By Bruce Lidl
There’s lots of excitement for the Monkeybrain crew at Comic-Con, with a slew of new titles announced to celebrate the digital first company’s successful first year. But nothing would cap this amazing year like an Eisner Award, and Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin’s Bandette will be carrying the Monkeybrain banner high tonight, with 4 nominations, including Best New Series, Best Digital Comic, Best Penciler/Inker and Best Coloring.
At a quiet hotel lounge, away from the madness of the show floor, I got a chance to chat with the husband and wife team of Paul and Colleen, as seems fitting to discuss a title that is beautifully out of step with the roar of macho super heroes and pneumatically proportioned warrior-princesses that dominate the San Diego Con.
The couple were duly excited about both the commercial and critical success of Bandette, a whimsical tale by of teen-aged cat burglars in France written by Paul and illustrated by Colleen in spectacular ink-wash. They were especially gratified to receive Eisner recognition of Bandette as a story and for its artwork, as it is the only digital first comic nominated in the Penciling and Color nominees. Colleen devoted an “enormous” amount of work to getting the look and color right, and has received so many inquiries from other artists about her process that she is going to be including a section about the topic in the hardcover version of the book, slated to come out from Dark Horse in November.
“The reception of Bandette has been incredible, and it started immediately. We literally had to push up the release date of the book, as when it was announced last July there was so much interest, and because it was in digital format, comiXology was able to hit the button to make it available a day earlier than we planned!” according to Paul.
The digital aspect of the book, and working with Monkeybrain, is something that Paul and Colleen could not say enough good things about. “I am risk averse,” says Colleen, so being able to put out an independent book without having to worry about the upfront investment of printing costs, and then having “essentially infinite inventory” was a game changer for the couple. And they were not shy about emphasizing the role price has played in Bandette’s success. “99 cents is a GOOD price,” says Paul, “as for most people, it doesn’t feel like money, it’s a very easy click and purchase, especially to try for the first time.” And Colleen (“the one who has the spreadsheets” according to them) is a firm believer in the advantage of lower prices. “At lower prices, we sell more, and end up with more money in the end, than if we had tried it at 1.99 or 2.99.”
Bandette is easily Monkeybrain’s best seller, and Paul and Colleen love their working relationship with the company’s owners Allison Baker and Chris Roberson, whose passion for creativity and creators’ rights are clearly in line with team Bandette. Paul and Colleen retain all Bandette rights, and chose to work with Dark Horse for the hardcover version, unlike many other Monkeybrain creators who went with IDW or Image. “Dark Horse aggressively pursued us for the print version, like Apollo after Daphne,” laughed Paul. Yet a number of factors went into the decision, including his long-standing relationship with Dark Horse, their proximity in the Oregon comics community and how impressed they were with Dark Horse’s previous print publication of Jeff Parker and Erika Moen’s Bucko.
Coover and Tobin are intrigued by some of the innovations they are seeing in the digital world, everything from “Mark Waid” style comics like Batman ‘66 (which Colleen referred to as “flip, flip, flip” books) to motion comics, something that Paul in particular feels has great if untapped potential. But Bandette is not really the place for those kinds of stylistic experiments, according to Colleen, as the book really does try to evoke what she calls the great “Eurocentric” comics they loved as kids, from Tintin to Diablolik (even if the amount of smoking and “canoodling” by certain Bandette characters do make for tricky age guidelines).
The future appears bright for the Coover/Tobin team and for their daring teenage heroine Bandette. The financial success of the title will allow them to continue with it aggressively and while Paul has many, many projects going at a number of publishers, Colleen relishes the opportunity to focus her work primarily on Bandette for the time being. And until their dream collaborator of Brad Bird comes calling to do a Bandette Pixar movie (for the record: that is not happening!), expect to see many more adventures of Bandette and her Urchins appearing on your iPads and Androids in the coming months.