It doesn't seem like it's very often that we get big name comic creators to tackle a personal project for anything other than shits and giggles, so when I saw that Ryan Ottley, artist of Image Comics' Invincible, and Jason Howard, artist on Image Comics' "The Astounding Wolf-Man" were working on such an outlandish comic, I knew I had to corner them and see what made them choose as wacky a project as "Sea Bear and Grizzly Shark".
Budget Tron (BT): Ok, guys, before we get started, tell us a little bit about yourselves and your career thus far in comics.
Ryan Ottley (RO): My name is Ryan. I've been drawing comics about 7 years now, and that whole time my full time gig has been Invincible for Image comics. And occasionally I can fit in a side project here and there like this Bear and Shark thing.
Jason Howard (JH): Jason here. I have been drawing comics full time for a little over 2 years, and part time for several years before that. I first did some comic work for small publishers in the mid 90's but I was young and the drawings were not good. This meant I wasn't really making any money at it, so I got a job in the art department of a local large company. I figured this would support me for a year or 2 until I was good enough to do comics. Well the job turned out to be a good one and I kept getting promoted and got to do lots of cool stuff. Eventually I met Kirkman on the con circuit and we did some stuff together, eventually launching The Astounding Wolf-Man through Image and in 2008 I left the day job to finally get back to focusing on comics. I have been drawing Wolf-Man full time ever since.
BT: How did you come up with the idea for this book? It's pretty out there and extremely fun.
RO: Jason and I were sitting in our Hotel room one year at Heroes con and for some reason we just starting throwing out ridiculous ideas that we kept adding to. It sounded fun so we made a blood oath to make it so!
JH: That was it. We were clearly tired from a long day at the convention and anything at that point sounded like a good idea. But we got really excited about it and later that night when we mentioned it to others we were staying with they got excited and seemed to think "it was so crazy that it just might work". I think the encouragement helped us to really commit to make it happen. That and the blood oath.
BT: How did the idea to tackle this project during 24 Hour Comic Book Day come about?
RO: The plan from the beginning was to do these stories on 24 hour comic day so it wouldn't interfere with our jobs. Jason quickly chose the Sea Bear part of the story to which I started to complain because drawing a horizon line above water and then bubbles under water would've made it very quick for me, so I said "Let's leg wrestle for it." Long story short I got stuck with Grizzly shark. I'm not complaining though, Grizzly Shark turned out to be a perfect fit for me, and I got an awesome leg workout out of it. 24 hour comics day came and I drew for 24 hours straight and could only finish 10 pages, written, pencil, and ink. I slowly have finished a page every other week or so since then. So yeah, my 24 hour comic is not at all a 24 hour comic, so don't call it that. Sigh, but hey I'm proud of this one, it's my funnest one yet!
JH: Here's the thing. Ryan HAD to draw the Grizzly Shark story. I knew he would draw a better shark than I would, and he has a slightly twisted sense of humor that I thought would come out better in a story about a shark running around in the woods eating people. While bears don't LIVE under water they can swim (trust me I'm a botanist) so the Sea Bear concept didn't seem quite as out there. Plus I already had an idea for the Sea Bear story. I thought doing these as 24 hr books was a good idea. Until 24 hr comic day came around, then it seemed like a bad idea. But I powered through. Sadly I did not complete mine in the 24 hr period either.
BT: Did you know the comic would be published when you started working on it, or was it all just for fun?
RO: Both! The plan was always to publish it through Image. Image is cool like that. And a side project has to be fun or it's not worth doing.
JH: Yeah, I was hoping that it would be something that would get published. But mainly it was done for fun.
BT: Speaking from experience, 24 Hour Comic Book Day is a pretty grueling experience in itself, how does the possibility of your story being published influence your approach?
RO: Well it definitely makes me want to do the best I can, which I think is why I only got 10 pages done in 24 hours and not all 24. My last 24 hour comic called DEATH GRUB is one I actually finished in 24 hours and Image published that one for me as well. This one I wanted to be different than that one in many ways. More story/dialogue, better art, and more characters. All of that makes for a more time-consuming comic, especially dialogue. This writing stuff is for the...writers. I think I did all right though.
