Lee and Michael Allred have been borderline obsessed with Jack Kirby’s cosmic character Forager, aka Bug, since they discovered New Gods #9 while sitting in the waiting room of their childhood guitar teacher. So when Young Animal curator Gerard Way asked the brothers and Eisner Award-winning colorist (and Michael’s wife) Laura Allred which characters they would include in a new entry for the DC Comics’ imprint, they kept coming back to Bug.
Their dedication and desire won out — the six-issue limited series Bug! The Adventures of Forager launched this week, and CBR connected with the Allreds to discuss the new title. Among the interesting pieces of information the trio shared is which other Kirby creations will be appearing as the comic book industry celebrates what would have been the King of Comics’ 100th birthday.
The Allreds also shared their thoughts on the impact and influence of Kirby, who famously created hundreds of iconic characters during his Will Eisner Hall of Fame career including the Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, the X-Men and the Hulk for Marvel and the New Gods and Kamandi for DC Comics.
CBR: Michael, we’ve talked about your love of all things Jack Kirby before, most recently for your runs on Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer. But for all three of you, what is it about the King of Comics that still resonates with comic book creators as we celebrate and approach what would have been his 100th birthday?
Lee Allred: People much smarter than me have been trying for the past 50 years to explain, “Why Kirby?” Might as well try to explain, “Why Shakespeare?” or, “Why Mozart?”
What resonates for me, personally, is Kirby’s grand scope, the relentless energy in his work, and the sheer fun. Reading through all of the DC Kirby Omnibuses in preparation for this project, I was blown away about just how danged fun his Fourth World and other DC titles were. His wild Jimmy Olsen tales, his epic Orion battles, his bleak ‘World That’s Coming’ in OMAC.
Michael Allred: The Shakespeare and Mozart references are apt. You just can’t exaggerate his significance. He broke ground on every genre: superheroes, war, romance, monsters and sci-fi. And the list of characters that he created and co-created is unsurpassed.
Laura Allred: His reach can probably be traced to every single comic book like an elaborate family tree. You may not spot the influence at first, but anyone who follows the branches of influences will almost always work their way back to Jack Kirby. His powerful influence is undeniable.
While the New Gods is a concept that has enjoyed highs – and suffered some lows – since their debut in 1971, certainly some characters like Darkseid, Orion and Mister Miracle have cemented their places as major players within the DC Universe. The Forager, aka The Bug… not so much. What led you to The Bug for this new series?
Lee Allred: New Gods #9 was my gateway into the Fourth World. And that issue is all about The Bug! It says so right on the cover! The main New Gods — Orion and Lightray — are literally sidebar characters in that issue. I didn’t really learn of the epic war between Highfather and Darkseid until later. For me, the heart and core of the Fourth World books was always Forager and his struggle.
Michael Allred: I’ve been a Forager fanatic for most of my life, ever since finding the comic in the waiting room of our childhood guitar teacher, James Ray. I squeezed Bug into my New Gods entry in my issue of DC Solo, along with Orion, Lightray and Mister Miracle. And when Lee and I were coming up with proposals for Gerard Way and Jamie S. Rich after an invite to play in the Young Animal playground, I just kept throwing Bug in every single one of them. He has an unspoken appeal that I’ve always wanted to tap into, and now we’re finally getting that chance.
For readers not aware of his backstory, what can you share about him in terms of his origin and power-set?
Lee Allred: Funny you should ask! Readers can catch up on his backstory and power set in his Who’s Who entry published at the back of every DC Young Animal title that shipped in April.
Michael Allred: He’s the cat’s meow! Quick, resourceful, undaunted. The most important aspect of his backstory is how he’s a child of New Genesis, misplaced in the insect slums, unaware of his lineage. Kind of like Luke Skywalker dumped on a desert planet, or Tarzan orphaned in the jungle.
And what about his personality? In the first issue, at least, he is portrayed as quite light-hearted and perhaps a bit like a fish-out-of-water. Will that continue as The Bug’s story continues?
Lee Allred: We not only continue, but we’re cranking it up. We’re dragging poor Forager across nearly the entire DC Kirby-verse where he’ll very much be a fish out of Kirby-Krackling water — at least in those reality shards where they still have water. Through it all, somehow Forager remains his upbeat, optimistic self. Although, the series ending stunner might just throw even our perpetually good-natured Bug through a loop.
