We were lucky enough to catch up with Mike Kunkel, author and illustrator of the Eisner award-winning Herobear and the Kid series, at Emerald City Comicon and ask him a few questions. The first issue of the new arc, “Saving Time,” is available in stores on April 23, 2014.
To start off, for those unfamiliar or too young last time the comic was around, can you give a description of the series and how the nostalgia factor plays a large role?
The first one sets up the first half of the story that I always wanted to tell. It’s the origin of Tyler but not the origin of Herobear or of Henry or anything like that. This one is the other side of the coin that gives you the back-story on certain characters and answers questions that may have arisen after the first time. It’s something I’ve wanted to tell for a long time that I’ve hinted at in other books, including the first one, and now I officially get to put it out there. This was already planned because I knew the first one would end where it did, and I wanted to get to this side of it. I held off on telling certain things until now. Even certain things that I hinted at. There’s an epilogue in the back of the trade that bridges the two worlds. All of my stuff sort of relates to animation, and that’s kind of an animation idea.
Industry research tends to peg the age of the average comics reader at between 23-35 years old. What was behind the decision to create a series geared more towards kids?
It was partially my animation background, but for me it’s also where my sensibilities go. When I first started these books, my kids were much younger and I wanted to have books for them to read. It’s also innately where my storytelling has always gone to. My favorite things are Peanuts and old Warner Brothers cartoons and other material like that. I’ve always gravitated to those types.
Everyone knows about Pixar and other similar properties that are for all ages. Is this a story strictly for kids, or can it be enjoyed by all? Are there any inside jokes that older readers might pick up on?
When people ask what the demographic is, I always say it really is all ages. I’ve had parents tell me they read the book with their son and daughter or teachers tell me about reading it to the class. There are these neat little family events that are truly all ages enjoying it together. That’s what I like. It isn’t just written for kids, but it is all-ages clean. You can be any age and enjoy it like that. I think nostalgia carries both ways, and of course the silly drawings and humor help with the younger ages. There are occasionally inside jokes that only friends or family understand. My hope is that when my wife and kids read it, they giggle. They’re my “test.” My wife goes “I can hear your voice,” and that’s the kind of humor I like.
Time travel is all the rage in mainstream comics, yet it can sometimes get bogged down by logistics, with paradoxes and other issues. Tell us what was behind making that decision for the story, and if there was anything tough to work around?
It’s a simpler path. And it’s a simpler idea of what I want to touch on, the mechanisms of it. We know the go-to things, Back to the Future and Doctor Who, and everything we can look at and say Well that thing affects this thing if you do this. The rules I’m affecting are very clear, and the things that I want to set up have clear directives. What you’re getting out of it is the clear goal about what our heroes have to do. It is definitely my mechanism to set-up everything that’s character driven. It has a lot of rules in it but it has a lot of things you can track and follow and know what I’m trying to do.
Lastly, what are the future plans for the duo beyond the limited series? Have you ever considered other media? I think a handheld game would fit perfectly within this world.
I have. My love is side-scrolling games, old-school Mario Bros and things like that. I would love to do an old style Herobear side-scroller that is Tyler running along with a stuffed bear and he has to get enough power to change the bear but only for so long. I want that adventure of side-scrolling because there’s just something fun about those games and I love the graphics. Just that layout: I love the art. I also have some merchandise, but I’m working on a board game. So far, it’s been mostly getting everything together and then talking to a company to see where that goes.
There you have it! I’m ready to play a hand-drawn Herobear 3DS game…
Alex Smith is a news and reviews writer for Capeless Crusader. When not wasting away in class, he spends all his free time with comics, movies, and video games, and has been since birth. He can spend hours discussing Saga, Hawkeye, or Game of Thrones. Lying Cat’s number one fan. Random brain thoughts: @imapensfan