At the end of the ’90s, cartoonist Mike Kunkel’s “Herobear And The Kid” was set to be the next self-published all ages hit. Like Jeff Smith’s “Bone” before it, the book was a gorgeously drawn comic that appealed to kids and adults alike. But by 2002, the series had disappeared from comic shop shelves as the artist explored his career in animation.
Last year, “Herobear” made its long awaited return as a series of one-shots from BOOM! Studios’ KaBOOM! imprint. But those short stories were only prelude to the current “Herobear And The Kid: Saving Time” miniseries, which completes the story Kunkel started over a decade ago.
Kunkel stopped by the CBR Tiki Room at WonderCon 2014 to talk about his long road back to comics with CBR executive producer Jonah Weiland, discussing how a film option sidelined the comic for years, why it was a good thing to wait for “Saving Time” to hit, his animated ambitions for the project and his dream list of superhero comics he’d love to do some day.
On his time off from “Herobear”: Life takes over. With “Herobear” specifically, we got to the point where it got tied up with Universal Pictures, and there was rights thing for a while. A lot of learning went through it and a lot of, “You know what? I actually can’t publish right now.” I was stopped from self publishing for a little bit. It was a good learning experience. Luckily everything came back, and I have my sandbox I can play in again. But life took over — work and family. I still work full time in film and animation. Since then I did some other things — some children’s books and some other publishing stuff. But it was time to come back, and talking with BOOM!, it seemed like the right time.
On BOOM! Studios as a publishing partner: To be honest, it was less the Hollywood side of things. I’ve never chased Hollywood for “Herobear.” I have for some of my other things. I’ve got “Sock Monster” set up somewhere and other things set up that I want to do. “Herobear” is my baby. It’s my sandbox. It’s what I want to do. What BOOM! came to me with that excited me was [that] they love all ages stuff. There are some publishers that are, “We should be doing all ages books.” It’s sort of an obligation thing because they think their audience is asking for it. With BOOM!, it’s, “We love it.” I tell my audience that if I could tell my ten-year-old self that “Heroebear” would be laying on the same table as “Garfield” and “Peanuts,” he’d kind of lose his mind a little bit. Because I grew up loving those both so much — I copied “Garfield” all through elementary school. So to be with a studio now that supports that side, I love that.
On the style of the new series “Saving Time”: I don’t feel I’ve lost the voice of what I wanted to tell… I would see it as Tyler watching a home movie of his life. One of the biggest thing that’s always affected me is the movie “Stand By Me.” And that’s the voice I always go back to — “Stand By Me,” “The Wonder Years,” “A Christmas Story.” That sort of nostalgic but also looking back and remembering things… I think because I’m still doing that, that has helped me stay true to it.
Also, the new one [that is coming out], I get to come back to the other side of the first story I wanted to tell. I look at it maybe a little bit older, maybe a little bit more experienced of how I want to tell it. But it’s the right story to tell at this time. So I feel like, “Good. I’m glad I didn’t tell it then.” Because what it involves is a deeper thing. It’s the other side of that story.