AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Joe Benitez, Author & Illustrator

Joe Benitez makes steampunk aesthetic come to life in a gritty, urban fantastic world featuring a kick-butt female lead. Of course, this lead struggles with identity and past and memory loss. It's a sci-fi treat, plotty and pretty.

REVIEW:  Steampunk aesthetics influenced me greatly growing up because of my love of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Sherlock Holmes and Gaslight Novels. It is no surprise, one of my favorite Cons to attend is Dragon*Con given its elaborate grouping of steampunk enthusiasts and their top-notch, quality workmanship. Which is why, to some degree, I consider myself a bit of an expert in noticing niche, stand-out steampunk art.  In Joe Benitez's artwork, steampunk gets a gritty make-over... not enough for it to be classified cyber or industrial punk, but it is a fine-edged, Victorian combination that works great and makes for a highly attractive, kick-butt lady heroine. I adore how overly large the coloring pages feel with a lot of white space not diminished by extras bogging down the central, focal piece. It really allows the images to pop and show off the intricate steampunk details of the costumes on this charismatic character.  The pages are printed only on one side so that if there's bleed through of any kind, you will not destroy any of the other pieces. They tear out easily because of perforated edging and could be framed with or without matting. Yes! They are that cool!  Also, when it says this coloring book is for all ages, that's true too. All images are comic book in nature, provocative, but not overtly sexualized that a teen fan or younger would be embarrassed to have out. And don't forget to go and see the graphic novels featuring LADY MECHANIKA for the story behind this kick-butt heroine. - (Rating: Peachy Keen)

INTERVIEW:

1. How do you define steampunk and why do you think it has become such a popular aesthetic in today's fandom?

Steampunk is Victorian Era science fiction, an imagining of what the world would look like if technology was more advanced in that time period (late 1800s), sci-fi tech with an Old World aesthetic.  Visually it combines elegant outfits with goggles, gears, and gadgets.  I think it's become popular in part because the steampunk subculture is all about artistry and handcrafted items.  It isn't about sticking to what you know, but letting your imagination soar.  In cosplay, for example, it isn't about dressing up as a particular character (though of course some people do) but creating your own character, designing your own costumes and gadgets and furniture, all using an old school look that some people find more appealing, certainly more romantic, than the slick and sleek look of modern design.

2. What attracted you to this era and creating a steampunk comic? I adored H. G. Wells growing up and was so excited about The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic and movie when they were released? Do you have classics or modern influences or both?

I initially contemplated doing a steampunk comic while attending Dragon Con in Atlanta.  I'd seen steampunk cosplayers and such before but I'd never really noticed it, it was just background noise.  But at Dragon Con I took note and was very inspired by the steampunk community.  I have both classic and modern influences.  H.G. Wells is actually a very heavy influence on Lady Mechanika, you can't do Victorian sci-fi without thinking of Wells or Verne.  In fact, I sometimes like to do a little tip of the hat to them when I can.

3. Is Lady Mechanika based on anyone? Did you give her certain traits or attributes because she was meant to be a reminder of anyone? Inspired by anyone, fictional or real-life?

At first I imagined her kind of like Selene from Underworld, bad-ass with a lot of attitude. On the outside she can seem cold and unemotional and stand-offish, but that's the protective shell hiding her soft and vulnerable insides. One of the initial concepts I had was a vampire hunter type character.  As time went on I started altering her more, making the stories more like sherlock holmes and tomb raider.  It may not be very original, but I gave her amnesia like Bourne or Wolverine, so that as she searches for her missing past we as the reader can discover it along with her.  That's the central question to the series, how did someone in that time period become enhanced with cybernetic limbs that are much more advanced than anything else, even in that fictional steampunk world.  Costume-wise I was influenced by steampunk model and fashion designer Kato, who had a kind of gothic take on steampunk and I wanted to infuse that, come up with my own version of that.

QUICK ANSWER:

  • What is your favorite Con to attend and why? Probably Dragon Con, primarily because it's not a comic book show, there are so many different types of vendors there.
  • What is your favorite Graphic Novel and why? The Killing Joke, because I like the story and I like Brian Bolland, he's one of my favorite artists.
  • What is your favorite Show right now and why? Probably Game of Thrones, it's well crafted and fun to watch!  
  • What music do you listen to while illustrating/creating? Usually Liquid Mind radio on Pandora because it quiets my head, but lately I've also been listening to Massive Attack, trip rock.

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