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Minky Woodcock, New Noir Heroine

By Jenni Miller

Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini is a noir throwback, complete with old-fashioned gumshoes and femme fatales. The protagonist is an animal-loving firecracker who works as a secretary at her father’s detective agency. While he’s out of the country, she takes on a mysterious case involving spiritualism, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Harry Houdini. Multidisciplinary artist Cynthia von Buhler both writes and draws this saucy take on the genre, which is published by Hard Case Crime/Titan Comics.

While the characters and illustration style are reminiscent of another century, Minky is a digital girl behind the scenes. When von Buhler began the comic, she drew each page by hand with pencil, and then scanned pages and colored the digital results in Adobe Photoshop. One day, an acquaintance introduced her to the iPad and Adobe Photoshop Sketch. He promised it would revolutionize the way she worked, so despite initial skepticism, she gave it a try.

Much to her surprise, von Buhler was won over.

“I'm a traditionalist,” she says. “I don't want to draw with a mouse. I want to feel the pencil in my hand and have the mark I make on the paper come from my mind. For the first time, I feel like this product allows me to do that. I was very skeptical, but it's remarkable. I think that, for the most part, people don't know I'm using the computer to do my drawings, because they look so handmade.”

Von Buhler uses Adobe Photoshop Sketch for her initial drawings, then works with them further in Photoshop. She’s been experimenting with digital pencils, brushes, and inks and is especially fond of Kyle T. Webster’s KyleBrush tools, which are available for free to Creative Cloud subscribers.

“My favorite one is Badass Brush Number Two,” von Buhler says. “It feels like a lead pencil with a little grit to it. And that's what I've been using for my drawings. So, I'm drawing with that as if it's a real pencil, and then I'm coloring things in. I actually use the Badass Brush to color things in, too.”

She appreciates the mobile device's portability. “Let's say I have to go get my car washed. I can bring the iPad with me and work. Or when I get my hair done. I'm working all the time. I have no real life right now because the comic is taking up so much of my time, and I have to do so many pages a day. It's been crazy. So it's great that I can bring it everywhere I go,” she said. 

Von Buhler’s plans for the series include a graphic novel available this spring and a play opening in October. (She has masterminded some of the wildest immersive plays in New York City.) For now, the first three issues of Minky Woodcock are available at your local comic book store, as well as digitally on Amazon and comiXology.com. For more on her latest projects, visit her website.