Monstro Mechanica brings the always intriguing Leonardo Da Vinci to the world of comics, but this isn't the da Vinci you're used to.
Da Vinci is a popular figure in the history books and has even popped up in the popular Assassin's Creed series as Ezio's ally and inventor. In AfterShock Comics' Monstro Mechanica, writer Paul Allor aims to bring some new facets of da Vinci to light, but it all came about thanks to da Vinic's knack for inventions.
"The initial seed of this story was reading about da Vinci’s many inventions, including a mechanical knight – a very basic automaton that could sit, stand and move its limbs," Allor told ComicBook.com. So naturally, my dorky, sci-fi marinated writer’s brain immediately jumped to the notion that this thing was a far more advanced, 20th-century-science-fiction style robot."
While it started with a robot, the ideas just kept coming, and soon it resulted in a whole world.
"We wouldn’t have done the book if our line of thinking had stopped there," Allor said. "The Renaissance was also the birth of humanism in the Western world, the cradle of our modern belief that all women and men have inherent value as individuals (and not just as a cog in the machine of society). And so tying that period of societal transition into a story about a sci-fi robot slowly gaining sentience seemed like a really intriguing notion – especially when delivered in the form of a swashbuckling adventure tale."
You had us a swashbuckling robot, but plenty of
"Da Vinci is a fairly sinister figure in our story – far more so than he was in real life," Allor said. "We wanted to show him as someone who was torn between a desire to do what he wants when he wants – to live a life of intellectual and artistic pursuit – and the reality of living in a time when he needed a patron, and when his engineering services would be highly sought after by some less-than-savory people."
Hit the next slide to find out more about the cast, including the delightful Isabel!
Some of the best parts of the issue are when da Vinci is interacting with his apprentice Isabel, who gives the inventor a much-needed balance.
"Isabel challenges Leonardo, and he likes that about her," Allor said. "She’s one of the few people who very easily sees through his games and is willing to call him on them. I think she also has a much greater level of emotional intelligence than he does, which provides a nice balance to his cold, analytical genius."
Fans will see plenty of the duo in future issues, but as for how they met, that will remain a mystery. "There are no plans right now to show a glimpse of how they met," Allor said. "But… hmmm, that’s interesting. If that pops up in a future flashback issue, you’ll know where we got the idea."
You heard it here first! Now if someone would buy my Chinese Buffet/Comic Shop/Hair Salon idea this day would be golden. Seriously, it can work!
Okay, back to realistic things now. When you read the issue you'll notice the brilliant artwork of Chris Evenhuis, who delivers a cunning da Vinci in every panel and surrounds him with a bright and colorful world that still feels authentic.
"Originally the aim was to go for a fully retro 'Forbidden Planet' sci-fi look with Art Deco elements mixed in with Renaissance design, but as we progressed, an 80s Spielberg element crept in as well, which seemed to fit so we stuck with it. In any case, we wanted to make everything look more vibrant and fresh than you'd maybe normally expect from historical fiction," Evenhuis said.
"Yes, Chris’ art is absolutely amazing! And I think you nailed it with “authentic, while still feeling bright and colorful.” This book, to me, looks and feels very much like a product of pop culture," Allor said. "It’s bright, it’s fun, it’s exquisitely well-designed, and it’s all done in a line style so clean you could eat dinner off of it. And I also have to mention colorist Sjan Weijers, whose gorgeous colors really raise this book to another level. She and Chris have worked together seamlessly to create the fantastic look and feel of this comic."
Hit the next slide to learn more about the duo's robot friend!
Da Vinci and Isabel share the lead roles in Monstro Mechanica with a large robot that is starting to gain sentience. The thing is, this robot isn't like many you've seen before.
"The design of the robot (including the idea of it being made out of wood) was based on those little wooden artist's mannequins, with the ball joints, except with a bulkier, tank-like build and a dash of Art Deco," Evenhuis said.
The robot doesn't speak, but that doesn't keep it from having a personality.
"When Chris first mentioned that the robot should be made of wood, it was one of those “oh, man, that’s absolutely perfect!” moments," Allor said. "I also love how much personality Chris has given the machine through its body language – especially as we get into later issues and see it outside of a battle context."
Da Vinci and Isabel's pet project causes some friction between the two, as they seem to disagree on if the robot should be an "it" or a "he". So, where does the writer stand?
"I’m not sure with whom I would side in da Vinci and Isabel’s argument," Allor said. "Which is probably good, as it prevents my own bias from slipping into their discussions!"
While the robot doesn't have a name in the book, one does exist for it.
"Yes, the machine does have a name in the script, though we had never planned to give it one in the comic. At least not yet," Allor said.
So at this point, feel free to name him yourself if you so choose. For us, think we are going to call him Tom Tom. Yeah, that sounds right.
Hit the next slide to find out what that whole dress thing is about!
Fans will notice that a recurring theme in the first issue has to do with Isabel's choice of clothing, specifically that she doesn't wear a dress. It causes some frustration for her, even causing her to steal an apple just out of spite, but there is a reason for it.
"While I was doing research for the book, I came across the fact that Renaissance women would often dress in men’s clothes in order to go out carousing at night," Allor said. "It was a way for the authorities to look the other way, while still saving face. In short, it was an unofficially sanctioned form of transgression. And knowing what I knew of Isabel, it made sense that she would push the line, and transgress further – to mixed results."
Allor also teases that it will pay off down the line. "If you enjoy that aspect of the first issue, well, let’s just say that there might be a scene in a later issue that you’ll enjoy even more. Stay tuned."
You can pick up the first issue of AfterShock Comics' Monstro Mechanica #1 when it hits stores on December 13, but you can read our spoiler-free review here.