“This wasn’t about making a book for kids at all, we wanted to make a book that everybody can enjoy” Mike Sambrook on the challenges of writing for all ages with Bun (Plus exclusive FREE Slaycation comic!)
Madius Comics’s Bun was one of our favourite surprise packages of 2017, so we were thrilled to discover that this tale of a giant rabbit moving to the big city would be getting a full release in time for this year’s Thought Bubble (plus the original 11 page sampler is now available for free on Gumroad!) To celebrate, we visit our interview with writer Mike Sambrook and also get an exclusive first look at the new Bun cover!
Your new book Bun, about a giant bunny looking for acceptance, is a bit of a departure from the slightly darker tones of the usual Madius book, what made you choose to make an all ages book?
Mike Sambrook: I guess the quickest answer is we wanted to make as many people laugh as possible. This wasn’t about making a book for kids at all, we wanted to make a book that everybody can enjoy. We didn’t want to talk down to anyone and instead we wanted to try and make something very accessible and fun to look at but with a story that has a lot of layers to it. We wanted deeper layers that older readers could get into but then we wanted to keep the main thrust of the story very fun, visual and hopefully heart warming. Something for everyone! Making something like this has always been a dream of mine and to finally be making that a reality is something I’m seriously excited about. Wait until you see where we take the story next. Lots of fun and surprises coming up. I love writing dark and weird stuff, but at the end of the day my sense of humour is really silly so it’s nice to work on a project where I can just channel all of that daft side of me into the script.
We assume of course, that it is an all ages book?! Although it is all about a giant bunny it feels like it has a slightly dark undercurrent to it which we can’t quite figure out. Is this just us reading it wrong?
MS: Oh no, fear not. You’re reading it 100% right. The world that Bun lives in is a little bit…off, a little bit hostile. This is something we very much intended. We don’t want to give away too much just yet but we are going to put Bun through some tough times early on. This is one of the tricky things when you’re doing a serialised story and releasing it in small segments. The reader doesn’t get to see the full narrative arc and therefore it is tough to know how the tone will be balanced out later in the story. This book we are launching at Thought Bubble is just the first chapter of an 8 chapter story, so in a lot of ways this chapter serves as the uncle Ben moment for Bun. This tough beginning for him colours the life he chooses to live and paves the path ahead for him. We need to put him through some hardships to make any later triumphs matter. It’s all about raising the stakes. It was hard for us to give our poor ole Bun a rough ride, but hey, he can handle it. He’s a tough little (massive) rabbit.
How did you connect with artist Rosie Packwood? (did she do the colouring on Papercuts?) Did you always plan the book with her in mind – her style is perfect for it!
MS: I met Rosie online a few years ago when I approached her about working on a story that I had written for Papercuts & Inkstains. It was a short story for a horror / comedy called Slaycation that was originally featured in Papercuts & Inkstains issue 3a. That story has now been collected into our brand new collection that will be on sale at Thought Bubble too, so if you want the full Sambrook/Packwood experience I recommend picking that book up along with your copy of Bun (plug, plug, plug). Rosie originally did the artwork in black and white for the first printing of the story and she provided the colours for the brand new collected version too. AND, because we are extra awesome, we’ve decided to include that FULL STORY for you to read as part of this interview. So here, enjoy some blood soaked madness! As a fair warning, tonally this is VERY different from Bun and very much NOT for all ages. This is for the slightly more mature readers out there, but it gives you an idea of how mine and Rosie’s ideas come together on the page.
As you can see from the above story, Rosie’s art is just wonderful and we had so much fun putting that story together we were both desperate to start working on something new together as soon as we could. Rosie mentioned to me that she had an idea that she was working on about a giant rabbit in a world that didn’t seem made for him. A real ugly duckling story of finding your place in the world. She showed me some of her concept art and ran me through the rough outline of how she saw things playing out and I instantly fell in love with the world and the characters. We both knew this had to be our next project together. I asked her to send me over every scrap and note she had for it and started building the jigsaw. A few tweaks here, a few characters there, and a whole load of scripting later I sent over the first issue to Rosie and thankfully she loved what I’d done with it. So in terms of ‘did I choose Rosie for the project’, not at all. It’s more that she chose me. She brought me into this world and she deserves the lion’s share of credit for its creation. I just guided the ship through the storm.
How was it writing this on your own and without Rob Jones helping you out? (Or was he hindering you all these years!)
MS: TERRIFYING! I haven’t got anyone to blame on this one, I haven’t got anyone to hide behind and I feel EXPOSED! How do the rest of you writers do this on your own!? It’s scary stuff! I’ve done bits of solo writing before for Papercuts so it’s not my very first rodeo, so I’ve experienced similar terror previously but I think this one is amplified because it’s not in an anthology and it’s truly standing on its own. EEK! Working with Rob is just tons of fun though, we are like yin to each others yang. We are both have different strengths and when we come together we have total faith in each others judgement so if anyone has any fears we are drifting apart, that couldn’t be further from the truth. We’ve got so many new things in the works together at the moment which we can’t wait to share with you all.
Is this the start of a new lighter side for Madius or will we back to the darker books again very soon?
MS: Funny you should ask that question because our next release is going to be VERY DARK. We’ve got two new books coming out for Halloween! *ANNOUNCEMENT KLAXON* We are just getting together a brand new Horrere special featured two horrifying shorts, and I’m not talking about short shorts, as horrifying as they are. We’ve got two new stories written by me and Rob featuring some art from…well…you’ll just have to wait and see won’t you. AND we’re also releasing Papercuts & Inkstains 7 too! Which is our special issue all about LOVE, which yes, we are launching on Halloween, because it wouldn’t be us if it made sense, now would it. So you’ve got plenty of dark coming up, plenty of light too. A little bit of everything. We want to try and make sure that MADIUS doesn’t start to represent only one style of book. We want to make sure that everyone can find something we are producing that matches up with their own personal tastes and sensibilities. We like the challenge of trying to be as diverse and varied as possible.
Who are your favourite giant bunnies in TV and film etc. and who do you think Bun is most like?
MS: Wow, ok. Favourite giant rabbits. That’s quite the exclusive club. I’m going to go with Legendary Black Beast of Arrrghhh from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. While he may not have been the largest in stature, he is the most fearsome in nature. And the character Bun is most like… If I answer that one, I might give too much away!
You can download the first 11 pages of Bun via Gumroad and the full first issue of Bun will be available at this year’s Thought Bubble.