September 15, 2017

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Thought Bubble 2017 Interview - Michael Sambrook, Rosie Packwood

Thought Bubble is the premiere indie comic book festival in the UK. It runs annually from the thriving city of Leeds, bringing together people from all walks of life to celebrate the one thing that so many other conventions tend to forget: the comics.

Check out all of our Thought Bubble 2017 content here

Mike Sambrook is attending the festival with his cohorts from Madius Comics, overflowing from their two tables with their shimmering sweet-potato line of comics. Teaming up with artist Rosie Packwood (a.k.a. PocketM0use) to compound the energy with her bright and bubbly art, their new all-ages series Bun has a hell of a lot to offer the world.


Mark Dickson: Tell me the origin story of Bun and his world.

Rosie Packwood: Bun started life as an answer to the question ‘what if a bunny was big enough to fight?’. Expecting some kind of energetic kickboxer, the big paws and chunky eyebrows of Bun was a pleasant surprise. From that moment on, the purpose of Bun and his world was to flip as many expectations on their head as possible.


When Mike contacted me to work on another idea it was pissing it down with rain and I was stuck on a broken down train - very British. Honestly, if I wasn’t so cross I might not have had the guts to tell Mike I wanted to do a big dumb story about a big dumb rabbit. Mike’s enthusiastic response knocked me backwards; knowing how easy Mike’s scripts are to illustrate after Slaycation I knew this was a great opportunity. It’s not every day you get a top-notch writer willing to put time into your ideas!

Mike Sambrook: I first worked with Rosie on a short for Papercuts & Inkstains. It was one of my very first scripts and I was totally floored by how Rosie brought my ideas to life. After that project I just knew we needed to work on something much bigger together and I approached her with exactly that idea. She, for some reason, enjoyed working with me too. Possibly she’s a sucker for punishment? Who knows. 

But, regardless, we knew we needed to start something new. She started talking to me about the strange world of Bun, which is a fish-out-of-water story about a giant rabbit in a world not made for him. She had sketches for Bun and a whole host of supporting characters along with a brief synopsis of the general flow of the story. She knew what she wanted but wasn’t entirely sure how to go about bringing it all to life. I instantly fell in love with everything she showed me, very understandably, and I was totally on board to jump into making this a reality. 

I broke it down into issues and chapters and worked closely with Rosie to make sure we were on exactly the same page. It turns out we very much were. The world is very much Rosie’s and she deserves the lion’s share of the credit for it - I just helped her bring it to life with a script. 

For me, working on a piece where the world was established and so were the characters was awesome. It was a way for me to try working in a similar way to big publisher work for hire. A way for me to pick up established ideas and see what I can do with them. I guess a trial run for when I’m simultaneously writing Spider-man and Batman (CALL ME, BIG TWO! *stares at the phone that absolutely isn’t ringing but I’ve had especially installed in my house for this sole purpose*).

What motivates Bun to wake up in the morning?

Sambrook: Bun is a simple rabbit with simple motivations: all he wants is to be the best he can be and make people around him happy. Along his journey he will meet a huge variety of characters and have all sorts of differing experiences with them. We soon come to realise that the characters Bun meets are faced with a reflection of themselves. Bun in a lot of ways is a blank canvas and people project themselves onto him and see things that aren’t really there. 

Angry people argue with Bun, loving people end up loving Bun. He forces the people he meets to confront aspects of their personality they might not have previously realised were there. All Bun wants is to be a force for good in the world and to leave things better than when he found them.

Packwood: I guess what really makes Bun tick is carrots. He is just a big rabbit after all. Carrots and injustice!


Who would be Bun’s favourite WWE wrestler and why?

Sambrook: I’d say probably Mick Foley or Dusty Rhodes. Neither of them are your typical wrestler in terms of looks and physique, but both have hearts of gold. Both of them overcame their physical limitations and became heroes to underdogs everywhere. There’s just something about both of them that makes you want to root for them and Bun is very much that too.

Packwood: Mike’s nailed it in his answer. If there were a carrot-based wrestler then we’d have a clear-cut winner, but Mick Foley’s good too. 

Which is your favourite of Bun’s outfits?

Sambrook: I’m not going to give too much away here, but, if you like the idea of Bun in ridiculous outfits, OH BOY, we’ve got some good stuff coming your way!

Packwood: Ohohoho yes! I did do a drawing of him with a turtle on his head once which was a very good look for the big guy... but that didn’t make the cut yet. We’ll see if it makes an appearance later on.


What two existing franchises would you say combine to make Bun?

Sambrook: Wow, that’s tough. I guess it’s probably a combination of the classic Ugly Duckling story mashed together with Karate Kid. Again, I want to try and sidestep any spoilers here, but we are dealing with a story of finding yourself in the world - a story of not being afraid of who and what you are and instead embracing it and proving to yourself what you are capable of. 

All of that told through the medium of a bloodsport-esque fighting championship. That doesn’t sound all ages BUT IT VERY MUCH IS! HONESTLY!

Packwood: Yep! Mike’s nailed it again. Bun’s a big ol’ coming-of-age story mixed up with your traditional ‘sports movie’ chemistry set - except all the bits are higgledy-piggledy and back-to-front. 

