After Winter Must Come Spring

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The Gimoles, Runemaster Studios’ newest all-ages comic book, debuts today at Preview Night at the San Diego Comic-Con International from Alias Comics. The convention also marks the first time much of the Runemaster crew will be present at the same show, as head honcho Mike Bullock has set up shop (read: booth) together with Scott Kinney, and artists Jack Lawrence and Theo Bain.

The book centers around elves Limmy and Ohgi Gimole, who, as part of the Gimole family, have to take care springtime proceeds as it should. Yet, when Ichabod Cornelius Frost, the nefarious Czar of Winter, refuses to let loose his icy grip, Limmy and Oghi have to go on a quest to shut down Frost's evil machines of winter.

BF caught up with the creative team behind the new series and asked Mike and Theo about just who the Gimoles are and how the duo looks to warm children’s hearts with their fantastical tale.

BROKEN FRONTIER: The first issue of The Gimoles #1 that readers can soon be holding in their hands only costs them a mere 75 cents. Did the decision to release the book at a fourth of its regular price pay off?

MIKE BULLOCK: It seems to have paid off. We didn’t really know what to expect. There are just too many ‘unknowns’ going on. We have two relatively unknown creators, working on an unknown property, published by a relatively young publisher featuring content that is far from the normal comic fare. So, the numbers we did sell are very encouraging.

BF: The Gimoles is Mike’s second creation that is brought to life in comic book form. How did you get involved in the project, Theo?

THEO BAIN: By the time Gimoles came up, I was already part of Runemaster Studios. Jack Lawrence was initially asked if it was a project he wanted to tackle, but as a lover of fairy tales and children’s book illustration I kind of pushed my way to the front of the queue, knowing this was a project that I could really get my teeth into.

Mike: Jack told me Theo literally shoved him out of the way when Jack was reading the concept to the story. Once Theo responded to me asking if he could do the art, he looked over, apologized to Jack (who was nursing a sore rump), and immediately got to work churning out character designs. How you can work so quickly with Jack Lawrence giving you the evil eye is beyond me, but Theo pulled it off famously.

BF: What kind of tactics did you use, Theo? [Laughs]

Theo: Fortunately for me, I know an old hag who lives under an old bridge. At a heavy price, she provided charms to ward off Jack’s sinister glower, but it was worth it in the end! [Laughs]

BF: Where did you guys get the inspiration to respectively script and visualise the world of the book?

Mike: A long time ago, I was over at a friend’s house. He and the rest of his family were very small people and their ears were somewhat pointy. My friend’s grandmother came and asked him to go help prepare the garden for spring time. I sat and watched out the window as they moved snow away from the garden and prepared to plant seeds. It struck me that they looked like elves creating spring time. Thus, The Gimoles were born.

Theo: Both Mike and I are great lovers of Wendy Pini's ElfQuest, and of course I am a huge Disney fan, but there are couple of artists whose books were around when I was a child—they were in fact sisters: Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone. I think when you see their stuff you will definitely see an influence in my work. I think for me anyway, I wanted to draw something that harkened back to my childhood with a feeling of innocence.

BF: Theo, like LTB artist Jack Lawrence, you’re also a UK resident. Have you figured out what it is that makes you Brits so attractive to Mike?

Theo: [Laughs] That’s a tough question to answer. I think both Jack’s and my style mixes influences from American comics and animation, Japanese comics and anime, but also mixes in a little of the European style to. Take W.I.T.C.H for example, a comic series only just coming out over here but one that has been huge in Europe for several years and has recently been bought up by Disney. It has that innocent wide-eyed feel to the characters; maybe that’s what drew Mike to us.

Mike: That’s not it… it’s the whole slave labor thing. I can get an entire factory of British artists churning out comic pages for pennies a day. We’ll be releasing the comic adaptation of the Iliad and the Odyssey next week, for the low production cost of $2.95. Who could say no?

BF: Since Mike came up with the characters, it is probably hard for him to answer which Gimole is his favorite one. So, Theo, let me ask you, which one is your favorite to draw?

Theo: Well, actually that’s easy for me: I LOVE Ohgi. When designing her character, she originally just had the small pony tail on the side of her head. Mike thought she'd look nice with a longer one too, and once I put that on her, she just felt right. I have always loved a strong female character, so for me she has to be by far and away the most satisfying to draw—she’s brave but cute as anything!! And she has little brown flares… now, who wouldn’t love to draw that?!

