Pendelton Ward might be best known for creating "Adventure Time," but he has another incredibly weird, wild and entertaining animated series running online on Cartoon Hangover. "Bravest Warriors," about a team of teenage galaxy-traveling heroes for hire, stars Chris Kirkman, Beth Tezuka, Wallow and Danny Vasquez, each of whom has a weapon animal that aids them in their missions.
Last year, BOOM! Studios launched a comic series to compliment the cartoon. January sees the release of the book's first annual, simply titled "Bravest Warriors 2014 Annual." Instead of focusing on the actual Warriors, though, the issue features four separate stories, each shining the spotlight on fan-favorite alien Catbug, a feline-ladybug hybrid who actually first appeared in the pages of the comic before making his way to the animated series.
BOOM! enlisted four creators to spread the Catbug love: Sloane Leong ("Five Ghosts"), Kate Leth ("Adventure Time with Fionna & Cake"), Monica Ray ("Phuzzy Comics") and Coleman Engle ("Popgun") are all on board to showcase the dimension-hopping little guy. To get the inside scoop on the annual its stories, CBR News spoke with all four creators about how they got involved, working in the all-ages realm and their love of Catbug.
CBR News: How did each of you get involved in working on the Bravest Warriors Annual?
Kate Leth: I was asked by the BOOM! Studios team if I'd be interested in drawing a longer-form story than my previous two-page backups, and I was happy to jump at the chance!
Sloane Leong: [Editor] Whitney Leopard asked me to do a story.
Monica Ray: My editor was familiar with my work and had seen me at a few conventions, so she asked me if I wanted to do a "Bravest Warriors" alternate cover. That lead to another alternate cover and then this Catbug story!
Coleman Engle: I've done a few things for BOOM! in the past, and Whitney Leopard asked if I'd be down to do a Catbug comic. DUHHHH, he's so cute!
Was the idea to shine the spotlight on Catbug there from the very beginning? What were your initial thoughts on focusing the spotlight on the character?
Leong: The theme for the annual was Catbug, so, yes. Catbug is a simple character, but his voice actor [Sam Lavagnino] has given him such a specific silly personality that I was excited about doing something goofy and fantastic with the little alien dude.
Leth: I think we all knew it was going to be a Catbug-centric issue; that was the only stipulation I was given. Catbug! I'm actually quite excited to see what everyone else did with the character.
Ray: The stories are supposed to focus on Catbug this time around. I was excited because he's a crowd favorite and the creative possibilities with him are endless.
Engle: Wallow is my favorite Bravest Warrior, and I really like his relationship with aliens and how he prefers them over other humans. Catbug and him seem to really get along, so I wanted to focus on their friendship, and what I'd imagine some pop culture would be like in that world.
What can each of you tell readers about your story? What kind of challenges will he and his pals face in your shorts?
Leong: In my story, Catbug takes off on his own into a meta-cosmic dimension searching for adventure when he meets a mysterious creature called the Solar Hare who grants him a strange ability. I don't want to spoil the rest!
Leth: My story is an alphabet story! Catbug takes you through the letters. I can't tell you much more or it will spoil it, but he does rob a bank.
Ray: Little is known about Catbug, so this was a great opportunity to expand on what he is. For the first time, Catbug will show us his true face!
Engle: Wallow and Catbug are watching a new video from their favorite band, loveREJUVENATION, trying to memorize the dance moves. While practicing, Wallow keeps getting pulled away by other Bravest Warriors to battle and save the day, leaving Catbug to practice by himself. But Wallow soon learns how to use the moves while battling, and Catbug learns how to use the moves to thwart off annoying roommates, like Danny!
What other familiar Bravest Warrior faces will fans see in your stories?
Leong: You'll see the whole team and Impossibear, but mostly Catbug!
Leth: Oh, the crew pops up here and there. Danny has some issues with being left out of the alphabet of names, let's say...
Ray: Impossibear was only able to negotiate a non-speaking background role, but only because I find his design super cute.
Engle: All the Bravest Warriors show up in some form or the other in the comic, as well as some of Wallow's roommates.
Do you approach something like the "Bravest Warriors Annual," which is an all-ages book, differently than some of your other projects?
Leong: I try to keep the visuals themselves easy to read, but I don't bother trying to dampen my story concepts which sometimes tend to be surreal and mysterious. I trust the readers, regardless of age, will be up for the challenge of parsing the story how they want, and that it will be fun and entertaining to look at while they do so.
Leth: For sure. I actually really like creating for a younger audience, or at least with the knowledge that it's all-ages. My personal work is often very adult, so it's fun to just dial up the weirdness and go for smiles.
Ray: I'm used to writing for all-ages because 90% of my writing process is about making the story understandable to my family members. How do I convey what Catbug is to my grandpa? I have to make sure my aunts and uncles and cousins can follow what I'm writing, especially if they aren't familiar with the property!
Engle: Most of my comics tend to be all-ages, so I didn't switch gears too much making this story. I wanted to make a fun story that was sorta light and fluffy, a feel good story!
When working in a world like the one found in "Bravest Warriors," how do you balance your own style with the established one of the series?
Leong: Pen Ward's style is elegantly simple but makes use of all the classic signifiers for recognizable characters: silhouette, clothing design and color. Using all those features as a touchstone, you can vibe off them and get more detailed and abstract while still retaining the feel of each character. I think I did a decent job of blending the show's and my style -- rubbery characters with weird ridiculous facial expressions.
Leth: I always try to go so on-model with the characters! I love when other artists get interpretive with the designs and take them to some crazy places, but mine are pretty true-to-form.
Ray: "Bravest Warriors" is sort of an anything goes type of universe. Anything you come up with would probably fit in the colorful, magical space environment. That said, I always like to serve my cute with a side of dark humor, which definitely comes out in my story.
Engle: Thankfully, both the "Bravest Warriors" and my style are kinda goofy, so the transition was a fun and not a hard one to make.
"Bravest Warriors 2014 Annual" by Kate Leth, Sloane Leong, Monica Ray, Coleman Engle and BOOM! Studios hits stands on Jan. 29.