As much as Joe loves reviewing DC TV shows, He expressed a wish to get back to basics with The Werd, and, having seen a kickstarter campaign by a local indie comic book writer/artist, decided to focus The Werd’s gaze on “Torsobear” and interview its creator. The third volume “Back on the Blocks” has just started its kickstarter campaign. Here, Joe chats to creator Brett Uren…Brett Uren’s Torsobear has hit kickstarter a third time to fund the third (and possibly final) volume. Charting the journey of Detective Ruxby Bear through the underbelly of Toyburg; both previous volumes of Torsobear have met critical acclaim. Being that Brett is semi local to The Werd, and that I’m an animation student (who daydreams about one day drawing and writing my own comic) with a vested interest in other people’s artistic processes (plus this is a blog about comics) it seemed natural to throw some love his way and get the lowdown on Brett’s Kickstarter for “Torsobear: Volume 3 – Back on the Blocks”.
Joe: Hi Brett, thanks for joining me, Now, for the audience who are you? And where can people find out about your work?
Brett: My name is Brett Uren, a dusty fluffbag from Aylesbury, Bucks in the UK – near London. You grab me under my name on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Also Torsobear.com is pretty much my daily go-to, and it is a Tumblr so you can ask me questions on there.
J: For those not in the know, could you outline what “Torsobear” is?
B: Torsobear is Toy Story by way of True Detective. It is an anthology series telling noir-themed stories in a children’s storybook format. Ruxby Bear was a fresh-faced police recruit in the imaginary city of Toyburg, until he saw his first dismembered teddy in an alley. Through the series, he’s fought corrupt city officials, been falsely imprisoned in ‘The Corner’, and now he’s on the front lines tackling unrest on the streets.
J: What was the inspiration behind “Torsobear” and the fluffy noir setting?
B: Really it started as a drunken joke. I had created only horror stories at that point, so could I add that dimension to a children’s book? To be legitimate, it would have adhere roughly to what you could get away with in children’s fiction – so no swearing or gore or sex. Who Framed Roger Rabbit immediately sprang to mind and cemented the direction. Turns out that restriction gives people a lot to riff off, as it forces you to think outside the box, to see how far you can push darkness into such a format without compromising it.
J: What would you say your major influences are on your art style?
B: I spent a ton of time watching old Betty Boop, Looney Toons and Superman cartoons on cheap VHS compilations as a kid. Max Fleischer and those dancing buildings they take off towards the end of Roger Rabbit. Also, Bill Watterson and Jim Davis were my idols before moving on to Phil Tan and Greg Capullo.
J: Could you describe your process?
B: The process for my first book, Kuzimu was to draw storyboards first and write later – which ended up being visually pleasing but hurt the ability to form a clear story. Now I write out a whole ‘state of the world’ bible outline for myself and collaborators, all my scripts, thumbnail the page layouts and then get onto my A3 cartridge pad to pencil and ink. I’ve picked up some fine Kuretake brush pens that give a wonderfully fluid line. Colours in Photoshop and letters in Indesign help me complete things, and I still do the odd bit of that for other people’s stories. Jimmy Furlong’s ‘Shooter Shattered’ was fun to lay out, because of the triangular ‘magic 8-ball’ captions.
J: As a platform for introducing new talent to the industry, do you think “Torsobear” has allowed writers a place to develop their craft?
B: At some points that’s been the case, for me as well. Fine Folks like Kieran Squires, Jake Young and Mike Orvis had few credits to their name, but I don’t look at that. I look for great ideas, and think it’s important to consider potential first and foremost, not just experience. Like IQ tests don’t base their questions on pre-existing knowledge where they can help it, because memory isn’t intelligence. Talent isn’t in your work history.
J: What are your thoughts on British Indie comics? And Indie comics in general?
B: Man, there’s never been a better time to be in it. Bertie Bear, The Pride, Afterlife Inc, Twisted Dark, Bubbles O’ Seven, Little Terrors, The Kill Screen… Andy Clift, Joe Glass, Jon Lock, Neil Gibson, Grainne McEntee/Matt Rooke, Jon Scrivens, Mike Garley/Josh Sewell… The lists of amazing ground-breaking books coming out of the UK scene are ridiculous. These are titles that just wouldn’t get picked up by major pubs, but sell in their hundreds and thousands at cons directly to a hungry audience. I’m immensely proud to be any part of such an immense creative grassroots movement, loose as it may be. Generally speaking, these unfettered ideas are what led to the world’s greatest tentpole franchises from the big two, and the demand for them proves that it is still vital.
J: What are your favorite webcomics/indie comics?
B: The Oatmeal has in the last couple of years gained much notoriety, and deservedly so – but Mike Garley and Andy Clift web series ‘Sgt. Steel’ actually got me reading old school war comics, which no-one has yet been able to. There’s quality all over. For print comics, everyone should check out Orcs by Christine Larsen. I’m consistently shocked that such a gorgeous and visually-narrative book hasn’t been picked up by any major imprints.
J: For anyone wanting to break into the indie comics scene, what advice would you give them?
B: Do it, just do it. Fail and flounder like I did – but for fluff’s sake seek out some collaborators and advice. it’ll save you some heartache. Do it every day, produce books and get out to shows. You will be broke and broken-hearted, but if your work makes any small amount of people happy then you’ve made it as far as i’m concerned. That stuff sticks with people. I know an editor for a major publisher who drew stories for a short-lived kids comic in the 80’s, he still gets people talking to him about it at cons now.
J: Is Kickstarter the place to be if you want to create a comic these days?
B: Kickstarter can be a great platform for many reasons, and it can have pitfalls as well. It may not be the place to come if it’s your very first book, as knowledge of print process and production times have to be clear to you, or else you are at more risk of letting your backers down. There are a lot of astounding projects on there, and friends of mine have been picked up by companies off the back of work they funded through it.
J: Has Kickstarter made life a lot easier when creating indie comics?
B: As distributors like Diamond close their doors in more indie faces (Torsobear was rejected by them), it has become a great method to circumvent the middle men and put books people want into their hands. Despite some famous cases of Kickstarters going wrong, I know of many people who do a large proportion of their comics shopping there.
J: How do I get one of those awesome plush Ruxby’s?
B: As getting Ruxby plushes made by the same company is no longer an option – there are only 3 left. I’ve put them for early adopters at the top tier reward for that reason, but I may have one in reserve for a little backer contest we’re running later in the campaign 😉
Go! Make haste! The campaign for “Torsobear Volume 3” can be found here.
Joe Crouch is a crusty mollusc with delusions of grandeur and pretensions of artistic endeavour. His tea is served between two and four. He tweets, infrequently @Grost and Instagrams his food @Sourcrouch.