BF: On a more serious note, since this Runemaster property is another all-ages book and three quarters of the creative team (Mike, letterer Dave Lanphear and editor Ron Marz) have also worked together on LTB, the books are bound to be compared. Can they?

Mike: In the fact that they’re both all-ages comics that have nothing to do with superheroes, rely heavily on imagination and both involve a quest, yes they can be compared. Other than that, there are no real similarities.

BF: Speaking of all-ages series, contrary to what some may think they're not 'just comics for kids'. What ingredients do you need to cook up a great all-ages read?

Mike: I think you need the same ingredients you’d find necessary for any good story: Solid characters that people can relate to, compelling events that engage the readers and an intriguing concept. You’ll also need great artwork, something both Lions, Tigers and Bears and The Gimoles have plenty of, thankfully. Beyond that, you don’t need dumbed-down characters, you don’t need unnecessary shock value, and you don’t need events only suitable for a mature audience. I think too many people think ‘all-ages’ equates to ‘dumbed-down’.

Kids aren’t stupid and if you assume they are, then you’re not going to hook them on a good story. Conversely, if you create a 'dumbed-down' story that kids won’t want, you can rest assured adults won’t want it either and you’ve quickly gone from attempting to create an all-ages story to creating a no-ages story.

BF: With Runemaster Studios being one of the first companies to produce all-ages stories in the latest wave, what does it feel like to see the genre boom all of a sudden?

Mike: It’s great. Kids love comics and kids should be able to read comics. At the same time, there are a huge number of long time comic readers that are now having kids, but have trouble finding comics they feel comfortable reading with their kids. Books like Owly, HeroBear, The Dreamland Chronicles, The Imaginaries, Wildguard, Lions, Tigers and Bears and The Gimoles fill that need, thus allowing a whole new generation of readers to get hooked on comics.

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Theo: I think it’s fantastic! Europe has always had a fantastic range of all-ages comics, and it’s nice to finally see them back in America. There needs to be comics that appeal to younger kids and encourage them to read—reading is such an important part of my life; it’s an escape from the world around you and kids need to be encouraged to learn this valuable creative tool!

From what I gather from reading various message boards, these all-ages comics seem to be bringing a sense of family together to. Parents sitting and reading to their children before bed for example. If in some small way Gimoles and LTB and the like can help with that kind of bond, then we have achieved so much more than certainly I ever dreamed.

BF: What do you guys have in store for issue #1 of The Gimoles?

Mike: Surprises, action and some really beautiful artwork.

Theo: Mike’s giving away too much already. [laughs]

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BF: You’re not killing off one of the core characters again, are you? [Laughs]

Mike: The greatest stories in human history have been tragic. Every great tragedy has the spector of death hanging over it. So, the answer to your question is: we might, rabbit, we might.

BF: This summer, Alias will release the Lions, Tigers & Bears TPB. Can you quickly explain to confused fans why Image published the mini while Alias got the trade?

Mike: Well, Alias is the license holder for Lions, Tigers and Bears. When we first entered into our licensing deal with them, they intended to be a comic production house, using Image to publish their books. Once Alias decided to spread their wings and take on the role of self publisher, Image was kind enough to allow Alias to put out the trades of the three series (the first and second LTB series and The Gimoles – ed.) on their own.

BF: Are there any extras included in the collection?

Mike: Yes. We’ve included a ten-part LTB story in the trade, as well as many pin-ups from industry greats such as Luke Ross, Todd Nauck, Theo Bain, Jack Lawrence, Derrick Fish, Andy Runton and more. All-in-all, readers will get 112 pages of content for $9.95.

BF: Following the release of the TPB, how long will it take for the second Lions, Tigers & Bears mini series to arrive? Can you also tell us about some of the adventures awaiting fans of Joey and the gang?

Mike: I’ve just finished the final plot outline for the second series. We had it done a few months back, but decided to change some things around and go in a different direction with certain characters and situations. Jack has begun doing the artwork this month and we hope to have the first issue in stores some time near the end of this year.

As for what’s in store for Joey, Courtney and the denizens of the Stuffed Animal Kingdom, well, let’s just say that after the events in LTB vol. 1 #4, Valthraax, the leader of the Beasties, decides to take our heroes out of the picture so he can move ahead with his plan to rid the world of children and their stuffed animal protectors.

I’m also writing a one-shot that focuses solely on Joey and Ares that we might try to get out in time for Halloween. If not this year, then expect to see it in 2006.  

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