Michael Allred: When you rise up from the lowest of the low, face down bias and oppression, Forager has found there is always a bright side to any circumstance. There’s always an “up” if you just fight to find it.
Lee Allred: It’s a pity that Forager appeared so late in the New Gods run and so close to its cancellation. Kirby never revisited Forager. He obviously had much more to say on the subject of the insect colonies and their callous treatment by the New Gods, their origins, and their exact status. What we know is so very fragmentary.
Michael Allred: That has a lot to do with my obsession with the character. Kirby rarely introduced a character with so much fanfare only to have him left in the dust, after just two issues, and then Jack Kirby’s New Gods was over an issue later. As a pre-comic shop kid, I often had holes in my collections, and I think I subconsciously filled in the gaps. In the overactive mind of my childhood, I must have believed Bug went on to fulfill all the promise I believe Jack Kirby intended for him. Years later when discovering the magic of comic shops and conventions, I was able to complete many collections, including the inconclusive fate of Forager. That is until The Cosmic Odyssey. I went nuts for that miniseries, but nothing excited or moved me more than the inclusion of Forager the Bug!
I love, love, love Bug’s look and feel. Obviously, you don’t need to fix much when you are reimagining a Jack Kirby creation but what do you think really works for Bug in terms of his costume and design?
Laura Allred: Being an Allred, I may be biased, but so much red in the design is a great way to make a character pop! And those strange black zig-zags are so unusual. He’s unique without being too complicated.
Sandman makes an appearance in this story, as well, but not the Dream-version that was popularized by Neil Gaiman in The Sandman! This is again the Jacky Kirby-created Sandman, co-created by Joe Simon, who made his debut in 1974. He’s not traditionally a Fourth World character, so what was the reason for including him in this series? It was because you wanted to include Brute and Glob, am I right?
Lee Allred: We pitched Bug! as a romp across the DC Kirby-verse. The 1974 Kirby Sandman will be only one stop along the way. We’ll be seeing a plethora other 1970s Kirby characters as well. Just who we include, we hope, will surprise and delight readers.
Michael Allred: Instead of Jack Kirby’s greatest hits, it’s more like Jack Kirby’s deepest tracks! [Laughs]
Lee Allred: Plus, Mike really, really wanted to draw Brute and Glob. [Laughs]
Michael Allred: Who?
Do you have plans for other New Gods to appear in this series?
Lee Allred: Let’s just say Mike gets lots and lots of opportunities to draw other Fourth World characters.
Michael Allred: My face hurts from all the smiling.
This series was announced as a six-issue miniseries but do you have more stories to tell with Bug?
Lee Allred: Six issues are all that are planned. I know I’d love to continue the Bug! love. I do have a second story arc in mind should we continue past the initial miniseries.
Michael Allred: Oh please, oh please buy this series, Folks! I’ve never had more fun! I would very much love to do more.
This series is part of Gerard Way’s Young Animal Imprint. Will Bug! The Adventures of Forager! cross over with any of the other Young Animal title?
Lee Allred: Gerard has spoken elsewhere on his plans to build connections across the Young Animal titles. What that entails remains to be seen. I will point out that Bug! is a Young Animal title. It could very well have some part to play in that connection-building.
Michael Allred: I don’t think it’s too big a spoiler to say that there are very clear, easily made connections when reading this series. Full-on crossover stuff would be a big kick! I love everything Gerard has pulled together and all the other creators and characters. Thrilled to be a part of all this!
What input, continuing or at the outset, did Gerard have on this title?
Lee Allred: Gerard is the one who looked at our list of possible characters to build a Young Animal series around and chose Forager the Bug. He’s definitely hands-on in curating the Young Animal line. Very much involved in the gestation and creation of the Bug! book. We’ve talked over the direction of the book in conference calls and such. He’s on the email chain of everything I do script-wise.
Michael Allred: I think he finally just took pity on me after the umpteenth time he saw me mention Bug. [Laughs]
Bug! The Adventures of Forager #1 by Lee, Mike and Laura Allred is on sale now.