Making His Marvel's Models: Paul Tobin on Models, Inc.

Models, Inc. #1

Aside from superheroes, the Marvel Universe has always been a breeding ground for…models. Yes, Patsy Walker and Millie the Model once enjoyed their own long-running books, and that tradition is finally returning in the new miniseries Models, Inc., a four-issue Marvel Universe miniseries that premieres this February.

We talked with writer Paul Tobin (Dr. Doom and the Masters of Evil, Marvel Adventures: Avengers ) about this new title…and the return of a certain redhead familiar to Spider-Man fans in its pages.

Newsarama: So, Paul, you’re doing Models, Inc. Do you resolve the cliffhanger of whether Carrie-Ann Moss escaped the South American brothel that Emma Samms shipped her off to?

Paul Tobin: We're going kind of light on brothels in the series. Saving that for "Harem Inc."

NRAMA: Wait, I might be talking about the wrong Models, Inc. So, who are the Models, Inc., and what will be happening in their miniseries?

PT: The models are Millie (the Model) Collins, Mary Jane Watson, Jill Jerold, Chili Storm and Patsy (Hellcat) Walker. Three redheads! It's amazing how many redheads are in the Marvel Universe.

One of the first things that I and artist Vicenc Villagrassa did was to come up with visual ways to quickly tell the redheads apart. With Patsy and Mary Jane, it's largely a matter of clothing differences, and more curl to Patsy's hair. Then we gave Chili a haircut.

The series itself is a murder mystery. The models are all staying at one of Tony Stark's Central Park mansions because it's Fashion Week in New York, and they have so many events to attend that they decide on a central location. Fashion Week is already buzzing because of the murder of a well known socialite and the disappearance of several important works of art by artists such as Otto Dix and Egon Schiele.

Then, when a second murder takes place, Millie Collins becomes the prime suspect, and it's up to the models to band together to unearth the real murderer. Crime, suspense, and high fashion. Alert the paparazzi!

NRAMA: Now, for a lot of readers, the big news is that the long-MIA Mary Jane Watson can be found a-trapsin' with these fine ladies. What role will she play, and what's MJ been up to?

PT: Mary Jane's been busy with her modeling career. It's a full time job, being beautiful, and it's pretty much consumed her of late. She's always been on the fringe of friendship with some of the Hanover models (Millie, Jill, Chili) but now she's a solid part of their lives, eligible for the secret handshake and everything.

NRAMA: For those unfamiliar with the old-school Marvel fashion books, who are some of the other models who'll be doing their little turn on the catwalk, on the catwalk, yeah, who'll be doing their little turn on the catwalk?

PT: In addition to the models named above, Hedy Wolfe plays a big part in the series. She's one of Patsy's closest friends, but has been out of the modeling business for a time. She is, though, still closely connected with the world of high fashion, running a website that is becoming one of THE places to look for fashion advice.

NRAMA: Also, how is the fashion world different in the Marvel Universe...and how is it similar to our own?

PT: Fashion in the Marvel world is similar to that in the real world...make the pretty girls look prettier. Of course, in the real world, the ego of the designer seems to often override that theme in order to create costumes that obscure femininity, but in the Marvel world, Vicenc and I are remaining humble, just letting the models be women.

My ever-super editors, Mark Paniccia and Charlie Beckerman, have assured me that Vicenc and I will be co-winners of a Nobel Peace Prize for this selfless service we're providing to humanity.

NRAMA: What role will the models be playing in the Marvel Universe? Will Patsy Walker be breakin' out the old catsuit?

PT: So far the only costume has webbing on it, if you know what I mean. Pasty is Hellcat, though. No doubt about it. And she demonstrates her Hellcat abilities in the very first issue, knocking some poor (lucky?) bad guys for a loop.

And there still might be room for a catsuit appearance. I happen to think that the Hellcat costume, with its simplistic stylings, is one of the best in the business. And Patsy sure does look good in it.

NRAMA: How did this miniseries come about? You had Millie in your Spider-Man Family story, what appeals to you about the character?

PT: Editor Mark Paniccia apparently noticed how the models have a tendency to show up in my works. Millie has had a couple appearances. Chili showed up in an issue of Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four, and so on.

So Mark dropped me a line and asked if I would like to do a murder mystery revolving around fashion and all the models, and I dusted off the "Heck Yeah!" e-mail draft that I've had ready for years, in case anybody ever asked me such a question.

As for what appeals to me about Millie, I suppose in some ways it's the innocent way she looks at the world, a naiveté that everything will turn out okay in the end. She's a very human character that's never going to punch her way through a brick wall or fire laser beams from her eyes, but she's okay with that.

NRAMA: I'm afraid to ask, but what sort of research did you have to do to write a miniseries about fashion models?

PT: Ahhh, Zack...don't be afraid to ask. I assure you I have not gone undercover in a dress, and my legs aren't pretty enough for skirts.

Seriously, though, there was a Sunday a few weeks back when I suddenly realized, to my horror, that I was watching a football game while (brace yourself) flipping through an issue of Vogue. Yes. I know. Terrible, isn't it?

Still, there are worse things than getting paid to do research on the world's most beautiful women. Incidentally, the Italian and Japanese editions of Vogue are the best.

NRAMA: Tell us about how Vicenc Villagrassa came to the series, and what he brings to your scripts.

PT: Vicenc understands fashions. And can draw pretty ladies. Those were two of the paramount issues when choosing an artist, and I'm very happy with the way things are turning out. As Vicenc turns in the pages, I can see that he and I are very much in sync with the models being individuals, rather than just curvy-bodied stereotypes.

NRAMA: And of course, those darn fine Scott Clark covers...

PT: Fun, ain't they? Editors Mark Paniccia and Charles Beckerman get all the credit on that front. Well...of course Scott plays a pretty important part.

NRAMA: Obligatory ridiculous question: If Mephisto shows up, will he wear Prada?

PT: Apparently you've never read Mephisto's DIY fashion book, "50 Hellacious Outfits You Can Make Yourself." The Scourge of the Underworld crafts his own fashions, and they're damned good.

NRAMA: Is this planned as a one-off miniseries, or do you have more stories with these characters in mind?

PT: Right now it's planned as a stand-alone mini-series, but I've never worked on any characters that I didn't have more ideas for, so we'll see. Everything depends on available time, scheduling, and various divinations involving incense, moon cycles, and my final karaoke score.

NRAMA: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?

PT: Only that I'm happy that editor Mark Paniccia drummed up support for this series. Readers are always asking for something new, but it still takes courage for an editor to give it to them.

Also, everyone should come visit me at my new website (http://www.paultobin.net/) because it's just like having a party at my house, except nobody falls asleep in my bathtub.

Models, Inc. hits the catwalk in February.

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