An interview with Paul Tobin

Posted June 25, 2014 by Oscar Russell in Comic Books

We got the chance to chat with Eisner award winning Comic creator Paul Tobin recently, about his current ongoing project and his illustrious back catalogue. 

We talk about everything, from the Internets favourite animal, to video games.

Without any further ado, lets see what Paul had to say

We The Nerdy: How does an Eisner award winner get on a book like Angry Birds? Were you approached or did you hear about the project and you approach them?

Paul Tobin: The genesis of both myself and Jeff Parker writing for Rovio came when they contacted Periscope Studio, where we work, for the possibility of providing artwork. There was a bit of back and forth with that, but little came of it, other than Cat Farris doing some work for them. But, during talks, they mentioned that they would need writers, too, and I got along so well with the Rovio people that I thought it would be fun, and an interesting challenge. I think Jeff felt the same, and also it was a way for us to work together. Writers rarely have a chance to work with each other, since we’re doing the same job, so when unique opportunities come along, you take them. Bouncing ideas around with Jeff is hellishly fun. And of course we’ve both found our niche with the Angry Birds, our favorite characters to write, unique ways to approach the stories, so it’s been very gratifying!

WTN: So you have now covered birds, pigs, and cats in your work, any plans for dogs??AngryBirds-01-pr-1-0c8281-666x1024

PT: No immediate plans. But that would provide me a reason to hang out with dogs, more. Hanging out with dogs is awesome. I’d say that cats are more judgmental, but honestly they don’t judge at all… they don’t much care. You can tell a cat, “I just wrote an awesome story!” and they’ll say, “Shush. Taking a nap, here”. But if you tell a dog “I just wrote an awesome story!” they’ll say, “Of COURSE you did, because you are awesome!” And if you tell a dog, “I just wrote a horrible story!” they’ll say, “Doesn’t matter, my friend, because you are AWESOME!” So there’s a level of comfort, there.

WTN: You have written a few comics based on video games now, what draws you to these? Is it the working with familiar franchises, or expanding on an already existing universe?

PT: Games, by their very nature, are adventures. And I’m very adventure-oriented. Stories in many comics, especially in the superhero genre, tend to be reactive. Meaning, somebody is doing something bad, and the protagonist is off to stop them. But games have so many side elements to that… so many quest oriented side-plots… that it feels like this grand and epic adventure, and that has a draw to me.

WTN: I am assuming you are a big fan of games based on the number of comics you write based on them. What platform do you usually play and apart from the comics you write based on the games, what other games are you into?

PT: I do love playing games, and have pretty much all the platforms. I use games as a way to rest my mind, since I’m almost always thinking of stories. Playing a game takes all my mind, though, so it shuts off the spigot for a while, which is nice. Apart from the games I’ve written for, I also enjoy Borderlands, and Skyrim, and then things like Animal Crossing and Katamari Damacy. I’m really looking forward to the release of The Order: 1886, because that looks right up my alley.

24213WTN: Are there some games you play and love but you wouldn’t want to write about?

PT: Not really. I think once my mind starts nibbling on something, it wants to start chomping. And it doesn’t really hurt my love of a franchise to be connected to it. I’ve written a fair chunk of Witcher-related material, now… but I’m still eager to load up that third game when it comes out. And it’s open-world this time around, which is something I love.

WTN: Have you ever been approached to write the narrative of a game such as Uncharted or something story driven such as Heavy Rain? Would you do something like that in the future?

PT: Actually work on the game itself, you mean? Not so far. I think it would be very interesting to provide game content. Another challenge! And, story-driven games is about all I would consider. I love good strong stories in a game. The Last Of Us was such a solid overall piece of writing, from beginning to end, for instance.

18187WTN: Speaking of franchises, I am a huge fan of the Falling Skies TV show. How did you end up doing a mini-series? I am assuming you watch the show too?

PT: I’m friends with Scott Allie, editorial overlord at Dark Horse Comics, and he asked if I’d like to work on the series. It sounded fun, and I like a lot of the creative people in charge of the show, and the actors, so it was a no-brainer. I think I started almost a full year before the show premiered, and from almost day one I had a disk with the complete first episode on it, so that I could match the mood and emotions. It was hard, when people were talking about the show, not to say, “Hell… we could watch the first episode right now, if you’d like!”

