Mike Kunkel has been a cartoonist for as long as he can remember. He spends his time writing and drawing stories for animation, comics, and children’s books. He has won the Annie Award for Best Character Design in an Animated Series. And he is the 2-time Eisner Award winning creator of the comic series “Herobear and the Kid”. While working daily in the animation industry, he is creating new books for release through his company The Astonish Factory.
Despite all the preparations required for San Diego Comic-Con, Mike has (heroically) made time to answer some questions.
For what age audience do you write?
To be honest, I truly try to write for all ages. I want to create stories that are enjoyed from little kids to grandparents. It means a lot to offer stories that all ages can enjoy.
Henry: Indeed, we all have a kid inside us, struggling each day to remind us to not be too serious.
Tell us about your latest projects.
I have two brand new projects… The first is a brand new “Herobear and the Kid” adventure. It’s called “Picture Day”, and it is a fun one-shot story about Herobear and Tyler (the kid) saving the bridge in their town of Simpleton from an attack by the villain Von Klon and his “Sub-of-Doom.” “Herobear and the Kid” is a very nostalgic series with superhero origins. It’s written with the feeling and tones of Wonder Years and A Christmas Story. So with this story, I had fun writing about the memory of our school picture days and added in the adventure of fighting maniacal metal piranhas.
The other book I have coming out is a new children’s picture book entitled “Timmy and the Moon Piece.” It is the story of a little boy, named Timmy, and his fat little guinea pig, named Ton, that find a piece of the moon in the front yard one night. They decide to build a little rocket with their red wagon and fly the piece back up to glue it back to the moon.
Henry: I’m struggling to integrate “tone of Wonder Years” with “maniacal metal piranhas”. Well played, sir.
What do you hope readers will get from reading it?
My hope would be that with both these books, the readers enjoy the time they spend with my characters on the adventures. I hope at the end, they have a smile on their face.
What aspect of writing or illustrating do you find most challenging?
Sometimes it’s the scheduling and balancing of regular life that is the hardest to juggle with the writing/illustrating responsibilities.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from your career?
Make sure you love what you’re creating. Don’t do it to please others, because you can’t please everyone. So make sure you love your creations first. That will then come through to the readers…your “tribe.” Enjoy the process and value your results. Don’t rush through your projects and not enjoy the the creating of them. And always celebrate the end result.
Henry: That is very sage advice.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer/illustrator?
The opportunity to have traveled to Angouleme, France with my family. An overwhelming experience that was made even more amazing because I could share it with my wife and kids.
Henry: Travel is great. We just got back from Europe. One of our stops was the Belgian Comic Strip Center. You gotta’ love the Belgians. They put a comic museum inside an Art Nouveau building designed by Horta! We’ll be posting about our visit tomorrow.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors or illustrators?
The simple advice is “don’t give up.” But really that covers so much. Stick to your dreams…go after them daily…even if you make teeny, tiny progress, keep at it. And the foundation for all of this is when you have a dream, make sure you also have plan toward that dream. And the plan may change or adjust, but make sure you have one to follow and don’t give up.
Henry: Many people mention persistence. But you bring up other important aspects: plan and adapt. “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” — Field Marshal von Moltke
Do you have any favorite quotes?
A couple that I really like are by Ray Bradbury… “Do what you love, and love what you do.” “Build your wings on the way down.”
Henry: The latter seems a tad risky to me.
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write or illustrate?
Hmmm, not that I know of… Though my kids say that my eyes “bug out” a little bit when I get really into a drawing.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Definitely flying. I would love to be able lift up off the ground and fly through the clouds.
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
Dr. Seuss, C.S. Lewis, Stephen King, L. Frank Baum, Stan Lee, Ray Bradbury. . . Each one of these has inspired me tremendously in different ways. I’d love to get the chance to talk personally with them and see them all interact.
Henry: I said “three.” Clearly, two of them have crashed the dinner. My first Lewis read was, of course, Narnia, but his “Mere Christianity” knocked my socks off making cogent logical arguments for religious beliefs.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Traveling with my family, waiting impatiently for football season to start…and considering I’m always writing and drawing, I do like to sleep every once in a while.
Henry: “A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things. There will be sleeping enough in the grave.” – Benjamin Franklin
Where can readers find your work?
“Herobear and the Kid” can be found all this week at SDCC at the Boom Studios Booth. And both “Herobear” and “Timmy and the Moon Piece” can be found online at http://www.theastonishfactory.com.
This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.