Some readers might remember Herobear and the Kid from a good number of years ago. It won an Eisner in 2002 and 2003, and was six issues of all ages imagination and fun from creator Mike Kunkel. BOOM! In June, readers will get an all new story in a one-shot special, then they’re also reprinting the original series, “The Inheritance” with new covers and additional material. Then Herobear will return more more new stories in August. But, it all starts this Saturday with a 6 page story in the Kaboom Summer Blast, available on Free Comic Book Day.
We asked Mike Kunkel, the man behind the pencils about Herobear and the Kid now and then.
iFanboy: For the uninitiated, who never read the series the first time around, what is the Herobear and the Kid in your words?
Mike Kunkel: Herobear and the Kid is a very nostalgic story of childhood and fun. It’s about a young boy named Tyler who inherits a stuffed bear from his mysterious grandfather that magically comes to life as a 10 foot tall heroic polar bear named Herobear. I’ve always strived to write this world in a tone similar to Wonder Years or a Christmas Story. So, whether Herobear and Tyler are fighting giant wind-up robots or running late to school, these are their adventures together as I try to put as much warmth and heart into the stories. It’s a fun remembrance of childhood experiences with the added element that your best friend is a superhero.
iF: The art style in the book is nothing like any other comics out there. How did you decide to leave it so raw?
MK: Thanks. Honestly, I just went with what I knew… with over 20 years experience in animation, my background as a traditional animator and character designer made it the right path for me to work with an animation pencil style. For me, I love it because… well, one, I stink at inking… and, two, I love the feel and look of pencil drawings. The life and process in them allows you to see the thought behind the images. They feel alive. I love what my friends like to call it… the “Animation Way.” That description makes me smile because animation is all about bringing images to life… that’s what I hope comes across in my books. With the multiple acting poses and drawn pencil style, I hope the story feels alive on the page.
iF: What was the original plan for Herobear and the Kid, and are these new stories from BOOM! an extension of that?
MK: This may sound funny, but I have always seen the type of storytelling in Herobear and the Kid as kinda like X-Files. They told 2 different kinds of stories… the “big mythology, over-arching” stories and then the “bigfoot” episodes. Which means that they had a big story to tell, but they would also tell self-contained stories too. For me, that’s how I’ve always seen Herobear. I’ve had the whole mythology big story since the beginning . . . almost since high school. And I’ve wanted to tell the rest of it all for so long; the history of the villain Von Klon, the mystery of who Henry the butler is, also the origin of Herobear. And now, yes! This new launch with BOOM! is definitely going to be an extension of my original storyline while getting to finish the rest of that story I’ve been so anxious to tell, and along with that, I’m telling these fun “bigfoot” self-contained special stories like in FCBD and also the Summer One-Shot Special. It’s so much fun!
iF: What audience do you have in mind when you’re producing this book? Just kids?
MK: For me, it is always all ages… and by that I mean not just kids, not just adults . . . but truly, ALL ages. I’ve always love hearing stories from fans that say they read the book WITH a son, daughter, niece, nephew, wife, husband, mom, dad, friend, it’s that “family event” of sharing it together that i love so much. My goal is to create stories that inspire readers and give them a fun, nostalgic experience in the story and the artwork, and through that, then they hopefully share it with others.
iF: What lessons did you learn from self-publishing that you’re applying to putting the book out through BOOM! this time around?
MK: I think the independent path and thought process is a great foundation for working now with a cool publisher like BOOM!. I know and understand their path of things, because I’ve experienced it myself on a smaller level. Because I’m not just an artist or just the writer on a property, but I’m the creator and I publish different books as well, what I try to do is bring to the table some grassroots marketing ideas and branding concepts I’ve learned. I’m enjoying exploring with them hopefully greater ways to share the stories. One of the things I’ve learned that I love, is that self-publishing really gets you connected to the audience on a personal level, and you get a sense of what fans like about your property. For me, when we create books and self-publish we can’t please everyone. It’s more about connecting with the other “Mike Kunkels” in the world that like what I do. So with BOOM!, I’m trying to share the knowledge of my experience, so that we can work together to have great tools to share Herobear with everyone in the best possible way and on an even bigger level now. And they are awesome, because they totally get it. They naturally think way ahead of the curve and are thankfully very open to my crazy ideas, which is very refreshing and exactly what I hoped for in working with a publisher.