The Big Tease: Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin Discuss Their Webcomic-to-Print Comic 'Gingerbread Girl'

Publisher Top Shelf has for a few years been running its Top Shelf 2.0 initiative, with daily releases of installments of titles by indie creators like Emi Lenox (Emitown), Edward J. Grug III (Glorious Bounty), and J.D. Wilkes. And now you can add Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin to that mix, whose Gingerbread Girl is being serialized via TS 2.0, leading up to the May release of a print edition of the story.

Tobin and Coover were kind enough to talk to MTV about the series, the value of the digital platform, and the eventual collected edition of the story.

MTV Geek: How did the concept of Gingerbread Girl come about? And what brought it to the Top Shelf 2.0 platform?

Colleen Coover: We like to always have something of our own in the works while we are also making our living doing work for hire. We started Gingerbread Girl a little before we started getting regular work at Marvel Comics. I think Paul had the original idea after he read a book about neurobiology, which is where he learned about the concept of the Penfield Homunculus, the parts of the brain that correspond to the sense of touch at various parts of the body. Like most of his scripts, the story germinated from that little seed.

Paul Tobin: It originally wasn’t [part of Top Shelf 2.0], but as [Top Shelf publisher, production manager, and art director] Brett Warnock was talking to us about how to go about best presenting the project, we discussed how the “online” element had done so well on Matt Kindt’s Super Spy, and the online idea began to be very alluring. Serializing it online allows us to gain a wide readership, and also, in effect, present a great advertisement on a twice-weekly basis. Everybody wins.

Geek: Was the story originally being written with the kind of short, discrete chapters it has now?

PT: Absolutely. Because there are so many varied narrators it was, from the start, presented in bite-sized chunks as each of the narrators makes their point. When we made the “online” decision, Colleen and I sat down with the expectation that it would take us the whole night to decide where each online chapter would begin and end. A half-hour later we were done. It was simple. We probably then frittered away the rest of the night watching soccer, playing video games, or solving universal secrets. Time well spent, assuredly.

Geek: Tell us a little about the story itself.

PT: It’s a mystery story revolving around the central character, Annah, who believes she has a twin sister that was crafted from her Penfield Homunculus, a roughly human-shaped section of the brain that is responsible for the sense of touch. There is, however, no evidence that Ginger (the sister) exists, other than Annah’s personal claims. A series of narrators (female lovers, male lovers, a pigeon, bulldog, store clerk, magician, etc) then discuss if the “Ginger” claims are true… or if they have something to do with the trauma of the divorce of Annah’s parents, which coincidentally happened at the same time Ginger was “born.”

Geek: Could you tell us a little about Annah and the visual design of the character?

CC: I picked up on some of Paul’s descriptions of her from the script, in particular when she says her face is freckled and her knees are bony. From that, and her character as a whole, I envisioned her as fair-skinned, maybe a strawberry blonde. She’s feminine, bit with a bit of tomboy in her.

Geek: By the end of the first chapter, Annah describes herself as a tease. Is this girl trouble?

PT: Absolutely. Everything about Annah is trouble. That’s a fact roundly acknowledged by Chili, her girlfriend. It’s one of the things that make Annah attractive, though. The crazy lovers are always the best. For a while.

Geek: And what does that actually mean in terms of her design?

CC: It’s more about her coquettish behavior, not her looks. Her very first act as a character in the story is to set a date up with two different lovers at the same time, with the full intention of going out with whomever shows up first. Not only that, but she answers the door while still dressed in her underwear. She’s not only a tease, at times she’s just plain cruel.

Geek: Why Portland as a setting?

PT: We wanted a story grounded in reality. Dealing with a quite literally cerebral story can get “floating,” so we wanted the setting to be firmly in reality. Portland seemed like a good choice because it’s sort of a wide-open “anything goes” city… yet all without the anonymity that a truly large city demands. So… Portland… big enough to swim… shallow enough to not worry too much about drowning.

Geek: Will this be mining some of the same erotic/mature territory of Small Favors?

CC: Gingerbread Girl is a piece of contemporary literature, whereas Small Favors was specifically erotic entertainment for adults. They are similar in art style by virtue of the fact that I drew them both, but Gingerbread Girl deals with conflicts and story elements that never would have come up in Small Favors.

Geek: Paul, what’s the secret to your collaborations with Colleen, particularly getting that mix of verbal and visual humor just right?

PT: Trust… I think. I know where I can push the envelope, and I know where I HAVE to push the envelope, and since we’re such a close team I know that if I push TOO far, Colleen will be right there at her drawing table, ready to give me the eye and cluck her tongue.

Geek: Can we expect any extras in the collected version of the series?

CC: The print version of Gingerbread Girl is going to look great—the secondary color in the art will be a light cinnamon brown instead of gray, like it is online. And the cover design by Tim Leong is awesome.

You can read Gingerbread Girl for free on Top Shelf 2.0 here!

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