Last summer we gave you an exclusive interior art reveal on Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini, a new series from Hard Case Crime, an imprint of Titan Comics that’s been bringing you pulp noir comic goodness for a few years now. Written and illustrated by Cynthia von Buhler, whose had more jobs than your wildest career goals (that’s playwright-producer-illustrator-performance artist-musician-children’s author for those keeping score), Minky Woodcock delves into a mystery surrounding Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini.
The prohibition-era detective thriller sees Minky taking over the case at her father’s famous detective agency. Though the comic is a work of fiction, it draws on real events to inform the story. You can see some of the artifacts from von Buhler’s research on her website.
Today we’ve got more exclusive Minky news for you. The series has been collected into a 128 page hardcover volume slated for release this August, and we’re premiering the trailer for the collection here at The Beat!
Like what you see? Well there’s even more Minky coming your way. In addition to the Hardcover collection, which hits the shelves on August 21, von Buhler recently announced on twitter that a second series of Minky is forthcoming. While no date is set, the book centers on an investigation into “the mysterious death of the beautiful Ziegfeld girl, Olive Thomas.”
The new story will feature Minky (visually modeled after burlesque performer Pearls Daily) alongside none other than Josephine Baker (modeled by burlesque performer Delysia LaChatte, who herself performs as Baker).
Can’t wait for that next volume? This fall New York-area Minky fans will have the opportunity to truly immerse themselves in her universe, as von Buhler is set to produce a Minky Woodcock stage show along the lines of her other successful immersive theatrical adventures Speakeasy Dollhouse and The Illuminati Ball. The show will star Daily truly bringing to life the titular comic character modeled on her work.
You can take a gander at the unique woodcut look of von Buhler’s art in some pages from Minky below, including a final page that you’ll only see here on The Beat. But before we get to the peepshow, I grabbed a few words from von Buhler herself on the origins of her love of Houdini, historical fiction, comic books and the real-life figures who inspired her to write about a prohibition-era lady detective.
Edie Nugent: When did you first become interested in Houdini?
Cynthia von Buhler: I’m a bit of an amateur magician myself. I used to raise doves and I learned how to make them appear and disappear. It’s not hard, it’s all about the performance. As an artist, I’ve always been intrigued by Houdini. He was the ultimate performance artist. His timing, bravado and skill are second to none. I also think Houdini was attractive because his personality seemed multi-faceted. In many of his photos he is scantily clad, heavily chained and in peril. In others he is in a suit, strong and triumphant. I like the fact that he’s not afraid to show vulnerability. I tried to show those characteristics in Minky’s personality as well. If Minky was a real person I do think Houdini would have been attracted to her. Often I find that those who are the strongest like to let go and let someone else take the lead sexually at times.
Nugent: You’ve cited burlesque performer Pearls Daily as the inspiration for the look of Minky Woodcock, but who inspired her character? Is she based on any historical figures?
von Buhler: Pearls Daily was a fantastic model. Minky Woodcock definitely has her beauty, spunk and sweetness. She looks good even when kicking ass.
Minky is compassionate. She spares the life of someone who tried to kill her. Like me, Minky is exceedingly curious and wants to know the truth. She’s no dummy. She knows seances are scams. But, like all humans, she’s flawed. She lies, commits adultery, and drinks far too much.
Historically, many women were hired as private investigators back then. One such company who hired ladies to snoop was The Pinkerton Detective Agency. Pinkerton hired Kate Warne as a detective 64 years before women could vote. Warne’s first case was to befriend the wife of train robber in order to find out where the money was hidden. Even Josephine Baker was a spy at one point. She was such a fascinating woman and my choreographer, Delysia la Chatte, does an incredible impersonation of her. Delysia was the the nurse in The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini. She wanted to be a villain. She’ll be Josephine Baker in the next Minky episode about the mysterious poisoning death of Ziegfeld girl and the first flapper, Olive Thomas.
