Bears have no business gliding through the ocean depths. A shark should not be able to stalk its prey on the mainland. But when it comes to the predatory methods of a Sea Bear and a Grizzly Shark, all bets are off!
Longtime "Invincible" artist Ryan Ottley and "The Astounding Wolf-Man" illustrator Jason Howard are bringing these ungodly freaks of nature to the printed page with "Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark," a special Image Comics one-shot all about, well, a Sea Bear and a Grizzly Shark! Each artist wrote and illustrated their own story within the one-shot — Ottley took the reins on Shark, while Howard centered in on Bear — with their mutual collaborator Robert Kirkman providing a prose origin story for both of these twisted creatures.
CBR News spoke with Ottley and Howard to learn more about "Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark," the origins of the story, their experience writing these adventures and much more.
CBR News: I'm almost afraid to ask — how did the idea for "Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark" first come about?
Ryan Ottley: "Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark" was actually a dream that I had. When I woke up from the dream I thought, "What an amazing idea!" I instantly called up Jason Howard, and he had the exact same dream!
Jason Howard: Hmm… my memory of it is a little different.
It was at Heroes Con in 2008. We were hanging out in the hotel room working on commissions after a long day at the show. We started kicking around ideas, and this concept of a bear and shark that got mixed up came out of it. I don't think at first we were necessarily thinking of it as a comic — we were just trying to outdo each other with crazy ideas. We were clearly tired, but the more we talked, the more fun it sounded and we decided that we had a responsibility to make it into a comic.
Ottley: You're right Jason. The truth is always the best way to go.
Howard: You should be President.
Can you describe Sea Bear and Grizzly Shark? Aside from the obvious — they got mixed up! — who and what are these characters, both in and of themselves, and in relation to the characters and world around them?
Ottley: Grizzly Shark is a crazy hungry shark that wants human meat. And he can smell blood for, like, a hundred miles, like all sharks can. It's proven — "Mythbusters" don't know what they're talking about — so do not cut, scrape, or stab yourself in the woods or a nearby bush will start to rustle!
Howard: Sea Bear is pretty simple. She's just a big angry bear that lives in the ocean and likes to eat people. Some of the characters that interact with her are a little more fantastic, but then most of them wind up dead, so it's probably better to be just a simple bear.
Ryan drew Grizzly Shark and Jason drew Sea Bear. How did you guys decide on how to split them up?
Howard: I'm pretty sure I called dibs on Sea Bear right away. As we were throwing out ideas, I kind of worked out a sequence that turned out to be the opening scene of the story. Plus, I knew Ryan would draw an amazing shark, and I selfishly wanted him to do the Shark story just so I could see what he came up with. After seeing the finished pages, I am glad that I did. It's pretty much the best shark ever in comics.
Ottley: I'm glad I got stuck with Grizzly Shark. I had so much fun. I'm kind of sad it's over. I have no idea what I would've done with Sea Bear, but to tell you the truth, I had no idea what to do with Shark, either. I just started writing in thumbnail form and all these ideas flowed forth. Maybe not good ideas, but ideas nonetheless!
What can we expect to see from your respective "Sea Bear" and "Grizzly Shark" stories?
Ottley: My story is basically about a guy that owns some cattle. He sends for a professional exterminator to get rid of whatever has been taking bites out of his cows, which he is certain is a shark due to the shape of the bites. So there's lots of shark-eating-people action, and also ice cream eating. The exterminator, Gary, loves Cinnamon Bear Jubilee ice cream; it's a flavor I made up just for this comic. You'll see.
Howard: "Sea Bear" is a revenge tale. The main character comes in contact with the Sea Bear early on and it sets him on a path of vengeance. That, of course, requires some fighting. Aside from bear violence, the story also has some submarine violence, robot violence, rocket launcher violence and even a little Thomas Jefferson violence.
The two stories were started on 24 Hour Comic Book Day. How grueling was that process? Was it tricky to balance rushing through for completion with coming up with a finished result you would be proud of?
Ottley: That didn't work out too well. I did 10 pages in 24 hours. The rest I did on Tuesday nights — that's when a group of us local artists get together and draw, so I used that time to slowly finish up Grizzly Shark. So, yeah, this does not count as a 24-hour comic, like my "Death Grub" book I did a while ago.
Howard: I didn't come close to finishing mine, either. I got the whole thing loosely penciled, but most of the finishing and inking was done later. Ryan and I hoped that the results would be something that we would eventually publish, and that made me less willing to totally rush out pages just to get them done.
I had never attempted the event before and it was really fun — for the first few hours. But there came a point around 2:00 AM where I realized that I still had eight hours to go and I couldn't remember what I was supposed to be drawing. I would just sort of zone out and later realize that I had just been staring at the paper not doing anything for a while. Fortunately, there were several other artists at the event, so the support helped. Plus, the store that hosted the event, Clem's Collectables in Lansing, Michigan, did an amazing job. They had local restaurants sponsor the meals and they really kept us beveraged and awake.
