Follow by Email

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Six Days of Silence

Nothing from me until next Saturday evening, at the earliest. I'm heading off to Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center with a bunch of church kids; the thought both exhilarating and terrifying!

Earlier today, I thought about inviting a "guest blogger" to post their thoughts and opinions while I was gone. Too late to get anyone, now, I suppose. I may give that a whirl next year. Hey, if Leno and Letterman can have guest hosts, I can have a guest blogger.

So, if you haven't checked out the blog, yet, take a gander and let me know what I'm wrong about. Or right. Feel VERY free to let me know if I'm right.

Interview With Chris Bunting, Writer of AP Comics' Mr. T

Mr T. is back in comics! Good news to many, as the burly tough guy who first hit the big time in Rocky III, then went on to enjoy a popular role in T.V.’s The A-Team, has become and remained a popular figure in pop culture, over the years. Not just in the U.S., but, throughout Europe, as well. Writer Chris Bunting gave Suspended Animation the inside scoop on the comic, and a little about the man, himself.

MARK So, tell us how your career in comics began.

CHRIS It’s always been my dream since I was just a kid. I got in by practicing, listening to any and all constructive criticism (even rejection letters), persisting, patience and never giving up, practicing, banging on every door in town, reading …… and always, always, making sure that whatever else, I was enjoying writing! If you think for one second that getting into professional comic book writing is easy, check out my website and believe me, my journal is just the tip of the iceberg.

MARK How far back does your love of comics go?

CHRIS Pretty much as far back as I can remember!

MARK Who are some of your biggest influences in the business?

CHRIS In terms of the comic world, probably far too many names to list. At the top, Stan Lee, Peter David, Mark Waid, Mark Gruenwald. Also: Roger Stern, Simon Furman, Tom DeFalco, Warren Ellis, John Francis Moore, Joss Whedon, and J.Michael Straczynski.

MARK What has been the initial reaction to the news of your "Mr. T" comic?

CHRIS Fantastic, I mean, we knew it’d be good as it’s *Mr.T*, you know …… but the reaction has taken even us by surprise. I can say with utmost certainty that the first print of Mr.T #1 will sell-out very quickly ... so don’t miss out! The attention on Mr.T from outside of the comic industry has been fantastic too: We’ve currently dozens of British and American newspapers, radio stations, magazines and websites asking about it. We’re being contacted by the media virtually every day. This can only be a good thing for the comic industry too, which is such a fantastically rich, enjoyable and creative medium, but really doesn’t get enough spotlight.

MARK How closely have you worked with T, himself, in preparation for this project? Is he excited about it?

CHRIS Well, I’m the sole writer, but Mr.T is closely involved every step of the way as Creative Supervisor. He makes sure that it meets his approval and that it’s not just good quality …… it’s the best! The reaction from him has been terrific, very supportive: Mr.T knows that we want to give readers nothing but the very best with this comic, and he’s just as excited about it as we are!

MARK I’ve read some interesting things about Mr. T’s popularity in the U.K. and throughout Europe; what can you tell us about that?

CHRIS This would be the prominent survey that named Mr.T as one of Europe’s most "popular" Americans –– third only to President John Kennedy Jr. and Martin Luther King Jr. Yep, Mr.T is hugely popular in the UK and Europe as well as the USA, no doubt. Who am I to try and explain his appeal, which has lasted for a over two decades? Is it his tough-but-tender charisma? His unique appearance? His moral outlook? All the above?

MARK So, what’s he appeal for you, as a writer? What makes T an especially interesting character?

CHRIS What makes Mr.T so interesting a character? Where do I begin? Beyond his iconic appearance, no-nonsense attitude, and the fact that he’s always exciting to watch? Mr.T is what he terms as a "neighborhood hero". He’s flesh and blood. Therefore he can, and indeed has to, deal with more true-to-life situations. Mr.T’s not as unattached as other heroes either, as he’s actually part of the world that he protects. He can’t race off back to his secret base, he has to walk round the block to his apartment. And as this is real-life, every action has a reaction. Being a part of who, and what, he protects also means that Mr.T is far more emotionally involved. These factors create very interesting story avenues.

