Local author and comics writer Paul Tobin will be at Powell's tonight reading from and talking about his new superhero novel Prepare to Die! Before picking up Tobin's book, I don't believe I'd ever read a superhero novel (well, okay, maybe one) and as many problems as I had Prepare to Die! (i.e., I didn't find the central love story convincing), it was a pleasure delving into Tobin's original world of pulpy goodness. Tobin recently answered a few questions about the book via email.

How did Prepare to Die! come about?

I'd originally envisioned it as a creator-owned comic book series. It was initially given a green light, and I began developing it further, fleshing out the characters and events. Then, the project hit a dead end. I set it aside for a couple months, but the story kept resonating for me. One day, I found myself sitting down and saying, "Screw it. I don't have to depend on comics. I can run this ship all by myself." I typed the first line, the second, and so on. Three days later I'd completely abandoned all my notes except for the original premise... and the novel was being born. Three months later, there it was.

More after the jump.

Why did you decide to do this story as a novel rather than a graphic novel?

Partially because of the above, but also because when I thought about submitting it as a comic series / graphic novel to a different company, I realized that I could go far more into the characters if I wrote the book as prose. Comics are such a visual form that they demand constant changes of those visuals, so a talking scene between characters can seem visually clunky, while in novels it's gripping characterization. I could point out a whole bucketload of other reasons (such as retaining full ownership of what I've done) but the bottom line is... I could explore the characters to a greater depth this way.

Do you think that the superhero genre is too wedded to comics? Do you think it could branch out into prose more than it has?

I've actually become aware of quite a lot of superhero prose, of late. I'm not sure if it's because it's a growing market, or I'm just more aware of it. I'm glad of that. Love to see more of it. I love superheroes as a genre, and comics are a great medium for them, but to think of comics as the only medium holds back creators, keeps us boxed into one playground.

Any plans for similar projects?

I've already finished my second and third novels, called "Agatha" and "Red Zipper Sidekick" respectively, and neither touch on the superhero genre. Next is probably a follow-up to Agatha. And then... well, there is another germ of a superhero idea in my mind... a novel called "Your Merest Touch Can Destroy Me," which would take place in a shared world with that of "Prepare To Die!"

Here's a quick rundown of Agatha, my second novel, which hasn't been officially scheduled quite yet.

Agatha is the story of Agatha Wellingstrike, a woman who becomes a vampire in the 1880's. The novel follows her life up to the present time, with a focus on the decadence of Germany's Weimar cabaret days, and within the broader scope of an event called the Tumult, a tournament held once every century where strange creatures (ghosts, werewolves, vampires, witches, etc) compete for a grand prize. I suppose it's a cross between Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell with... oh... maybe Dragonball? And it has more than a touch of romance to it. It's a strange and lovely book. I'm utterly biased, of course, but, yes... strange and lovely.

The superhero genre is, pretty much by definition, character-based. From whence did the characters in the novel come?

As far as the character origins, I tried to have each of them reflect an aspect of the actual character. I really consider myself a character writer, so doing it in any other way wouldn't have made sense. For instance, the the main character, Steve Clarke, has a sort of cell degeneration power, so that when he hits someone, that person loses, in effect, a year off their life. To me, this was a reflection of his personality... he has all these powers, he's invulnerable, and yet feels his life is slipping away.

Of course, not everyone in the book has powers. Many of them are just average people, and when I was building their character I really tried to look at how it would feel to be in a world where a small number of people are just incredibly superior, but still only people just the same. What are the fears of such a person? How long can that fear be sustained. How long before you go on with your own life? Essentially, they ask the questions that everyone in the real world is constantly asking: "How does this affect me?

And, why did you find Portland's own Sassy's to be particularly deserving of destruction at the hands of a laser-spewing werewolf?

Hah! It's because I write there. A loving tribute. There are several spots around town where I write... my own apartment, Periscope Studios, 3Friends Cafe, Rocking Frog, and so on, but Sassy's is where I'm able to get the most work done. No idea why that is. I'm there maybe once a week, and something about the atmosphere... the overwhelming everything of the music and the entertainment... allows me to focus more, and to be more creative at the same time. I actually know other authors who have said the same thing... that writing in strip clubs is very effective. We've talked about it, and come up with a theory that a strip club is slightly off-kilter from the "normal" world, and therefore fuels creativity, much like all the Impressionists could be found lounging at the Moulin Rouge.

Paul Tobin will be reading from and talking about his creation tonight at the Hawthorne Powell's at 7:30 pm.