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Friday, December 9, 2011

An Interview with Paul Tobin, THE MOST POWERFUL MAN IN SUPERHERO COMICS

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Fri, Dec 9, 2011 at 10:29 AM

PAUL TOBIN A man who wishes he got free Taco Bell for life.
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  • PAUL TOBIN A man who wishes he got free Taco Bell for life.

We've interviewed Portland comics writer Paul Tobin before—right around the time of the most recent Stumptown Comics Fest, in fact, to mark the release of Gingerbread Girl, the well-received book he created with his wife, artist Colleen Coover. But that was back before comics news/gossip site Bleeding Cool declared Tobin to be "the most widely read superhero writer today." According to Bleeding Cool,

He writes the Marvel Adventures books for Marvel, their number-one subscription titles, that get republished all across Europe and South America on newsstands.

He wrote one of the Golden Grahams Justice League comics with a 3.5 million print run.

He writes stacks of Marvel custom comics sold with toys, and for commercial promotions that have million-string print runs, such as for recent Taco Bell promotions.

Now that Tobin, who's also written books like Spider-Girl, Black Widow, and Super Hero Squad, is—officially, indisputably—the most powerful man in all of comics, we figured it was time to check back in on him. If, that is, he hadn't become so famous that he couldn't be bothered to respond to my emails. But he totally responded to my emails in a very timely manner, so here's the interview.

MERCURY: Comics site Bleeding Cool recently suggested you might be "the most widely read superhero writer today." Do you think they're right?
PAUL TOBIN: Egotistically, OF COURSE I think they're right. Between having comics in Taco Bell (big distribution!) and in General Mills cereal boxes (BOOM! and THAT'S a few million copies) I write the Marvel Adventures Spider-Man comics, which is the number-one subscriber comic, and which goes out all over the world. Now... reasonably, I'd have to admit guys like Brian Bendis are easily more widely read. Brian, I believe, writes 67 comics per month.

Related: Have you let all this power go to your head? Are you a total asshole now?
I'm a little bit thrown by this question. I mean, I kind of already was a total asshole, so nothing much has changed. Now, I'm just an asshole in cleaner pants.

Tell me about these Taco Bell and Golden Graham comics that contributed to your terrifyingly wide readership. How do you get these gigs? How are they different to write than books like Marvel Adventures and Spider-Girl?
The Taco Bell and General Mills comics came about from different editors, from different companies, at different times. I suppose I've made a rep as being able to do family-friendly comics, so people come to me on projects of this type. Both companies were wonderful to work with... knowing what they wanted to see, and then doing a fantastic job of standing back and letting me do my thing. As far as the books being different to write than any of my normal projects... not really. I go into each project with a different set of tools, but how I go about making the comic is largely the same method... same story structure... same emphasis on character and the same love for the medium of comics.

How do you plan on cashing-in on your recently declared notoriety? Will this help you with future mainstream gigs or indie projects? Or with acquiring delicious Golden Grahams?
I'm a little bit disappointed that I don't get free Taco Bell for life, or a year's supply of breakfast cereal, so I haven't been able to cash in that way. And, as a professional, exposure always helps. I had several editors pass along the Bleeding Cool article to me, even before I'd seen it myself. A couple of them were like, "Ha, ha! That's funny. So... have any free time on your schedule?"

Bleeding Cool also noted, "Brian Bendis, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Robert Kirkman, they can all suck his fat one." Thoughts on that statement, Mr. Tobin?
I'm of two minds on that. On one hand, public notice that I'm well-endowed was rather empowering, but on the other hand all those guys are my fellow professionals/friends, so I felt weird about the article "calling them out" under my name. Plus, as much as I love those guys, and as talented as they are, they don't come anywhere near my standard qualifications for engaging in that kind of activity.

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