What can you tell us about Trine?

Tobin: She’s a vibrant young woman with an ability she can’t really understand, and that haunts her some, because she can’t solve the mystery of how she became like she is. At the same time, she loves art, and she loves helping people, and she’s a fan of having a good drink now and then. She’s a bit ruthless, too, when she needs to be, because she’s a woman that knows that sometimes there’s no mystery at all: sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

Westfield: Aside from Trine, who are some of the other characters we’ll meet?

Tobin: There’s Algie, who’s Trine’s mentor in a manner of speaking, since he’s a flamboyant detective… but how much detective mentoring can you do for a woman who already knows the answers. And there’s a whole group of regular sidewalk friends, since Trine sets up her daily “office” quite literally on the sidewalk. Plus there’s Ken, a policeman who is almost-but-not-exactly Trine’s boyfriend. And there’s a killer I’ve been having a lot of fun writing: a smirking bit of evil that’s good with a gun and bad with morality.

Westfield: What can readers look forward to in the story?

Tobin: Interesting characters and a romping adventure. I think it’s important to blend the two. It’s like how comics as a medium are a blend of words and pictures, and fail if they don’t both carry their weight. That’s how I feel about a good story: it needs the action, but also the characters within the action.

Westfield: You’re working with artist Alberto Alburquerque on Mystery Girl. What can you say about your collaboration with him?

Tobin: It’s been great! Some of the things I look for in a co-creator are a strong sense of storytelling, which he has, and ability to draw actual crowd scenes, which he has, and consistent characters with emotional range, which Alberto can do. Really, his only weakness is that he’s a fan of the wrong soccer team, the arch rivals of my favorite team, but I forgive him for this failing because he’s so good in so many other ways.

Westfield: Are there other projects you’re working on that you’d like to mention?

Bandette Vol. 1: Presto!

Bandette Vol. 1: Presto!

Tobin: There’s Bandette, my collaboration with my wife. We’ve been very happy with the reception our charming teen thief has elicited, with seven Eisner nominations to date. And of course there’s Colder, my horror series with Juan Ferreyra. The Toss the Bones arc, the third and final arc, is currently being released. Juan and I are kicking around ideas for what we want to do together next, and I can say it’s going to be great. I’ve also been having fun on the Plants vs. Zombies comics, and I’ll start releasing my first series of novels near the start of the new year, a five-book series with Bloomsbury. It’s called Genius Factor, the adventures Nathan Bannister, a 5th grade genius as he fights against the Red Death Tea Society, in stories seen through the eyes of his classmate Delphine Cooper. And there are other novels and comics I can’t talk about yet, so I keep quite busy.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Tobin: Just that, it’s an amazing time both as a creator and a reader for comics, and it’s fantastic to be a part of both sides!


Mystery Girl #1


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