In 2004, "Lions, Tigers and Bears" pounced on the comics community heralding the story of young Joey Price and his beloved stuffed toys, the Night Pack, banding together to stop the evil Beasties from preying on the world's children. Since that time the series has published two volumes, received digital distribution on the Sony PSP and been optioned for feature film development. Now, nearly seven years after the first issue hit stands, Joey and the Night Pack are back in an all-new adventure and with an all-new format at Hermes Press, where it will change from single issues to all-ages trade paperback releases.
"Lions, Tigers and Bears" follows Joey, his friend Courtney and stuffed cats Pallo, Venus, Ares and Minerva into another world where the beloved stuffed toys are the last line of defense from the Beasties, monsters hellbent on destroying children everywhere. Joey and Courtney might only be kids themselves, but they have one amazing weapon in their arsenal that can overcome any threat: imagination.
"Lions, Tigers and Bears" was created by writer Mike Bullock, a man with no shortage of imagination. Bullock allowed CBR News to tap into his mind to divine information on the events of Volume III, how longterm plans for the series have evolved over the years, the impetus for the change in print format and the move over to Hermes Press. All that plus a much-needed update on the feature film.
CBR News: Mike, the world at large is about to head into Volume 3 of "Lions, Tigers and Bears." It's been about seven years since the first volume hit stands -- how does it feel to be launching your third series?
Mike Bullock: The closer we get the happier and more excited I am. I can remember sitting at my computer writing the first script for what would become the pitch we showed around at Comic-Con International: San Diego back in ’04 like it was yesterday, but so much has happened since then. We never thought the book would get much interest from anyone, much less become the success it is now. It’s a great feeling to be blessed with what’s happened and happening in the "Lions, Tigers and Bears" world.
What's the gist behind Volume 3? What have Joey, Courtney and the Night Pride been up to since the events of Volume 2?
Volume 3 begins not long after the end of volume 2. Joey is still striving to learn how to be brave, Courtney is one step closer to taking over the family business and the Night Pride are still protecting children from the Beasties, one kid at a time. We also learn how Pallo and Ares first met.
What can you tell us about Volume 3's storyline?
We have slaves, pirates, ghosts, the Skeleton Crew and the series' first-ever naval battle. We’ll learn more about the history of the Stuffed Animal Kingdom and make a few new friends along the way.
How have things been arranged so that readers who are a little late to the world of "Lions, Tigers and Bears" can jump on at Volume 3 with minimal hassle?
Just as we did with Volume 2, readers will find a quick primer in the beginning of Volume 3 that introduces them to the premise and gives those who came in late everything they need to know about the story so far. For the completists out there, we’re re-issuing Volumes 1 and 2 the month after Volume 3, all done in the new digest format.
In addition to that, each of the new books comes with a brand new short written by me with art by some extremely talented guys such as Manny Trembley, Dan Hipp and Matthew Wheldon. We also have another short in the works from Adam Van Wyk. If they’re well received, we may start releasing the shorts in some fashion on a semi-regular basis to give readers something to look forward to in between the full graphic novels.
The first collected volume of "Lions, Tigers and Bears" was released in 2005 and volume 2 followed in 2006 - it's been a while since we've checked in with Joey and his stuffed companions. Both volumes were published through Image Comics, but Volume 3 marks a change in publisher to Hermes Press. What prompted the move to Hermes and why was there a longer gap between Volumes 2 and 3?
As I mentioned upstream, when I created the original story, I really wasn’t looking to the future as I didn’t expect the series to have one. I mean, in a comic market almost entirely dominated by "long underwear fighters" -- as someone at Image cleverly dubbed them years ago -- who would ever expect a book about a boy and his stuffed animals would get a foothold? When my wife and I traveled to San Diego to pitch it, I fully expected to get laughed off the convention floor, multiple times.
Thankfully, Erik Larsen liked what he saw, believed in the book and believed in Jack Lawrence and myself and gave us a shot. It was literally a dream come true, as I lived in Hollywood when Image was born and really wanted to write for them back then. To finally get to work under Erik Larsen, a guy I can’t say enough good things about, was a "destination event" of sorts, a goal I’d strived for and finally achieved. But sometimes, when I strive for goals, I don’t think past them, which I’m coming to realize is bit of a mistake.
After Jack had to move on to other endeavors midway through Volume 2, it forced me to go into survival mode, simply doing whatever I could to keep the property alive.
Once Michael Metcalf and I started work on Volume 3, however, I was no longer as short-sighted as I had been in 2004. The more I looked to the future, the more it made sense to place the book somewhere that would give it more direct spotlight, a publisher that was focusing strictly on all-ages stories. I still loved Image Comics, still felt very honored to be among the cast of highly talented people working under the Image brand, but it just seemed like this book needed something different.
During that time, I fielded offers from several publishers to move "Lions, Tigers and Bears" away from Image, and while many of them were good offers from great publishers, and some downright flattering, none made sense until Hermes Press came into the picture. I already had a relationship with Dan Herman due to our involvement with "The Phantom," and when the offer was put on the table to make "Lions, Tigers and Bears" a flagship title for his new all-ages line, it just clicked that this was what I’d been waiting for. Just as Erik Larsen has a zeal for comic books that I share and love, so too does Dan Herman. The two men are entirely different in many ways, but equally single-minded when it comes to producing great comic works. That’s a trait I admire and value greatly.
One of the major changes from past volumes is that "Lions, Tigers and Bears" gets a new format at Hermes Press in the form of (for lack of a better term) mini-trades. How have you been adjusting to the new format? Will you still be publishing single issues?
I think it just makes sense. Jeff Smith’s "Bone" paved the way for this format in the U.S. market, and now you find so many great books like "Owly" and "Amelia Rules" in the digest size that it almost feels like "Lions, Tigers and Bears" is just sliding into a format full of old friends and peers. It’s always humbling to hear "Lions, Tigers and Bears" mentioned in the same context as those other books, and now it will sit on the shelf next to them as well.
The downside to that is there will be no more "Lions, Tigers and Bears" floppies in the foreseeable future. I do love the monthly comic format, having enjoyed it for nearly forty years now, but once "Gimoles" and "Timothy and the Transgalactic Towel" were released solely as graphic novels, I’ve become accustomed to the "straight-to-trade" model. In the end, I think that’s the way the industry is moving anyway.
What can fans expect in the future for "Lions, Tigers and Bears?" Are there any plans for Joey and the Night Pride post-Volume 3?
Absolutely. In fact, I have a call scheduled in a few hours with new series editor JM "ABADAZAD" DeMatteis to go over some notes on the plot for Volume 4, which is officially underway. From what I understand, readers can expect to see it in stores early in 2012, with Volume 5 hot on its heels. We also have some pretty exciting things coming in the digital comics realm as well. The book was previously optioned by Paramount for a feature film. Are there any new details you can bring us up to speed on?
The movie is officially in development with Lorenzo "Transformers" di Bonaventura. David Ready, one of the minds behind the "RED" movie (based on the excellent comic by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner) is doing some exciting things with it and I can’t wait to sit and watch it with my lovely wife and wonderful son. The movie will feature a meld of live-action and CGI, a la "Chronicles of Narnia," so no actors will be eaten by the Beasties during filming. From what I understand, Grumble and Mumbler are very distressed by this [Laughs].