After an almost ten year hiatus, Mike Kunkel returns to "Herobear and the Kid" -- his Eisner Award-winning adventure series about childhood imagination -- beginning with a new story in BOOM! Studios' Free Comic Book Day offering, the "KaBOOM! Summer Blast." Although it's been quite a while since the last new Herobear tale, Kunkel promises both new and old readers will be able to climb on board with the new tale.
"Simply, this is a fun little nostalgic world about a little boy named Tyler and his best friend Herobear, who just so happens to be an inherited toy stuffed bear that can come to life at his touch as a superhero," said Kunkel, adding that a primary goal of the FCBD story is to focus on striking the right tone for Herobear. "I wanted to reintroduce everyone to the feeling of 'Herobear and the Kid.' With the warmth, heart, and fun that I try to put in there, it should always give you a good feeling and be fun."
Kunkel promises that the six-page story is only the first of many more Heroboear appearances for 2013. There will be a monthly online comic with a "Sunday Comics format" beginning in June, titled "Sundaytown Chronicle," coinciding with a one-shot special from BOOM!. Kunkel revealed that the history of the villain Von Klon and his connection to Tyler's grandfather will be revealed, along with the origin of Herobear.
The original series will also be re-launched later this year, with new covers and new pages, adding more backstory, promised Kunkel, who also teased that Herobear might make appearances outside the books, possibly as toys and featured in games.
Although Kunkel has kept busy working in animation -- including projects for Disney, Judd Winick's "The Life and Times of Juniper Lee" and co-directing an upcoming project titled "El Americano" -- he's also had a notable run on DC's "Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam" and has been busy stockpiling ideas for his "war chest" of stories, including the recent Kickstarter project "Timmy and the Moon Piece." But Herobear has never been far from Kunkel's thoughts, even though production of the high-profile movie deal never materialized.
"'Herobear and the Kid' is a story and creation that I've had since school, so it is very personal and close to my heart. Though I haven't published for a little while, it was always still there, always still part of me," explained Kunkel. "All of my story that I had written and ready to go was waiting in my notebooks and sketchbooks since way before the movie deal sort of rerouted me. But life's timing wasn't right."
According to the creator, he was keen to revisit Herobear and Tyler when the opportunity with BOOM! Studios came about. "I think opportunities come to you and you may not be sure in the moment, but you [have] to trust your instincts and go after them with a little trust and faith," he said. "You got to be ready, and most of all willing when opportunity arrives," he said.
"It's funny, I wasn't looking to re-launch ‘Herobear and the Kid' at this time, but when I met last year with the very cool Ross Richie and Matt Gagnon at BOOM! [Studios], we got to talking -- they can be very convincing," Kunkel said, laughing. "It led to a very interesting conversation of ‘What if I re-launched Herobear?' ‘What would it look like?' ‘How would I do it?' -- and it soon became a reality that I would like to do this with the Boomtastic Gang, as I call them. They have all been absolutely amazing," said Kunkel. "Also, the great Filip Sablik is there now and I think that that is sort of a neat full circle for me. He was my original Diamond rep when I first came out with Herobear years ago, and he championed me then without knowing me. To now work hand in hand with him at BOOM! is awesome."
"I think stepping back out with this super support team is the huge blessing that is putting me back into this world," he continued, noting the difference between self-publishing Herobear and working with his new publisher.
Kunkel also reflected on his time in the industry and winning an Eisner Award two years in a row, calling it a personal highlight "because the second one was actually handed to me by Will himself. Such an honor to receive that from the man."
He also noted how different the comic book landscape is for all-ages books. "It's so great to see so many more all-ages books out there. More creators and studios are offering a great range of all-ages books, and so many of them coming with so much creativity and storytelling for all-ages audiences. I think there's even more support for the books. The varied audience is even more welcoming and interested in all-ages books for different ages," he said. "For me, my belief in these types of books and stories is specifically that point, making books available for people that are truly all-ages. Not just for kids, not just for adults, but for both to share together.
"From little kids to grandparents, I've always said that with the stories I create I try to create a family event," Kunkel continued. "An opportunity for a son or daughter to read with their parents, a niece or nephew to read with their aunts and uncles, a friend to read with a friend, even teachers reading with their classes -- these family events are truly all-ages experiences that I think the comics industry is truly helping to support. I for one couldn't be happier to see it grow and to be part of it."
In fact, BOOM! has not only brought Kunkel back into comics, but also the convention circuit as the artist tabled with the KaBOOM! booth at this past Emerald City Comic-Con in March. "I think the best was a few people walking by the KaBOOM! booth and not realizing I was there at first. They'd see all the very cool "Adventure Time" and "Garfield" and "Peanuts" books, and then they'd see Herobear and actually double take and come back to me and be like, ‘Wait, are you Mike? Are you doing more Herobear?' and I'd smile and say, ‘Yep. Kinda crazy, huh?'
"I know I said it before, but I was genuinely overwhelmed by everyone's excitement and welcoming of Herobear. It means so much to share this story with people," said Kunkel. "It's always been so much of a project dear to my heart. Now, I can't wait for all the new stuff to get out there for everyone to enjoy."
"Herobear and the Kid" returns on Free Comic Book Day in BOOM! Studios' "KaBOOM! Summer Blast."