Nugent: Have you always been a fan of the historical fiction genre?
von Buhler: I loved to read non-fiction as a young girl. I devoured books about beheaded queens such as Anne Boleyn and Mary Queen of Scots. I’ve also read every British historic fiction book I could get my hands on. I’m a diehard Anglophile. I suppose it makes sense that my current publisher, Titan Comics, is based in the United Kingdom. Brits understand and appreciate darkness.
Nugent: Your popular immersive theatre event, Speakeasy Dollhouse, shares a time period with Minky Woodcock. What is it about the prohibition era that provides you with such fertile creative ground?
von Buhler: I became interested in investigative work because of the mysterious, unexplained murder of my bootlegging grandfather in New York City. My mother was born the day he died so we never knew him. He was a mythic figure who ran speakeasies with my grandmother in New York City. I always thought he was in the mafia. My investigation, and the Speakeasy Dollhouse immersive play, proved otherwise. I’ve also researched and held an immersive play in an old Broadway theater about the mysterious poisoning death of the Ziegfeld girl, Olive Thomas. That will be Minky’s next adventure. There are so many more Prohibition-era crimes I want to investigate. Ms. Woodcock has her work cut out for her.
Ah, the roaring twenties! In the twenties women were finally ripping off their binding corsets and bobbing their hair. The twenties were a time when women started to roar — and they are roaring still.
Nugent: You’ve worked as a writer and illustrator of children’s books, but this was your first serialized comic story. What was it like adapting your art to a monthly comic schedule where you are both the writer and the artist?
von Buhler: The writing is approved first and I thank my wonderful editor, Charles Ardai, for his hard work on this series. Doing all the drawings under such a tight deadline was incredibly hard! I was on a grueling art schedule. The children’s books I wrote and illustrated (But Who Will Bell the Cats and The Cat Who Wouldn’t Come Inside) were also very time consuming because I built dollhouse set and puppets for them, but children’s publishers give you more time and the book is always delivered a year before it is released.
I was working on Minky issues a month before they were being released. It was insane. I was drawing every waking moment. For the next episode I want to plan a little better and make time to swim everyday before I draw so my body doesn’t fall apart.
Nugent: How does it feel to have the hardcover coming out, collecting all of your work on Minky Woodcock into one volume?
von Buhler: I was thrilled to learn that the series did so well that I earned a hardcover artist edition. A hardcover book is much more tangible than a comic.
Nugent: You’d mentioned in the past you’d planned for Minky Woodcock to possibly become a play, is that still in the works?
von Buhler: Yes. All of my plays are immersive which means they blur the line between actor and audience and allow freedom of movement and interaction. I’m currently having Houdini’s Water Torture Cell replicated for the show. Pearls Daily will play Minky. I’m hoping to open the play in October so it coincides with the dates in the comic books and culminates with Houdini’s death on Halloween.
I lost my planned venue for this play because it was owned by a Catholic church. They called my book “pornographic” and sent me packing. I’m currently hunting for a new location. It’s not easy to find a space large enough to hold a theater, hotel room, a mansion parlor, a backstage, a dressing room, a coroner’s office, a hospital and a speakeasy in New York City. Don’t worry, I’ll find it. I’m tenacious.
Nugent: What were some of your favorite comics growing up, and what are you reading now?
von Buhler: I loved Batman’s interactions with Catwoman. I was especially intrigued when Batman was tied up and trying to escape only to be rescued by Catwoman. I also enjoyed James Bond films where he was often rescued by strong, beautiful women. Even as a girl I was all about women being powerful and in control of their own destiny.
Currently I’m reading reading a novel titled There Are No Children Here about two boys growing up in Chicago’s projects. I’m also reading my friend Dean Haspiel’s wonderful new comic, The Red Hook. Dean drew the cover for Issue 4 of The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini.
Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini
Written and illustrated by Cynthia Von Buhler
HC, 9781785863974, $24.99, On sale: August 21, 2018