MYSTERY GIRL, The Know-It-All Amnesiac Detective

"Mystery Girl" cover
Credit: Dark Horse Comics
Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Trine Hampstead knows the answer to everything in the world, except when it comes to who she is. And in the upcoming Dark Horse series Mystery Girl, Paul Tobin and Alberto Albuquerque are using her to flip the  mystery/detective genres on its head.

Announced at Comic-Con International: San Diego, Mystery Girl's creator Paul Tobin talked with Newsarama about his new series, balancing that and his other work, and what led him to develop Trine Hampstead and her unique situation.

Newsarama: Paul, it seems Dark Horse is keeping you busy! Not only have you recently announced your upcoming series, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, but now you have another book coming out with Mystery Girl. Where do you find the time?

Paul Tobin: I write because I love it, so I don’t mind buckling down on a daily basis. I get nervous when I’m not busy. I think I’ll be doing… like six monthly books, soon, and then I have my Genius Factor series of novels starting from Bloomsbury in March of 2016, and I’m finishing up another series of novels that I’ll be shopping soon, and… there’s other stuff. With comics, part of the draw for me is that there are so many fantastic artists that I want to work with, and in a wide range of styles, from my wife Colleen Coover on the charming Bandette, to Juan Ferreyra on the super creepy Colder. And then, for novels, there’s an equal draw for having that much control of what I want to say in a story. So… yeah… it’s the stories that keep drawing me forward, destroying any hope of a social life!

Nrama: What led you to pursue this comic with Dark Horse?

Tobin: I’ve really been happy with editor Brendan Wright’s work on my Eisner-winning Bandette title. It’s released digitally from Monkeybrain / ComiXology, but Dark Horse is in charge of the collected hardcovers, and Brendan and I enjoyed working together, and I decided I wanted to further the relationship… develop more material, branch even further out in the stories I tell. Brendan and I share a lot of character quirks and sensibilities, so it just seemed a natural. And Dark Horse has been very good to me overall, so… a no-brainer.

Nrama: So, tell us a little bit about Mystery Girl. What sort of comic are we looking at here? Superhero? Teen mystery-drama a la Nancy Drew?

Tobin: Adventure and drama. Not teen, though I do like to make it fairly accessible to all age groups. No superhero material. I love writing superheroes, and have written them for Marvel and

DC and even in Prepare To Die, my first novel… but right now I’m concentrating on writing adventure stories of one sort or another. That said, character is paramount in everything I write: I like to explore what makes a character tick in a given situation. So… a character study with a romping adventure, and a few guns, a real bastard of a killer, and a unique look at mystery stories.

Nrama: Can you cue us in a little bit as to the first big mystery Trine will encounter as well as what sort of setting we’ll be looking at when the story begins?

Tobin: Trine lives in London, so we begin there, though part of the story will have us travelling across Siberia. It all begins when a scientist wants to know what happened to the remains of a mastodon that was discovered by an early research group. It’s an incredibly fresh specimen that had been preserved by the permafrost, but that had been buried by the research group, and the location lost when the early scientists died before making it back to civilization. Trine instantly knows much of the truth, and the answer is rather shocking. Shocking enough to take her from her London home to see things for herself.

Nrama: What do you think is one of the most challenging aspects of writing a character who seems to know everything?

Tobin: Trine’s ability is that… given a mystery… she instantly knows the answer. I’ve been wanting to write mystery stories for some time, but I wanted to shake them up, so instead of slowly stepping towards an ultimate solution, Mystery Girl deals immediately with the solution, and the story then revolves around the ramifications of those solutions. That’s where normal mystery stories can fail, just leaving the story half told. So, our stories deal with the second half. And, Trine can’t solve any mysteries about herself, so that makes things difficult for her, because she has no idea why she is or how she is, and that leads to interesting situations as well. We’ve really enjoyed turning mystery stories on their heads, here.

Nrama: Who, then, do you think is your ideal reader for this book?

Tobin: Ideal? Well, she’d look like Audrey Hepburn and really understand me as a human being. Plus, she’d be filthy rich. Failing that, I never really aim for “ideal readers.” I just write what I want to write, tell the stories that I enjoy telling in the way that I enjoy telling them, and then hope I strike a chord. If not… I still had fun and told the stories I wanted to tell.

Nrama: You’ll be working with artist Alberto Alburquerque. What’s that like, and how did you two team up?

Tobin: Alberto is fantastic. He and artist Steve Lieber became friends at an overseas convention some years ago, and Alberto ended up visiting here in Portland, which is how the two of us became friends. Ever since then, I’ve been looking for a chance to team up with Alberto, not only because I’m impressed with his art and storytelling abilities, but because I can continuously stoke our soccer rivalry, because I’m a Barcelona fan, and Alberto lives in Madrid and is a fan of Real Madrid, who are scurrilous knaves of lowborn descent. The Mystery Girl scripts are constantly calling for crowd scenes… but I always makes sure to point out that nobody… nobody… can be wearing a Real Madrid soccer jersey. And… as the art comes in, I’ve been keeping a close eye on Alberto.

Nrama: What do you think is Mystery Girl’s greatest strength as a comic that you feel will get readers fired up to preorder it?

Tobin: For me, it’s all about the unique take on mystery stories. I always love stories that go that one step beyond, and that’s what I hope I’m doing here.

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