JH: This was the first time I had tried a 24hr comic. It was intense, but fun. My local comic shop (Clem's Collectibles in Lansing,MI www.clemslansing.com
) held a cool event with other local artists and food sponsors for the whole 24 hrs, they really took care of us. I really wanted to get mine done during that time period. I started out well and got the whole thing written and pencilled, but as the day wore on I really slowed down, and the inking was getting weird, so rather than screw it up at the end I took my time the last 4-5 hours, and finished most of the inking as I got a chance to afterwards. Knowing that it might be published made me less willing to thrown down anything to get it finished in the 24 hr period.
BT: Ryan, you're best known for your excellent superhero work for sure, but your last 3 writing efforts (24 hour comic offerings, "Death Grub" from Image Comics, "Ted Noodleman" from Alias, and now "Grizzly Shark and Sea Bear") are all pretty wacky comedies. Are you eager to try the writing side of things on some more comedic comic book properties?
RO: Yes indeed. I loved Lobo back in the day. It was awesome and hilarious at the same time, there was no restrictions on it which really was nice especially compared to the other superhero comics I read at the time, those all have pretty tight restrictions and rules to them. When I feel like someone needs their arms ripped off then I should be able to make it happen.
BT: The prose intro was a very fun idea to get "your boss" involved. Obviously, you 2 are known for working on Robert Kirkman's Image titles, but how did he get involved with the project?
RO: Oh well at the same convention we told him about our idea to which he laughed and offered to do the prose origin. And of course we love having him on board.
JH: I think he DEMANDED to be involved. But we were glad to have him. We both feel that the extra exposure would be good for Robert and we want to do whatever we can to help him get a little name recognition in the comic book industry. I think his prose piece in this book might be the thing that really makes people sit up and take notice of his writing skills.
BT: What was your favorite part of this unique collaborative process?
RO: The fact that there was NO collaboration for our individual stories whatsoever. It's all ourselves doing our own things without knowing what the other person was doing. We only saw eachother's work once we finished our parts.
JH: All the collaboration was in the initial concept of the book and we discussed it quite a bit at that time so I felt we had a good idea of the tone we were going for. Its a lot of fun to brainstorm crazy ideas, it actually happens a lot, but the execution of the ideas is where the real work comes in. And that the part that often keeps things from coming to fruition. After the initial concept and commitment to make it happen we were on our own. Which was probably best. It is much easier for me to work on my own, Ryan is always trying solve disagreements by leg wrestling, and honestly it makes me a little uncomfortable.
BT: Jason, I was lucky enough to see your comic at last years comic con, but you wouldn't let Ryan see it...was this some form of punishment against the poor guy or were you hoping the secrecy would somehow serve the story when Ryan took a crack at his half of the book?
JH: We felt that doing the stories completely independent of each other would add to the sort of random crazy fun of the book.
BT: What was your reaction to each other's half of the book?
RO: I lol'd, I think Jason did a great job and if he wasn't living so far away I woulda given him a high five.
JH: I immediately phoned Ryan's mother and offered her any support I could give. Then I contacted all Ryan's other friends and encouraged them to hug Ryan and let him know they would be there for him and he could talk about his problems and things would get better from here on out, and to keep him away from children.
BT: What was Image Comics' reaction of the book when they saw what you guys were up to?
RO: Actually they haven't seen it yet. But honestly how could any publisher say NO to a book called Sea Bear and Grizzly Shark? It's money in the bank! But of course Robert can approve submissions so as soon as he laughed at our idea we knew it was approved.
BT: Any final thoughts?
RO: Your a good interviewer. Can we be friends?
BT: Only if you buy me Sushi every Tuesday. Jason? Final Thoughts?
JH: Sushi is for girls. Also, check out the Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark blog, started by an awesome fan at www.theygotmixedup.blogspot.com
. Bonus also, Ryan and I both have supa sweet websites at www.RyanOttley.com
. Bonus bonus also, we both sell our original art at www.SplashPageArt.com
Here's some images from Ryan's section of the book...when Jason sends his along, I'll add them. Jason?
So go to your local retailer and DEMAND this book!
SEA BEAR & GRIZZLY SHARK #1
story & art RYAN OTTLEY & JASON HOWARD
cover RYAN OTTLEY & JASON HOWARD
48 PAGES / BW
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