Robert Kirkman, a guy you're both somewhat familiar with, wrote an origin story for "Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark." What can you tell us about it?
Howard: Robert is writing a prose origin story. He was one of the people we first told our idea to back on that fateful night at Heroes Con. I don't remember if his involvement was his idea or ours, but whatever — it's awesome.
Ottley: It was definitely Robert's idea. It was back at the hotel — he asked, "Well, how did they get mixed up?" Jason and I looked at each other in silence; we had no answer. Robert said he knew exactly how they got mixed up and he would write the origin for us. It was a joyous moment for all.
Part of the promotion for the one-shot is "I'm With Shark" and "I'm With Bear," asking readers to pick and choose a side. How did you guys come up with the idea to make this something of a competitive marketing campaign, as opposed to a partnership between the two creatures?
Ottley: That was all Jason's idea. We were on the phone and Jason said he was doing stickers and it was just going to be the cover on the sticker. Jason jokingly mentioned we should do two stickers, one with "I'm with Bear," the other "I'm with Shark." I said, "Perfect! No joke, do that exactly!"
Howard: It's based on the real life fact that bears and sharks are sworn enemies. The hate runs so deep that they choose to live in opposite habitats just to avoid the mutual destruction of both species. It seemed important that the fans experience some of this animosity.
Who do you think would win in a fight, Bear or Shark?
Howard: Bear wins for sure. It's simple — both creatures have teeth. But where the shark's "arms" are skinny little flippers, the bear has big meaty arms with claws at the end. Teeth and claws win over just teeth.
Ottley: Well, you see, sharks are fast... and they... okay, fine! A bear would win.
Right now, "Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark" is billed as a one-shot. Why go with this format over a miniseries or an ongoing? Do you have any interest in pursuing the concept beyond the initial issue?
Howard: Initially, we just wanted to do something crazy and fun. We both have regular gigs, so a one shot seemed like a way we could have fun with the idea, but not have it take too much time. We just wanted to make a big fat cool comic that totally stands on its own. This book is the remedy for everyone who complains about complex continuity or having to buy multiple ancillary titles just to get the full experience of a big company story.
It's also the remedy for everyone who misses the old days when bear and shark comics were at the top of the sales charts, long before superhero books took over the industry.
You guys are best known for your artwork, but here you are taking the writing reins on "Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark." What was the writing process like for you? Is it something you're interested in pursuing further, either now or later down the line?
Ottley: I would like to do a one-shot more often, or even a miniseries down the road sometime. It's a very fun breather and always pleasurable to write whatever I want to draw. The hard part is finding time while already drawing a monthly. I'll figure something out.
Howard: I really enjoyed the writing process. But I have the pleasure of regularly working with someone who does it really well, so I don't have any fantasy that this is some amazing work of literature. I just wanted to have fun with it and hopefully make something entertaining. I really like working on Robert's awesome scripts, so for the foreseeable future, my main focus is there. But to scratch my writing itch a little bit, I am writing and drawing a series of back-up stories that started in "Wolf-Man" #22 and will run through #25.
Ottley: Wait — are you saying I'm the one with the "fantasy," that my work isn't an amazing work of literature!? I can take a hint, Jason!
For any readers that are on the fence about "Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark," why should they pick this up?
Ottley: If you are some kind of shark genius who takes sharks and the way sharks act in real life very seriously, then this book is not for you. If you hate seeing comic blood and violence then you might not like this either. If you are one of those comic book nerds that only desire to read a comic that involves a favorite character from your childhood — then this book is absolutely for you! Come on, you loved sharks as a kid, right? And anyone else will love the hell out of this. I'm letting my mom read it!
Howard: I don't think that Ryan's mom should read it. In fact, I think it might be offensive to moms everywhere. I am so ashamed.
You're both in the midst of some important moments in your Kirkman-related work. Jason, can you give us an update on the wrap-up process on "The Astounding Wolf-Man," and Ryan, where are you at with the "Viltrumite War" in "Invincible," as much as you can reveal?
Ottley: I'm now on issue #73. Issue #72 was completely insane. I honestly can't say much. I don't know which is more violent, Grizzly Shark or "Invincible" #72.
Howard: I'm working on issue ["The Astounding Wolf-Man"] #24 and having a blast. Lots of cool stuff is happening as Robert ties up the series. After I finish #24, I just have one issue to go and "Wolf-Man" will be wrapped for me. The series finale, issue #25, will be oversized and should send the series out with a bang.
Anything else to add, guys?
Ottley: Go Shark!
"Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark" #1, written and illustrated by Ryan Ottley and Jason Howard with a prose origin story from Robert Kirkman, hits comic book stores on June 23, 2010.