WTN: Going to your other work such as Bandette which is great fun, but why France?  Don’t get me wrong, what’s not funny about a French detective in same vain as Pink Panther, any homage there by the way?

PT: I wanted Bandette to have a bit of a foreign feel, but mostly it was exactly what you say, the “homage” thing… but a homage to Tintin, and Modesty Blaise, and Corto Maltese, and 60’s “heist” films, and Diabolik, and so many more things. The first character Colleen and I established was BD Belgique, the fat-nosed detective. He existed even before Bandette herself. And his name itself is a tribute to European comics, with “BD” a reference to “Bande dessinée,” the comics of France and Belgium, and his last name of Belgique helping solidify that connection.

WTN: When you look at your catalogue of work, Colder seems to stick out as a bit different. What made you write a story like this and what inspired you to write such a chilling story compared to your other works?

colder-00PT: Almost exactly BECAUSE it’s a bit different than what some people think of as my catalogue of work. This was another one where I was talking with Scott Allie, and I think I was mentioning that, while I LOVE working on such things as when I was writing basically the entire line of Marvel Adventures comics, that was FAR from the only type of material I enjoy writing. Scott mentioned that Dark Horse was ramping up their already substantial horror line, and we talked about some pitches, and Colder formed out of that. It’s funny, now, because I have readers that read Bandette, or Colder, or other of my works, and they’re amazed at the “other” side of my writing, with readers thinking that a certain project is the “real” Paul Tobin, but the truth of it is that I love writing a myriad of different projects in varied genres. It keeps my mind fresh.

WTN: You have brought out a couple of novels over the years, how does writing books differ to comic books? And why make it into a book when you could make a huge ongoing series with it? I mean Prepare to Die would make a great ongoing?

PT: Prepare To Die! actually started as a comic. The amazing Tom Fowler was going to be the artist, and it was only killed pretty far along the process. But I liked the story and wanted to do it, so I worked it into a novel. It ended up being a hugely different story than originally envisioned. As far as “why novels?”… I’d have to say it’s because it opens a story up to a greater degree of characterisation, which is something I hugely enjoy. I’m fascinated with establishing more than just action, which a more visual medium like comics sometimes demands. Also, I like working on novels because it, again, keeps my mind fresh. They’re entirely different feels, demanding my brain to twist in different ways. When I first was doing both prose and comics, it took a full day to transition between the two, but these days I can skip from one medium to another immediately.

WTN: Have you ever done any art work or are you tempted to?Bandette_issue_5-1

PT: Of late, I’ve been doing sketches while watching the World Cup, just various character sketches, and posting them on twitter. It’s been fun, and I think my art has a certain amount of naïve charm. I’d LOVE to do artwork, which would definitely be of the Dupuy & Berberian style, or James Kolchaka, or something like that. However, in order to get my artwork to a level where I’d feel comfortable would take a long time, a lot more practice, and I’m not sure my writing will allow that time. Still, I do love scratching things out, now and then. Could happen.

WTN: What projects are you working on now or have lined up for the future? Are you returning to any Big Two stuff? Or creator owned comics? Books?

PT: There’s Bandette, with my wife Colleen Coover, and then Prometheus and the creator-owned Colder, both with artist / partner Juan Ferreyra. I’ve an original graphic novel coming out on August 6th… though premiering at the SDCC. It’s called “I Was The Cat.” That’s with artist / partner Benjamin Dewey. And I have Plants Vs. Zombies and Witcher at Dark Horse, and then Angry Birds at IDW. Novels are taking more and more of my time: I have a five book series beginning in Winter of 2016 from Bloomsbury. And there are more novels on the way, and some more creator-owned material. Tons of things. Like I say… gotta keep my mind working, so it won’t feast on itself!

You can read our review of Angry Birds #1 right here, and stay tuned for We The Nerdy for news, reviews and interviews. 

About the Author

Oscar Russell

Comics Editor for WTN, and co-host of the All New Comics Dash Podcast. I like comics and tabletop gaming!