“I thought it would be interesting to explore the idea of a strong female character in Victorian society” behind the scenes of Joe Benitez’s Lady Mechanika
This week sees the latest instalment of Joe Benitez’s Submit series Lady Mechanicka: Tablet of Destinies hit ComiXolgy. Mixing 90s bad-girl attitude with stunning steam-punk style and oh, so many cogs, we caught up with the former Witchblade and The Darkness artist to find out more his sultry cybernetic sleuth.
Tell us a bit about the origin and inspiration for Lady Mechanika? Were you initially inspired to create the character of a female steam punk PI or was it the idea of drawing a mechanised steam punk world that first got your creative cogs turning?
JB: The initial spark was some steampunk cosplayers at a show, thought it would make a cool comic book. As I was developing the story, I knew I wanted the protagonist to be female. PI was one of the last things I decided on, I went through several different variations and ended up with that.
You’ve chosen to work with writer MM Chen on this new story arc, why did you decide not to return to the writer’s chair? And how did the two of you come to be working together on this?
JB: M helped me develop LM and script the first series (she’s the “special thanks to M” in the credits), and she had the story (Tablet of Destinies) ready to go so we did that one next. We’re both working on additional stories.
Lady Mechanika’s world features lots of familiar tropes from Victoriana like mystical societies, archaeological digs, and a developing scientific culture, are you a fan of the world Sherlock Holmes and penny dreadfuls and do you used any of them as inspiration?
JB: I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan of them, but I do use them for inspiration.
When developing the character, how important was it for Lady Mechanika to be a woman and for you to subvert the traditional ‘male detective’ kind of story? Or did you choose to make her female because that is the kind of character you like to draw?
JB: Mostly because it’s the kind of character I like to draw, but I also thought it would be interesting to explore the idea of a strong female character in Victorian society.
The level of detail in every page is phenomenal, do you ever get tired of drawing cogs and are there any scenes you have started working on and instantly regretted the choice of locale or costume, purely from a workflow point of view?
JB: As far as Tablet of Desinties goes, no I don’t get tired of drawing the cogs because 99.99999% of them were drawn by Martin Montiel (co-artist on TOD). Drawing the Helio-Arx from the first series was a greater undertaking than I anticipated.
As for colors, I’ve been very lucky to work with some very talented colorists (Peter Steigerwald and Mike Garcia) who add so much more detail and atmosphere to the pages.
Lady Mechanika is released via ComiXology Submit, why did you choose to release it in this way and not via a major publisher?
JB: I like having the freedom, I have ultimate say in what happens with the book, but your reach is significantly limited because a lot of retailers won’t carry independent books.
Do you think having some name recognition helps you get attention that other creators might not be able to? Or do you think fans prejudge the title based on your previous work?
JB: Yes, absolutely. I have a fan base from my previous work and their support has been essential to the success of LM.
Finally, how long a run can we expect from this latest arc and what are planning on working on next?
JB: Tablet Of Destinies ends with issue 6 coming out in October, and I’m working on more LM stories to follow. With LM, I want to do a series of mini-series, similar to Hellboy, so each arc is self-contained and therefore easy for new readers, but they’re all connected so people who read all of them will experience a greater depth of the story and character.