Animal Kingdom: Mike Bullock talks "Lions, Tigers & Bears"

At some point in our lives, it's likely we've all been afraid of the dark, and imagined that monsters were hiding under the bed. Some of us chose to send our action figures out to guard us, and some just installed a night light, but what if your stuffed animals were your last, best hope against very real enemies? In Runemaster Studio's series "Lions, Tigers & Bears," published by Image Comics, a little boy has to wage a war against these enemies, with only a few loyal allies. CBR News caught up with series writer Mike Bullock who explained where the book goes next and provided a brief introduction to the world of "Lions, Tigers & Bears."

"'Lions, Tigers and Bears' is an all-ages fantasy/adventure tale of a young boy named Joey who discovers the monsters who live in his closet are all too real," explained Bullock. "Fortunately, for him, his stuffed animals (four big cats called The Night Pride) come to life to save him from the monsters, known as the Beasties. Joey soon finds himself propelled into the Stuffed Animal Kingdom and caught up in a war between the Stuffed Animal Militia and The Beasties, where he quickly learns that only his imagination can save the day.

"Joey Price is an eight year old boy who lives with his single mother. While he's learning to be brave, Joey is still a little jumpy. Courtney Donlolley is the nine-year-old daughter of Abner Donlolley. The Donlolley family owns the Stuffed Animal Kingdom toy shop, where they hand-make the magic stuffed animals. The Night Pride consists of Pallo the lion, Venus the tigress, Ares the white tiger and Minerva the panthress. Some of the more 'high profile' Beasties are Mumbler and Grumble, two brothers who bicker constantly. "

With the first issue of the second series now on stands, your chance to jump into the series right now is an easy one and no knowledge of the first series is necessary to enjoy this second series. "In the new story, Joey and Courtney have once again discovered they're help is needed in saving the Stuffed Animal Kingdom. The evil Lord Valthraax, head of the Beasties, has done something so dastardly that the entire Stuffed Animal Kingdom is in danger. I don't want to say much more, for the sake of not spoiling the story for new readers."

As Bullock will explain, the series wasn't originally planned to star these magical creatures, but as the story and characters were worked on further, "Lions, Tigers & Bears" was born. "The story began as something entirely different: a story of four gods who walked the earth as humans, but who could change shape into magical big cats. After tinkering with that for awhile, I shelved the idea, only to dust it back off and alter it to what became 'Lions, Tigers and Bears' a year or so later. After I had the main story and theme ironed out, as well as the character's fully imagined, Jack Lawrence [series artist] came to me and asked if I had a comic story I might want to work on with him. I pitched him 'Lions, Tigers and Bears' and, as fate would have it, he'd just finished doing a study on drawing big cats and he instantly fell in love with the characters and situations in the pitch." Bullock's instincts have paid off well, as he's seen some nice growth in sales for "LT&B," for which he thanks fans and retailers. "The orders have been healthier than on the first series, which is awesome. Thanks to the retailers for having confidence in our little story. And thanks to the readers for supporting that decision by picking up copies at your LCS or favorite online retailer.

"I'd like to think [the increase in sales is] because everyone has heard the buzz and doesn't want to miss out on our book (wink). However, common sense makes me think the reality of it is that when a book sells out from Diamond and from comic shops, comic retailers are losing out on sales, so this time around they've ordered in larger quantities to keep that from happening again. We've also gambled a bit and run a rather hefty overprint, to keep the book in stock longer at Diamond. Luckily for us, it's still moving out of the Diamond warehouse rather quickly, and if we'd only overprinted the amount we did with volume I, it would be sold out already. However, we'd rather have it available for retailers to re-stock for as long as possible."

With all the success in mind, Bullock is working hard to produce even more work to appeal to a wide range of readers, as he reveals, "We have a series of illustrated novels in the works, similar to the "Lemony Snickets" books, the first of which will hopefully see publication in 2007. As for comic books, When I can find the time in between writing issues of The Phantom for Moonstone Books, I have a one-shot story I'm going to write and hand over to Jack to work on in his spare time. We'd originally hoped to have it available in time for Halloween of this year, but it doesn't look like our schedules will allow that. Beyond that, we have enough story ideas to do roughly 20 more mini-series, but don't ever see this as an ongoing series. We like the fact that each story is self-contained and the four issue mini series format, although pushed on us at first, has really proven to be a good vehicle for new tales.

"Right now the novels are all in the planning stages. We're exploring several options for what direction to go in, from adapting the existing comic stories into novels, all the way to creating an entirely new cast of characters and having their tales only exist in the novelizations. We don't have a publisher yet, but we do have an excellent literary agent who gets things done. When the time comes to go publisher shopping, our agent doesn't think it'll be long before a suitor is named. As for a timeline, again it's all in the planning stages, but right now I'd say the earliest you could expect to see them in stores would be late 2007.

"I'm hoping to have another LTB story appear in comic form before the novels hit, but with the frantic pace of mine and Jack's schedules, I really can't say for sure.

If you're trying to find a new book for younger readers, or for the kid in you, Bullock says that "Lions, Tigers & Bears" is the perfect choice. "Younger readers are enthralled. The only complaint we seem to get from them is the fact that a new issue doesn't come out every day. As for older readers, we get resounding choruses of 'Thank you' from parents who are happy we've created a book they can share with their children, while enjoying themselves at the same time. Our youngest reader is 4 and our oldest is 96."

CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland contributed to this story.

The Infected: King Shazam Resurrects a Long Lost Classic Kirby Hero

More in Comics