An interview with “Made Men” creative team Paul Tobin and Arjuna Susini.
Made Men is a murder/revenge story with a Frankenstein twist, and its third issue hits shelves November 22. Special Ops officer Jutte Shelley and her team were gunned down in a vicious ambush. But the joke is on the bad guys. Jutte Shelley is from the Frankenstein bloodline and she has resurrected her whole crew to get revenge. AiPT! talked with writer Paul Tobin and artist Arjuna Susini about their exciting new comic series Made Men.
AiPT!: OK, Paul. I must ask, out of all the classic movie monsters, why Frankenstein? I have seen various genres tackle the classic monster, but I can’t remember ever seeing him represented in a crime story. What is the inspiration behind Made Men?
Paul Tobin: I wanted to really develop the “rebirth” possibilities in a Frankenstein story. Crime dramas and murder mysteries all center around (for the most part) murders, and then the plot revolves around solving the murder, but only from the aspect of a “who killed them?” or “let’s get revenge!” I wanted a protagonist who could not only do those things, but also literally solve the murder, by bringing the dead back to life.
AiPT!: The opening panels of Made Men #1 are incredibly brutal. It reminds me of scenes from The Raid and even Robocop, especially since the story takes place in Detroit. Grabbing a reader’s attention is vital and you two succeed. Was this always the planned beginning of the book?
Tobin: Yep! I wanted to set the tone and the stakes early. Jutte needed to be shaken to her core in order to get her to accept the legacy of her family. In some ways, I consider the moments just before the story begins to be the last appearance of the old Jutte, the arguably much saner Jutte, so we’re introduced to the new Jutte immediately.
AiPT!: Jutte Shelley is the main character in the story. She is a very interesting lady. She mentions that Victor’s sister was the brains behind everything. Was the choice to make the lead a lady based on the struggles the author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, endured having to publish her work anonymously?
Tobin: I can’t say it was a conscious decision, but her struggles were there in my mind. I honestly enjoy writing female leads for a majority of my projects. My male leads tend to be… maybe less full of life? It’s too easy for me to make a male lead relentlessly grim, and sometimes I really enjoy that, but other times I want a little light to shine in.
AiPT!: I’d like to talk about the villains in Made Men, as each has their own unique style. Are they influenced by any other fictional villains? Paul, did you have an idea in mind how each of them would look, or did Arjuna have control over their appearance? And Arjuna, what was your favorite part of illustrating the villains?
Tobin: I’d say they have a wealth of influences, because pretty much everything that I write is the end result of all that I was reading when I was growing up (comics, comics, and also more comics) and then the movies I was watching, which was B movies, and anything with adventure and guns, and especially martial arts films, where all the villains were so wonderfully over the top. As far as the design of the villains, I gave Arjuna some quick guidelines, such as “torch singer type” or “Nick Cave type with massive sideburns” or other similar very quick thoughts, and then just let him do his magic.
Arjuana Susini: My job is just to go as deep as I can into script and fully formulate Paul’s amazing story. The villains are 60 percent of the story. Paul writes the descriptions as if it were part of a screenplay. The situations he builds, and the modalities in which they are constructed, are already pretty thought out. When it comes to characterization, the fact that he said, “They have a mustache,” is just the last brushstroke.
AiPT!: Arjuna, what did you think of Paul’s script for the first issue when you got your hands on it? Did you have any issues with bringing his ideas to life?
Tobin: Ooo. I’m looking forward to his answers on this one! Speak freely, Arjuna!
Susini: In the beginning, I thought he was completely crazy (Yes Paul, I know it’s not nice, but I must contest). I also thought that a script like Made Men could bring out my own madness (in a good way) because when I read it, I was so taken by it I wanted to keep reading. I kept saying to myself, And then? And then?! I read the scripts several times until they began taking shape in my mind, like a movie that played over and over. That’s when I uncovered a lot of new things that would add that little extra something that Paul was in search of through his descriptions.
AiPT!: You two are also working with Gonzalo Duarte who’s doing the colors for Made Men. You guys make an impressive creative team. How did the three of you come together for the book?
Tobin: A ways back, I was developing a project with another publisher. Scheduling nixed that series before it ever started, but the editor had brought in Arjuna to do the first five pages, and I really liked what I saw, so when I was developing Made Men with Oni Press, I reached out to Arjuna to see if he’d come aboard. I love the way he builds his characters, and the environment: they both seem real to me. And his crowd scenes! So full of personality! I’m very happy we’ve had this chance. And then Gonzalo adds that right touch of lurking menace and grit to the world with his colors.
Susini: Yeah, to add to what Paul said, I’d like to add also Robin Herrera our editor. She does excellent work!
AiPT!: There is a colorful cast of characters. Between the Made Men and the murderous crew that gunned them down, who has it been more fun to write about, Paul? And Arjuna, which ones have been more fun to draw?
Tobin: For me, it’s probably been Jutte and her crew. Some upcoming issues really delve into each of them, individually, and what they used to be, and what they are now, and how they’re dealing with it all. I’ve come to really feel for them. They’ve had their conceptions of existence yanked away, and they’re trying to find solid ground.
Susini: I’ll just say that there is infinite potential for the city and the people in it.
AiPT!: When I’m supposed to be writing, I sometimes find myself playing on my phone or on Twitter. What are your favorite ways to procrastinate when you should be doing something productive?
Tobin: Twitter is a distraction/break for me, as well. And then I like to look at original comic art online, too. These days, I’ve also been sneaking out during the day to clear my mind at a climbing gym that’s near my house.
Susini: Oh yeah. Social media is the devil in regard to distractions from the work, but I often stream podcasts of history or science podcasts while I work. It relaxes me.
AiPT!: What other projects are you two currently working on or have coming up in the future that we can look forward to?
Tobin: It’s a big mix for me these days. I’m working on my multi-Eisner-award winning Bandette, with my wife, and also the best selling Plants vs. Zombies graphic novels. And then I have my novels, such as my young readers Genius Factor series, with book 3 coming out in a few months. In addition, my Colder horror series was just released in an Omnibus, and I’ve got an upcoming web series I’ve really been having fun with, and then also me and an old friend have an adventure series in the works, and then another friend and I have a weird romance/horror thing cooking. Lots to keep me busy!
Susini: Right now I’m working on some illustrations for a little webcomic project that Paul and I have going on, but I’m keeping my eyes peeled for new and exciting projects.
AiPT!: Thanks again, guys. It isn’t too late to jump on board, run out and pick up the first three issues of Made Men!