Mike Bullock has been an active writer for over 20 years, but he rose in the comics scene on the strength of his creation, "Lions, Tigers, and Bears," a tale of stuffed animals turned live protectors. Now, Bullock's following that up with "Timothy and the Transgalactic Towel," with recent collaborator on the third volume of "Lions, Tigers and Bears," Michael Metcalf. Both Bullock and Metcalf sat down with CBR News to talk about this new release from the Silverline series of books from Shadowline and Image Comics.
"Timothy and the Transgalactic Towel" revolves, not surprisingly, around a young boy named Timothy and his highly absorbent best friend, Towel. "Now, this isn't just your run of the mill, high quality Fieldcrest or Cannon towel, mind you," Bullock told CBR. "Towel is his name, not what he is -- although he is a towel, just not that kind of towel. No, this towel or Towel can travel anywhere Timothy imagines and in so doing ushers Timothy and the reader on an adventure not soon forgotten."
"The book deals with family relationships, making friends, helping others, being kind and brave and understanding," Metcalf told CBR. "It's about love and imagination and, of course, a towel that can travel through time and space."
"Timothy and Towel are the stars of the story," Bullock continued. "Like most young boys from broken homes, Timothy just wants more attention from his parents and the sense of security that would bring."
"Timothy wants his dad to stay home more," said Metcalf. "Timmy's struggling in school and has a tendency to use daydreams to escape from everyday life."
"Towel's motivations are a bit of a mystery right now," Bullock added, "but will be revealed at a later time."
Bullock characterizes the book as a journey of make-believe made real. "More often than not, in grade school I found myself staring out the window wishing I was rocketing through space with Flash Gordon or John Carter," Bullock said. "I often thought, 'Maybe I could travel to Tatooine if I just imagine hard enough...' This book is the closest I've managed to get so far to making those imaginings a reality."
Metcalf echoed the sentiment, saying, "It's a rip-roaring, rollercoaster romp involving talking terrycloth, cliff dwelling wolf men, spaceships, robots, dragons, aliens, macaroni, hot dogs and more."
Bullock conceived of the "Towel" concept after taking a break from his breakout book, "Lions, Tigers and Bears" following its second volume. "I felt I really needed to create something new," said Bullock. "So, I sat down one day, Muse at my side, and created about fifteen or twenty ideas that I could develop into properties. So far, I've worked quite a bit on three or four of them, with Timothy being the one to make it the farthest at this juncture. I guess having a Transgalactic Towel at your side gives you a bit of a head start. Right before I sat down and really dug into 'Timothy,' my wife and I had gone on a long-needed vacation to Hawaii. The islands are so full of mysticism and art that I found my imagination tanks nearly overfull when I returned. A lot of that poured out in this book, some of which won't become evident until a later chapter."
Bullock and Metcalf worked together on the most recent volume of "Lions, Tigers and Bears," where Metcalf took over from co-creator Jack Lawrence. Bullock saw "Timothy" as an opportunity to let his artistic collaborator create a new world all on his own. "I liked what [Metcalf] was doing so much it occurred to me that he'd really shine on a book that he drew from the get go," Bullock explained. "I tossed the idea of 'Timothy' at him and he ran with it. In my opinion, it's his best work to date. I'm sure once the book hits stores, Met' won't be answering my phone calls or giving me the time of day as he'll be too busy fighting off supermodels, mega-producers and random cosplay addicts. At least I can say I knew him when..."
Bullock continued, "Metcalf delivers on the sense of fun and unbridled enthusiasm I tried to distill within the pages of the script. There's a certain magic inherent in the daydreams of kids that is infused with a brand of excitement which is almost impossible to describe. Met' grabbed that excitement, wrestled it to the ground, squeezed it into his pencils and brushes, then tattooed it to the pages indelibly. "
"Mostly, I'm having a lot of fun drawing the dragons and the expressions on Timothy's face," Metcalf said of his work on the project. "After reading through the script, I discussed the project with Mike who had some ideas for how the characters might look. I did a bunch of preliminary sketches and we decided on the designs for Timothy, Towel, and some of the space ships and creatures that appear in the book. Then I just started sketching out pages, inking them on my computer and coloring them."
"If you can enjoy a Pixar flick, you should get into this as well," said Bullock of the potential audience for "Timothy." It's an appropriate assessment, echoed in the influences of artist Metcalf.
"I'm a huge fan of the animated films of Hayao Miyazaki, Pixar films and animation in general," said Metcalf. "I love sci-fi movies and superheroes and a teeny bit of horror. I love the comic art of Alan Davis, Arthur Adams, Mike Mignola, Frank Quitely, Jim Cheung, Ryan Ottley, Adam Hughes and so many others. In comics, I love drawing body language, facial expressions and character interactions that showcase their personalities. I learn a lot from the work, feedback and support of other artists and writers. There is so much I have to learn about drawing but it's a ton of fun!"
"It's a bit of a hybrid between comic books/graphic novels and story books," said Bullock of "Timothy and the Transgalactic Towel's" format. "While there are many comic book-styled pages complete with panels/gutters/word balloons etc., there are also quite a number of two page spreads with prose. Take all that, wrap it up in a nice hardcover with a gorgeous cover illustration by Manny 'Panda Express' Trembley and you get a somewhat unique package that should suit a somewhat unique story."
How have actual children reacted to this comic/storybook? "With wonder and excitement," said Bullock. "I've had some pages to shown around at two conventions and at four different elementary schools so far and every kid who's seen it has wanted the whole thing, now. In addition, I've had numerous adults asking for it, as well as the legion of 'Lions, Tigers and Bears' fans."
"Timothy and the Transgalactic Towel" hits the shelves on August 26. From Silverline Books and Image Comics.