Leonardo Da Vinci stars in the latest book from AfterShock Comics written by Paul Allor (G.I.Joe, TMNT). Paul joined us today to talk about Monstro Mechanica, his take on a robotic Renaissance and the difference between his robot and the one Da Vinci actually designed and built! This fun book places an automaton in the age of de’ Medici family and on the streets of Florence in 1472.
You’ve never read a book quite like this! Here’s what Paul had to say.
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FOG!: Thanks for joining us, Paul! Issue #1 introduces us to Leonardo Da Vinci, a robot and his female apprentice. Why set a comic book story with a robot in The Renaissance?
Paul Allor: The more heady answer is that the Renaissance is where the modern western conception of the self first began to develop; the idea that every individual has importance and worth beyond their place in society. So we were intrigued by the notion of pairing that time period with the classic sci-fi story of a robot gaining sentience.
The less heady answer is that a robot in the renaissance sounded like a whole lot of freaking fun.
Da Vinci did, in fact, create designs for a robot. How does your robot differ from the one that may have been displayed in 1495?
Totally different, though Sir Fussypants (that was its name — little-known fact) was the seed of inspiration for this story. Da Vinci’s automaton was designed to look like a knight, with basic movement functions that could be controlled by its user. It was incredibly advanced and sophisticated for its time. But our guy both looks completely different (he’s gangly, nine feet tall and made of wood) and acts completely different (veering from childlike innocence to bursts of violence, as his sentience slowly emerges).
Artist Chris Evenhuis did an extraordinary job designing the robot and giving it life, making it feel like a fully-fleshed out character despite it having no dialogue or even facial features.
Isabel has to hide her identity and dress as a boy to fit in as Da Vinci’s apprentice, and as we learn more about her in issue #1, she seems to become more independent with regard to controlling the robot. What makes Isabel a fun character to work with?
Well, most of the time Isabel dresses the way she does because she wants to, not because she’s passing off as a boy. But she was definitely incredibly independent, and bucking gender norms at the time.
What makes her fun to work with is that she’s a character with her own agenda — it intersects with da Vinci’s, but doesn’t overlap it completely. She’s willing to challenge him, even betray him when she thinks it’s for the best.
How did you assemble your great art team for this book?
Well, Chris and I created this book together from the start, so “assemble” isn’t quite the right word. Chris and I had worked together on my G.I.Joe run several years back, and got to know each other’s work from that. From there, we started talking about a creator-owned collaboration, and Monstro Mechanica is the eventual result! And Sjan Weijers, our incredible colorist, is a long-time collaborator of Chris’.
We’re familiar with your work at other publishers and properties, what made you team up with AfterShock to publish Monstro Mechanica?
AfterShock was an ideal home for this book. They bill themselves as having the creative edge of an indie publisher combined with the strengths of a traditional powerhouse, and that’s exactly correct. They’re incredibly supportive of the stories their creators want to tell, while also providing expert guidance and support across the board, from editorial to marketing to retailer outreach. Plus, the opportunity to work with editor Mike Marts was just too good to pass up!
In a twist on the pick your superpower question, if you could channel one of Da Vinci’s many skills, what would it be?
Probably the laser vision. Or his extraordinary, savant-like ability to connect the dots between nature, art, science and engineering.
But nah, laser vision.
What else is coming up for you, and where can people follow you online?
Clue just wrapped up at IDW, so the trade of that will be out early next year! I also have a new , issue coming out in January with artist Tyler Boss, and a bit more TMNT work coming down the pike.
Monstro Mechanica #1 arrives in stores and digital on 12/13!