This isn’t your first rodeo with an all-ages book. What experience did you take from Ramlock Investigates?

Sambrook: Even though both are all-ages, I think tonally they read differently. With Ramlock we were aiming to have a very silly and slapstick feel to things, channelling a very British over-the-top vibe where no joke is too silly. With Bun it’s more about keeping things heartwarming and charming. 

From a writing perspective I’ve tried to stay as invisible as possible and really wanted to keep the vast majority of the jokes visual. When the world is as rich and colourful as this, the last thing I wanted to do was plaster too many words all over it unnecessarily. I wanted to let Rosie’s art shine and let her have real fun with the joke set pieces as much as is possible.

Packwood: The only other project we’ve both worked on together before Bun was Slaycation, so this is a huge departure from that. A silent protagonist gives you a lot of challenges, especially for a writer, (sorry Mike!) but does allow you to create a charm which people of all ages can enjoy. It makes you focus on how the character is being rather than what they’re saying, which always lends itself to a kid-friendly world. 

What did each member of the creative team bring to the book that wasn’t there before they arrived?

Sambrook: Rosie brought LOTS and is, without question, the mastermind of this world and the characters it contains; without her, this book simply wouldn’t exist! 

Then we’ve also got the titanic talents of Mr Rob Jones on lettering. Every book I’ve ever been a part of has had his letters on it and I wouldn’t trust anyone else with the job. He knows how to make things look exactly how I like and I can just trust him to always make things read perfectly. With a team like that, this book was always going to look stunning.

Packwood: Bun wouldn’t even be half of what it’s grown to be without Mike. He adds a bunch of new flavours I wouldn’t have even considered and is a master of pacing. 

Rob was supremely patient with us when we (mostly me) were fussing over silly things like colours for boxes and inside-cover pages. Without his perseverance Bun wouldn’t have made it! 

The two of them work incredibly hard over so many of Madius’ projects which never fails to inspire. Their experience in taking an idea and turning it into a finished book is invaluable. A lot of comics I make just get slapped up online and that’s that. These two take comics and make them WORK. 

It blows my mind!


For those who want to immediately get stuck in, what’s the release schedule of this series?

Sambrook: The simple answer is that we are going to release as much of it as we can as quickly as we can. Bun is going to be a limited series and very much has a start, middle and an end already plotted out. We’ve got all eight chapters completely mapped out already and know exactly what we are doing with each of them. 

The issue we are releasing at Thought Bubble is only the first chapter and will be 11 pages long - it is essentially an intro into our larger world. Hopefully, we will be releasing Chapters 2 and 3 together in one issue for Thought Bubble next year and then carrying on like that as quickly as we can get them made. Once we’ve completed and released all 8 chapters we are hoping to hit Kickstarter and collect the whole thing into one beautiful book. 

That’s the plan right now anyway, but these things can shift and change as you start working on them.

Packwood: We all work on Bun alongside many other things, but we’re hoping to deliver the rest of the series as Mike detailed above. We hope you enjoy exploring the first little slice of Bun’s world for now!

Do you ever see Bun transitioning into another medium, like animation?

Sambrook: Nothing would make me happier than this story connecting with people. That’s the main thing I’m hoping for. 

If we do manage to make a connection and people fall in love with this world as much as we have, WHO KNOWS. I think it would transition beautifully into an animated film probably more so than an ongoing show, but even as I type that I’m changing my mind. I think it could easily work as either of those things and would LOVE to see it happen at some point in the future. 

Before we get too distracted with that we’ve got TONS of hard work to do on the issues themselves so we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. In terms of the voices, I’d want Brian Blessed to voice everyone using varying amounts of helium to keep each character’s voice distinct.

Packwood: Vin Diesel for Bun vocals! And Emma Watson for... wait -- You haven’t met that character yet! Come back next issue!


When does Bun launch?

Sambrook: THOUGHT BUBBLE, THOUGHT BUBBLE, THOUGHT BUBBLE! We are debuting the first chapter there! 

I’ll be there, Rosie will be there and so will Rob, so it’s a great chance to grab and issue and say hello to all three of us. We’ll be at the MADIUS COMICS table (Cookridge Street Marquee Tables 3 & 4) all weekend too so whenever you get chance to wander on by, we’ll be there. 

We’ve kept a page of the issue largely blank too so that Rosie can do some sketches for y’all. She is planning on blasting through as many of the issues as she can so make sure to grab one while we still have some available. We’re aiming to have some enamel badges of Bun too, if all goes to plan, so LOTS to get excited about.

Packwood: Come by and see us at ThoughtBubble. Mike’s going to be doing some short Bun haikus! No -- really!!

Carrots or no carrots? Why?

Sambrook: Always carrots, because otherwise who’ll keep an eye on the goblins in the dark?

Packwood: You can’t just suggest a world without carrots. That would be, like, super duper sad. And weird. Like really really weird. Why do you even want to get rid of carrots? What did carrots ever do to you? How are we ever going to keep this giant flipping rabbit under control if you get rid of all the carrots?!

If you're exhibiting at Thought Bubble 2017 and want to flail enthusiastically about it with me, drop me an email (mcdickson101@gmail.com). Even if you're just attending, let me know what you're looking forward to this year on Twitter.