What do you do with a Paralyzed Horse? If you're "Bravest Warriors" star Beth, you stand by your longtime friend. If you're any of the creators joining in on the KaBOOM! 48-page one-shot "Bravest Warriors: Paralyzed Horse" you have fun with one of the Cartoon Hangover series' more unusual characters.
Essentially frozen after witnessing "forever," Paralyzed Horse uses his far-seeing gifts to keep watch over his longtime friend Beth, a member of the Bravest Warriors. Voiced by "Transformers" narrator Victor Caroli, the character weaves epic mental logs in the vein of one James Tiberius Kirk. He was last seen in the See-Through Zone, staying behind to fight Aeon Worm with newfound telekinetic powers so that Beth could escape with her dad.
James Tynion IV ("Batman Eternal," "Memetic"), Kat Leyh ("Bird Witch," "Bravest Warriors"), Pranas Naujokaitis ("Inkdick," Adventure Time"), Tessa Stone ("Bravest Warriors," "Regular Show: Hydration") and Mairghread Scott ("Transformers: Windblade") all wrote stories for the Nov. 19-launching one-shot. Stone, Naujokaitis and Leyh also drew their shorts while Tynion worked with Erica Henderson ("Quantum & Woody") and Scott teamed with Meredith McClaren ("Adventure Time: Pixel Princesses").
CBR News talked to Tynion, Leyh, Naujokaitis, Stone and Scott about their stories, playing in the "Bravest Warriors" sandbox and the joys of writing Paralyzed Horse stories in the Bravest Warriors universe.
CBR News: What was your first reaction when you heard this issue would focus on Beth's pet?
James Tynion IV: It was pretty funny how this all came about for me. I've been a huge fan of "Bravest Warriors" from the beginning, and I'd been loving the comics. I believe it was at Emerald City this year, around the time folks were talking about the "Catbug" special, that I told Bryce Carlson, BOOM's Managing Editor, that I was a crazy-big "Bravest Warriors" fan. I said that he should let me know the second they lined up another one of these specials, because I wanted to be onboard. He said the magic words "Paralyzed Horse Special" and I just said, "Sold." I love the world that they've built here, and the Paralyzed Horse was one of my favorite odd beats at the end of the first season and the beginning of the second. I started thinking immediately about what I wanted to do.
Kat Leyh: I was pretty excited, that Horse has had an amazing storyline so far.
Pranas Naujokaitis: Honestly, my first reaction was: Who? It had been a good long while since I watched the show, and at that point I had only seen the first season, so I forgot who Paralyzed Horse even was. But that just gave me an excuse to sit down and re-watch Season One and watch Season Two. Before that, though, I thought it was such a weird idea to do a special comic for a character who's defining characteristic is just laying there. But after binge watching, it made perfect sense to give him his own special. There's a lot of ideas and stories to explore with the character.
Tessa Stone: Excited. Crazy-excited because there are so many possibilities within the Paralyzed Horse and his arc! The world itself is very open but with PH there's always an underlying layer of duty and loyalty to Beth that's always so fun to visit.
Mairghread Scott: "You want me to express, in still images, the emotional life and struggle of a paralyzed horse? ... Let's do this!" I love a good challenge and figuring how to build an emotional story -- because PH is a rather emotional and dramatic kinda guy -- for a character whose facial expression can't change is certainly one of the bigger ones I've taken on. Fortunately, not only did Paralyzed Horse have a rich relationship with Beth in the show, but I was able to work with the fabulous Meredith McClaren so I started with a really strong base.
What can you tell us about your individual story in the issue?
Tynion: I love the relationship between Chris and Beth, which is the heart of all things "Bravest Warriors," and I also remembered the picture of the Paralyzed Horse with a young Beth from the first season and the implication that both Chris and Beth were around playing with the Horse as kids. So I decided that's where I wanted to set the story. Chris and Beth are seven, and Beth has taken her horse to a day at the beach. There's also the fact that the Paralyzed Horse knows things that nobody else knows, and there's a lot about Chris that nobody else knows. So how does a creature with total universal enlightenment handle a being with the kind of power that an Emotion Lord can wield? And how does that play out with Chris, age seven? On a beach made out of multicolor jellyfish? That's where this little story comes from. I'm working with one of my best buds, Erica Henderson, on this, and she absolutely destroyed it on the art side. We've been trying to do something together for ages, and I'm so freaking happy this worked out. The final package is beautiful. I can't wait for people to read it!
Leyh: My story involves a time vaguely before all the See-Through Zone drama, but after he had already gained insight into all time and space.
Naujokaitis: Basically Paralyzed Horse gets hungry. Like super hungry. But he's paralyzed, so he can't just get up and grab some hay or whatever. He can't even move his mouth to chew. So what does he do? My story tackles that.
Stone: Wow, I'm usually so bad about talking about stuff like this, but basically I wanted to explore how Paralyzed Horse always wants what's best for Beth at all times, no matter how small it seems. Also his mad possession skills.
