Writer: Paul Tobin
Artist: Colleen Coover
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release Date: November 13, 2013
Originally published digitally by MonkeyBrain Comics through the Comixology platform, the husband and wife team of writer Paul Tobin and artist Colleen Coover’s charming cat-burglar comic Bandette is now available for the first time in print, thanks to publisher Dark Horse. Not only does this hardcover collect the first five issues of the webcomic, but also includes a bunch of extras. It’s a format that’s worked well for DH in the past, and it should work even better here. For example, unlike Bucko, which you could read for free online, Bandette would have cost you $.99 an issue, more of a psychological impediment to the Luddites than a fiscal one. Somehow — and we seem to be moving away from this — it’s still easier to pony up for a physical object.
The book is (expectedly) matter-of-factly gorgeous. That should be no surprise if you’re familiar with Coover’s work, which has a kind of ease about it that is very hard to find. One of the nicest bonuses of this collection is her long essay detailing her artistic process in creating these pages. You may find it hard to believe, however, just how much of what she does is digital (i.e., almost all of it). The panels have a handmade, gouache-on-textured-paper look, which is exactly what Coover is going for but isn’t, in large part, how she creates them. It’s a valuable documentation of method, but it also doesn’t undermine the delicate loveliness of her art.
One can also draw parallels between this dichotomy of appearance and reality and the similar one that exists in the book’s portrait of France, where the action takes place. There’s no question that the bold, blocky colors and at least one character owe something to Tintin creator Hergé, but the setting is more mythological than that. More than anyone else, the character of Bandette, who nimbly climbs throughout the city, changing out of her costume in the space of a few seconds and always behaving with a springy grace, calls to mind actress Leslie Caron, a dancer who is both French and made a specialty out of playing model French women. Starring in An American in Paris with Gene Kelly, Caron served as a personification of Gallic charm. The Paris here is reproduced on a soundstage, with both great attention to fidelity and a perfection in its stripped-down details. Billy Wilder’s Irma La Douce is another in the same genre.
It’s this tradition that Bandette occupies: the American’s romantic view of Paris. And it’s this era from which it takes its inspiration. The thieves are mostly dashing and mostly good guys. Deaths occur offscreen. Romance happens, but is largely chaste. Profanity is rendered as a string of characters: e.g., $#&! And panache is as important as anything, both within the confines of the comic and in the way Coover and Tobin work together to create something wonderfully ephemeral.