Skottie Young and Aaron Conley, between the two of them, have worked on everything from Deadpool to Rocket and Groot to Little Nemo! Now the two writer/artists have joined forces to co-create Bully Wars, a brand new all-ages title about a “Hunger Games-like contest known simply as the BULLY WARS—where the winner will rule the school!”
Skottie and Aaron sat down with us at Monkeys Fighting Robots to share a bit of what led to the creation of the book, the importance of all-ages comics, the genius of Mad Magazine, and much more.
MFR: Skottie, first of all, thanks for taking time to talk to us at MFR!
Scottie Young: Of course, my pleasure. Thanks for checking out our new book.
Where did the idea for Bully Wars come from?
SY: Who knows. haha. It’s been floating around for almost 10 years and I can’t really remember what the initial spark was. I just wanted to tell a funny school story and I thought it would be interesting to try and see it thru a bullies eyes.
As an artist, why did you choose to not do the art yourself?
SY: Initially, when I wrote the first version of this back in 2009 or 10, I planned on drawing it. I thumbnailed like 140 pages or so. But I realized the story wasn’t quite there. It just wasn’t working. Something was missing and I wasn’t sure what it was. So I put in the “I’ll do this at some point in the future folder.” After so many years, that folder starts getting filled to the point that it will become impossible to do them all.
Aaron and I were actually cooking up something completely different at first. Small town, kids, bikes, monsters, we were pumped…the one weekend, out of nowhere, Stranger Things dropped and took over the planet. We talked that following Monday and were like “Well, there goes that idea.” haha. it was just too similar and we felt like there was going to be an onslaught of Strange Things like stuff to follow. That’s when I thought I would pitch him my old idea. Dust it off, get his fresh perspective and revisit the story about Rufus.
So what made you chose Aaron Conley as the artist then?
SY: Well, he’s amazing. I was in a Hardee’s drive-thru one morning when my friends over at the 11 O’Clock Comics podcast talked about Sabertooth Swordsman. I ordered on my phone in the drive-thru. I fell in love with his art, met him at a con that year and start talking about the possibility of working together on something. Eventually, I brought him on to crush an issue of Rocket Racoon and Groot and boy did he. Every page was a surprise and joy to look at. I loved working with him. I’m lucky that he trusts me enough to come along for this ride have made some people laugh!
And what’s working with Aaron like? What’s the creative process?
SY: It’s so easy. I write stuff, he goes away and works his butt off and brings back pages so far beyond what I could imagine. I’m really spoiled with it comes to creative partners. Even though Aaron serves the scripts perfectly, I still feel that I’m surprised with each page he sends in. Like “oh snap, I didn’t see that panel like that! that’s awesome!” He’s just a real pro and a joy to work with.
So, what’s the process like for you then Aaron?
AC: I usually read Skottie’s script a few times, then break that down into really loose thumbnails. Starting a full page I usually just scribble everything that’s going on the page on photocopy paper until I get some nice expressions or body movement. I’ll usually assemble all that in photoshop so starts looking like a page, print that out on 8.5×11 paper in blue line, do a tighter pencil over that. After that, I scan the tight pencils, blow it up, print it out in blue line on bristol board and ink!
SY: Image Comics is a great place for creative freedom. I wish there was more to say, but it’s really that. The whole team up there is just straight up supportive of every book that they choose to publish. Bully Wars is all ages but we aren’t speaking down. I feel like it would be easy for a more “all ages” publisher to put their hands on this project more here and there to make sure it checks all the boxes they need to. But Image just lets us create comics. It’s really great.
Where you guys specifically looking to do something more all ages?
SY: Yes. We discussed that up front and really wanted to take on the challenge of making a comic that would make everyone laugh, from kids to adults. There’s a lot of great all-ages comics out there and we wanted to join them in the fun of getting comics in people hands, especially kids if we can.
SY: Sure. Again, there’s a lot of great comics. So I’m not sure if it’s about the quantity that’s out there or more about awareness of what is out there. We have some amazing, successfully titles that come from Scholastic and other book publishers, and companies like BOOM have done a great job of reaching that market as well. I love Image Comics and wanted to see if Aaron and I and the rest of our team to join that challenge in getting kids into comic
Did you guys have any influences for this idea? Did you look at any other comics/comic strips/series for inspiration? I see a little Barry Ween: Boy Genius in there. And I can’t help but feel a Mad Magazine vibe as well (especially with all the visual gags/puns).
SY: I think I was watching Invader Zim at the time the idea started to form. So there’s definitely some of that level of brattiness to it. I love Barry Ween, and anyone who’s seen my tattoos knows that Mad Magazine is where I came from. Diary of Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants were thrown in the influence gumbo later. But yea, a little of this, a little of that.
AC: Yes! Classic Mad for sure, Jake Davis and Wally Wood are some of my all-time favorite artists, so those guys are going to have an impact on everything I do. I also mentioned above how animated shows have been a big influence. I’m pulling a lot from Ren & Stimpy, Marvelous Misadventures Of Flapjack, and Invader Zim to name just a few.
How much do you have planned for the series?
SY: We have a pretty good idea of what we’ll do for the 3 arcs if people out there show up and love the book like we do. Like all indie comics, it really comes down to people showing up and checking it out. The second arc is going to be a blast!
Do you guys have a favorite character from your cast?
SY: I love them all, but I just love Rufus. Aaron draws him so great. His expressions are wonderful.
AC: Rufus has been and an absolute blast from the minute he showed up. I’m able to do really some wacky stuff and take him off model a good bit. Plus, it’s always a nice challenge to try and top the last drawing. Just the other day I did a drawing of Rufus and I was thinking, “This is the perfect Rufus!”
What do you guys hope a reader takes from ‘Bully Wars’?
SY: I just hope they have fun and laugh. Look, we’re telling a story about bullies and bullying so hopefully, we give you something to think about on that front. But at the heart of things, Aaron, Jean, Nate, and kent just like making comics and hope you have fun reading them. That’s really all we can ask