Scott: My story is a really tongue-in-cheek tragedy about the unrequited and thankless task of being a hero...who is also a paralyzed horse. In a lot of ways it explores what it means to be a hero, to truly love someone and how awesome it is being able to shoot psychic fire out of your hooves.
For you, what's at the center of the Paralyzed Horse-Beth dynamic? What makes them such good pals?
Tynion: How could you not be best friends with a horse completely paralyzed in awe of his complete understanding of the majesty of the universe? That is literally the best friend you could possibly hope for. But for serious, I kind of love that a being that is aware of so much is still so loyal and loving to one human girl. That's sweet.Â
Leyh: Like a Time Lord, PH has some mighty power and knowledge, but he uses that for the sake of Beth, and that makes him even stronger.Â
Naujokaitis: I mean, it's a classic story really. Girl meets horse, girl and horse fall in love, then horse becomes paralyzed with the knowledge of the universe and forever. Also from PH's perspective -- what with his being able to see into the future -- he knows what role Beth will play in the future. So she has a special place in his heart, and he wants to look after her.
Stone: Their loyalty to one another. Even though the Paralyzed Horse has seen things that we can't even begin to fathom, as well as eternal knowledge, he still finds joy and happiness in being a companion to Beth. Alternately, Beth still visits and loves a pet that cannot acknowledge her physically or emote any affection after several years of silence. Now they can communicate, but their relationship is now stacked upon years and years of just silently enjoying each other's company!Scott: Have you ever seen a little girl with a horse? They are practically made for each other. As a little girl who rode horses, it's obvious to me that Beth's relationship to PH is the most natural and common relationship of that kind: she saw PH as a gentle giant that she could put absolute trust in. He felt that trust and has done all he can to never let her down. It's not complicated, and it doesn't have to be. That's the beauty of them.
This character has pretty huge scope considering Paralyzed Horse has time-viewing abilities. Was that fun to play with in the story?
Tynion: Oh absolutely. It's hard not to touch on the biggest issues in the "Bravest Warriors" mythology when you're playing with such a powerful, crucial figure. My first thought was all about how he'd interact with the other more powerful beings in the show in ways we haven't seen play out in the comic or cartoon. I love getting a chance to play with the big stuff, and I was so happy they let me do it!Â
Leyh: I was more focused on his frustration at being not able to move or affect his surroundings.Â
Naujokaitis: I think my story actually went in the opposite direction of that. Instead of looking at his time-spanning abilities and powers and all that, I focused on his ordinary day-to-day life, just him laying paralyzed on the floor of his stable. It's the story of him just trying to get a bite to eat. But I liked playing with that aspect of it. You have this being who has all this knowledge of the universe and forever, he basically has the mind of a demigod, but because of all that power he can't do something as simple as feeding himself. He's all-powerful and helpless all at once.
Stone: Definitely. It's also hard not to get crazy carried away and focus on what you want to actually tell.
Scott: Oh yeah! I spent a lot of energy making sure that you'd be able to "hear" PH's voice when reading my story. It's such a classic, sci-fi epic voice you just don't get much anymore and I had to whip out my thesaurus to make sure I did it justice.
You all have a wide variety of other creative experiences. What was it like slipping into the world of "Bravest Warriors?"
Tynion: Seriously, it was one of the most fun I've had scripting all year. It's weird shifting priorities from horror and action to comedy. But I've always been a huge cartoon geek, and I've wanted to write cartoons and cartoon-adjacent stuff for years and years. It's amazing to wander away from Gotham City and get to hang out in the world of the Bravest Warriors every now and then. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
Leyh: I've done a couple "Bravest Warriors" back-up stories before this one. Still really hard. They talk....very creatively in that show.
Naujokaitis: Super fun! For starters, I love sci-fi and comedy and cartoons, so this had all of that together. Also it shares a lot of my own sensibilities. I mean, if I were to create a space-based action-comedy cartoon on my own, it would probably in the same vein as "Bravest Warriors." Wouldn't be nearly as good as "Bravest Warriors" obviously, but in the same vein. And from a character design standpoint, it was easy to adapt these characters to my style. Their designs use noodle-limbs and dot eyes which is what I design a lot of my own characters with. So story-wise and art-wise, it was pretty fun and easy to slip into this world. I will say this though: horses are really, really, really hard to draw. Even paralyzed ones. That took some time to get right.
Stone: Amazing! I'm unabashedly a huge fan of the series, so any opportunity to be immersed in the world is a complete joy, but I won't lie; it's also intimidating! The creators that work on this series are so amazingly talented that it's hard not to feel like you can't even begin to fill their shoes! All you can hope for is to have fun and hope others will too!Scott: It's been so much fun. Writing in such a short format has been a great way to flex some new muscles and I've loved every minute of it. Plus, as a long-time sci-fi fan, the tropes and characters in "Bravest Warriors" are a joy to work with.
"Bravest Warriors: Paralyzed Horse Giant" from BOOM! Studios, James Tynion IV, Kat Leyh, Pranas Naujokaitis, Tessa Stone and Mairghread Scott lands on Nov. 19.