“At every stage I am trying to think of the end-reader experience” Madefire’s Ben Wolstenholme talks motion books, Mono and more!

benwolstenholmeIn the world of Madefire motion books, Ben Wolstenholme is often the forgotten man, cast into the shadow of comic luminaries Liam Sharp and Dave Gibbons – however he is every bit as vital to the company’s success as his more famous co-founders.  If Sharp and Gibbons are Lennon and McCartney then Wolstenholme is George Harrison bringing a different dimension to this band of digital comic pioneers. In the case of Wolstenholme (and to keep this metaphor running!) it’s not Eastern mysticism that he brings, but a unique blend of graphic design savvy and commercial illustration nous that are helping to push Madefire‘s motion books to new heights. Keen to find out his story, we contacted Ben to learn more about the man behind Madefire, Moving Brands and man-mountain Mono

mono_cover3Mono has a really classic feel to it – more reminiscent of Edgar Rice Burroughs than the bombast of Captain Stone and Treatment – where did the inspiration for the character come from

BW: My goal was to create a strong character with – I hoped – mainstream appeal. The stories I like most are normally a version of our world  – that is skewed or heightened – rather than too fantasy or fiction. I think that generally stories of ‘man’s struggles’ (Batman, Ironman) are more compelling than aliens or more fictional characters (Superman, Green Lantern) so i started along that path and wanted a strong name for the character – a character that worked alone – Mono seemed an apt title.

I trained in design and film and I have an interest in the identity of Great Britain – there’s a density of heritage and iconography in Britain that is well known around the world and makes for great storytelling. There are a number of brands that ‘Export Britishness’ – Paul Smith is a great example in fashion, Dyson in products, The Beatles i guess in music. The likes of Sherlock Holmes in storytelling – and of course Bond… I was thinking about Bond a lot – surely there’s room for an even more visceral Bond!

In 2008 I was living in London with my wife and we went to Spain to see her family. I was sketching – and wrestling with Mono‘s abilities and ‘world’ – when she said casually, ‘you realize ‘Mono‘ means monkey in Spanish’… Suddenly it all started to come into focus – Mono – part Man, Part Ape with the strength and abilities of a Silver Back – of course versions of this idea had been tried but none that seemed really iconic to me…

I shared the early ideas with my father in-law Tony Brock – he’s a stiff challenge for any new-born idea! Surprisingly he was really into it and has a passion for history – together we started thinking through and researching what the life of an Ape-Man might have been. Tony did a ton of research and background building which lead us to Mono‘s upbringing on the rock of Gibraltar – a British colony just off Spain – Gibraltar has long been a military base and is riddled with Laboratories and has submersed Submarine pens for docking – on top of this Barbary Apes still live there – it was perfect. Later during research Tony came across a commander who had served in some extraordinary conflicts through the wars; Hanno Montague… Mono wasn’t born – well, he already lived! The rest i must keep tightly bound in Mono‘s journals for now…