And it means that he’s not invulnerable. Sure, he’s one big, strong, tough guy, but he has weaknesses just like you and I. This means that readers can invest more (in terms of participation and emotional involvement) and this in turn makes for far more interesting and entertaining stories, no matter what kind of storytelling or characters you’re dealing with.

You must remember that Mr.T has remained incredibly popular for over two decades. Countless celebrity tough men have come and gone in that time. Why is Mr.T so special? Beyond that iconic attire, he offers so much. He’s completely genuine. He’ll tell the good guys and the bad guys exactly what he thinks, albeit if in very different ways and methods. He’s very moralistic. He’ll offer hope and encouragement. You can count on one hand the number of celebrities with such qualities. With all these factors, the whole becomes even greater than the sum of the parts, and we’re left with a man who can only be described as a living legend.

MARK Previous comics incarnations of Mr. T have always been all-ages-friendly. Is this series the same, or is there any reason to keep the little ones away? Also, are you familiar with T’s thoughts on the subject?

CHRIS Many comic book readers and many Mr.T fans are adult, and so I’ll more than make sure that they’re catered for. The Mr.T comic carries an "all ages" tag, but most current mainstream titles could, in truth, carry the exact same tag. And think of some of your favourite comic books of all time? It’s good odds that your favorites would, in all honesty, be all age reading. I know most of mine are. The trick with this, and it’s been my intention from the beginning, is to offer enough –– and handle it in such a way –– that it’s enjoyable for readers of every age group. This is often the way it’s been done in some of the finest runs of comicdom, for example Peter David’s Incredible Hulk, Mark Waid’s Captain America, Chris Claremont’s X-Men, and all the classic Stan Lee-written runs too of course. And I want to emulate that in the Mr.T comic.

As for Mr.T’s own thoughts on this subject, he wants the Mr.T comic to provide something for everybody. He wants us to show good against evil, but in the world today, the real world. And no matter what age you are, 7 or 70, this is a universal struggle, a universal story that we all face. So little ones, medium-sized ones, and big ones are all welcome in the pages of Mr.T.

MARK What are your thoughts on all-ages comics?

CHRIS They’re the best. What a lot of people unfamiliar with children’s fiction fail to understand is that, even today, most mainstream comics are all-age reading. And a large number of people who make melodramatic statements concerning this area of reading just don’t understand, or have any kind of overview of, children’s literature. As a basic example, a lot of fairy tales are grimmer and gorier than most mainstream comics! So it’s not a stigma of any kind in my eyes, in fact, usually the complete opposite. Like I said, Mr.T even carries an "All-Ages" tag. That doesn’t faze me at all, I welcome it.

MARK Will this be primarily in the super hero genre, or do you see other possibilities for the future?

CHRIS What Mr.T and I want in the Mr.T comic is a more of a street-level, real world setting. You’’re not going to be seeing any aliens in this comic! Mr.T has a setting that readers can directly relate to. And this is certainly the environment, and the dynamic, that suits the character of Mr.T best. But I must say this: While the Mr.T comic certainly is more of a real world setting, it will have all the wonderful ingredients that make up comics and help make comics so great. Some of these I feel have been sorely missing, and I hope that Mr.T will help reset some trends. Mr.T is also going to be highly topical, one of the many big perks of the comic medium. It’’s very interesting, because since writing Mr.T #1, a couple of elements that featured in that story have in fact since become reality and headline news.

MARK What other comics projects are you currently working on?

CHRIS Besides Mr.T, I also write for Action Man (who’s literally the British counterpart of G.I. Joe), and The Lexian Chronicles. And I’ve some manga projects coming out from Antarctic Press soon. I’ve also lots of other writing heading for publication.

(Mr. T is a 22-page, full-color comic series, published monthly by British publishing company, AP Comics. It is written by Chris Bunting, drawn by Neil Edwards, inked by Randy Emberlin, and colored by Don MacKinnon. Check out AP Comics’ official Mr. T page at www.apcomics.com/mrtpage.htm, and Chris Bunting’s personal website, www.writing.me.uk.