New Bear in the Kingdom

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Right now, many avid readers of Lions, Tigers & Bears are sobbing in their beds with a thick blanket pulled over their heads. The reason? The second volume of their favorite all-ages series came to a halt with the release of issue #2 last month, as original LTB artist Jack Lawrence left the title.

Never one to lie sobbing in his bed, series writer and creator Mike Bullock went looking for a new penciller to visualise his imaginative stories and found one in Paul Gutierrez, who is hard at work on completing the remaining two issues of the second limited series.

Click to enlargeBROKEN FRONTIER: You’re replacing Jack Lawrence as the artist on Lions, Tigers and Bears effective immediately. How did the change come about?

PAUL GUTIERREZ: Well, one morning I was checking my e-mail and Mike had contacted me because he wanted to know if I was interested in working together on a comic project. Since I'm a big fan of LTB and Mike's stories I wrote back to him right away and spoke to him on the phone a few times afterwards, too.

At that time, I assumed Mike wanted me to work on one of his other stories that he had on the burner. But he told me the news that Jack Lawrence was leaving LTB and that he was looking for an artist to take over immediately. He then asked me if I wanted to complete the story arc of Volume 2. Being a huge LTB fan and a huge fan of Jack's work, I jumped at the opportunity. I think that was the fastest “YES!” I've ever said in my life. [Laughs]

BF: Where did Mike find out about your work?

PG: I think he first noticed it a while ago at my website, www.GotGutz.com

BF: Looking at that website, it’s clear you’re not a rookie to this game. What comics- or animation-related work have you done in the past?

PG: You could say I'm fairly new to doing comics. I've done a few fill in pages for Alias's Imaginaries, some work for Viper Comics’ M-force (which isn’t out yet), some cover work for the now defunct AP Comics, as well as a project I've been working on with my good friend, Derek Fridolfs, who created this great character called Kidd Bonzai. We both hope to have that out on shelves one day, but with our busy schedules it's on the backburner for the time being. As for animation, I haven’t really done any projects there, but I love animation and still take workshop classes when I can. 

I've also had the privilege to work for Topps and am currently one of their sketch card artists. I loved that I was able to work on Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, as well as the recently released Lord of the Rings Evolution series. I work with a lot of talented sketch artists and look forward to future projects with Topps. My thanks go out to Tom Hodges for getting me into that great gig. Thanks again, buddy!

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BF: Let’s sink our teeth into your Lions, Tigers and Bears work now. Really, is it hard for an artist to come aboard in the middle of a mini series?

PG: Sometimes it is, and so it is in this case. Mainly because LTB has such a huge fan-following—even more so because Jack brought these characters to life with his artwork. Coming in midway, you’re kind of at a crossroads as the new artist. You want to stay true to what the previous artist has done and not stray too far from what the fans are used to seeing. So, I'm really going to try to keep that same look that has made LTB such a success up to this point.

BF: Does that mean that your actual style looks a bit different from what we’re going to see in LTB?

PG: Yes, in a way's it will be different than my normal style. I want to keep the same look and feel to the characters.  I don't want to deviate from what the fans are used to seeing by going more cartoony or extreme. But you will notice subtle differences on how I would draw Joey as opposed to how Jack would, although they will definitely have close similarities. I'm kind of viewing this as a cartoon and want to stay as close to the model as I can, while throwing in a bit of my personal style when drawing most of the characters. I really feel that come issue #4, there will be a little more of me coming through since my comfort level with the characters will be much better than it was at the start.

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BF: Did it take you a long time to get to the chore of the book and become familiar with the characters?

PG: Most definitely. It's still a process to really capture the characters and get them right. The more sketches I do and the more pages I work on, the more I'm getting the feel for all the characters. Jack's work really brought these characters to life and that's what I'm striving to maintain.

BF: Like Jack, your artwork also has a strong animated feel to it, but your lines are finer and you don’t use curves and roundings as much. Is that how you’d compare your respective styles as well?

PG: Yes, I do. There are definitely some subtle differences. Jack's work does have a more rounded look to it, which I’ve always admired. I tend to use more of a ‘straights over curves’ approach, but since I’m now on LTB, I will be rounding out my characters more to stay true to their original look and feel. So, you can say that I'll incorporate a little bit of both.

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BF: Jack handled his art from start to finish, but while you’ll be inking your work, Pascal Brander has been brought on board for the colors, right?

PG: Yes. We originally tapped Josh “Transformers” Burcham to do the colors, but he had too much on his plate to work with our deadlines, so we brought in Pascal instead. It worked out great, as Pascal’s style is a perfect fit for the book. He's not going to color exactly like Jack did, but he comes pretty close. I would have loved to color the book as well, but sadly my coloring skills are at the beginner’s stage.

BF: Now, try not to be biased, but how do you feel LTB stacks up to other all-ages comics being published today?

PG: I think it's right there at the top. I've seen a number of all-ages books and most of them are great, but LTB brings something different to the table—it's fun, the characters are great and the story is always a joy to read.

BF: What do you love about the overall concept of the book?

PG: What I love most is kids having stuffed animals as protectors. I know that when I was a young kid, I would always be afraid of the closet door being open, especially at night when it looked like a black hole—I couldn’t stop thinking that something would jump out and grab a hold of me. As a fan, I love the concept as much as our legion of young readers does. Plus, did I already say that all the characters are great?!

BF: Looking at the previous LTB issues of both volumes, what would you cite as your favorite moment?

PG: Wow, that’s a good question. There are so many moments that I like, but if I were forced to pick one, I would say my absolute favorite part is from issue #4 of volume one where Joey is sitting on Ares’ back with Tobias and Henry—two huge bears—behind him. There’s just so much power in that page, plus it looked so darn cool.

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BF: Will you be on board for any future projects at Runemaster Studios, perhaps on a third volume of LTB?

PG: I can’t say anything at the moment about my future involvement with Runemaster or a certain book I’ll be working on, but I can tell you I’m on board for any upcoming LTB projects. Mike’s already working on LTB Volume 3 and from what he’s told me so far, there’s plenty more where that came from.

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