Skottie Young and Aaron Conley take it to the Playrgound in ‘Bully Wars’ [INTERVIEW]

Cover A from Aaron Conley

Sometimes when you hear about a new series, it’s the basic premise that grabs you.  Maybe it’s a unique twist on an established trope, or a cracking high-concept pitch just begging to be fleshed out into a full story.  Or sometimes, as in the case of BULLY WARS, coming next month from Image Comics, all you really need to know to be completely and utterly sold on a new book is the creative team.

We’re huge fans of both Skottie Young and Aaron Conley here at the Big Comic Page, so the prospect of seeing them taki things to the playground with a bold, vibrant and hilarious-looking new all-ages series was more than enough to whip us all into a frenzy.

Thankfully, both Skottie and Aaron were able to take a little time out of their busy schedules to sit down and have a chat with us about what to expect from this one when it goes on sale next month.

BIG COMIC PAGE: Firstly, for our readers who may not already be aware, can you give us a quick rundown of the basic idea behind BULLY WARS?

SKOTTIE YOUNG: It’s about a two sides of kids. Bullies and the Bullied. Focusing a lot of Rufus, who thinks he’s about to rule everyone on the first day high school but comes to find out there are bigger bullies than him. Spencer on the other hand, decides to get proactive on trying NOT to get bullied throughout his freshmen year.

BCP: How did the collaboration between the pair of you come about?

SKOTTIE: One day, on the way to my studio, i was listening to 11 O’Clock Comics podcast and they were raving about SABERTOOTH SWORDSMAN. I ordered the book from my phone while in the drivethru getting breakfast. A few days later I fell in love with Aaron’s art. We needed up meeting a con and when I decided to start writing projects with other artists, Aaron was high on my list of people to reach out to.

AARON CONLEY: I gave Skottie a Sabertooth Swordsman sticker and T-shirt at that convention just to remember me by!

BCP: Skottie, what is it about Aaron’s artwork that you think makes for such a great fit for this story?

SKOTTIE: He’s so expressive in his lines and shapes movement. It’s really such a joy to watch come to life. He’s a brilliant cartoonists that loves to push things far past what others would consider “safe” and yet it works every time. I never know what i’m going to get when art comes in. A book about kids in school could easily fall into a cliché “we’ve seen this 1000 times” but not with Aaron. He is always going to surprise us. That’s just plain fun and pure comic booking.

BCP: And likewise Aaron, what it is about this story that appealed to you as an artist?

AARON: Well I had a blast working on Rocket and Groot with Skottie, and so when he brought this project idea to me, I jumped at the chance to work with him again! It seemed like a great story to be able to do some really fun cartooning on, and after I did my first couple scribbles of Spencer and Rufus I knew I was going to be able to have a blast working on the book. 

Cover B from Skottie Young

BCP: Tell us a little bit about Spencer and Rufus, our “leading men” of sorts. How are they each approaching the first day of High School?

SKOTTIE: Rufus THINKS he knows what to expect and is unprepared for reality. Spencer knows what to expect and seems to have some idea of how he wants to deal with what’s to come. Rufus knows what he wants but not how to get it. Spencer knows what he wants and goes for it, but maybe gets lost along the way. But in the the end, they’re both just kids trying to figure out how to grow up. Oh, also, hopefully doing tons of funny stuff along the way.

BCP: Are there any other characters readers should be keeping an eye out for as the story progresses?

SKOTTIE: There’s going to be a ton of wacky bullies once we get to the Bully Wars, so yeah. But I think the readers will fall in love with Spencer, Edith, Ernie, and even Rufus.

BCP: BULLY WARS feels a lot more kid-friendly than the likes of I HATE FAIRYLAND or SABERTOOTH SWORDSMAN. Did the pair of you have a specific target age group in mind when you were putting this one together?

SKOTTIE: Not a specific age group. but we did want to make it readable for everyone, from kids to adults. Our first goal was to make each other laugh and have fun. Second was to make sure it was safe enough to put in the hands of everyone while still being a little far out there. I think we checked all of those boxes.

AARON: All ages means everyone, not just 10 year-olds! I tried to make a book that I would want to read, even if I wasn’t drawing it. I also tried to have a lot of fun with the opportunity to work on a more cartoony book than Sabertooth Swordsman was.

BCP: Skottie, forgive me if I’m wrong, but I think this is one of the first series where you’ve solely focused on writing duties rather than illustrations. Has that been an easy transition for you, handing over the visual side of the book to someone else?

SKOTTIE: I’ve done it before here and there. I’m currently writing Deadpool, I wrote a Magneto mini series with Clay Man, and a few arcs of Rocket Raccoon with various artist, including Aaron, and a few shorts here and there. I LOVE writing for all these mega talents. It’s awesome to have the visual language so firmly in my mind but then be blown away when Aaron brings it back to me way bigger and badder than I could have imagined. I try to keep my notes pretty light and not step on Aaron’s choices. He’s driving the visual ship, i’m hopefully giving him fun inspiration to kick butt on.

Cover C by Scott Brown

BCP: Speaking of the visual side of the book, the colours from Jean-Francois Beaulieu are absolutely stunning. Was there a lot of direction on your part in terms of the colour scheme, or was it just a case of letting him cut loose and do his thing?

AARON: go back and forth with Jean a little bit sometimes, but more often than not I just reply to the colored pages he sends me with a lot of exclamation points about how beautiful it looks. He’s a great cartoonist in his own right so he definitely knows his way around some some line drawings!

SKOTTIE: I told Aaron and Jean early that I would step back on that front unless something really jumped out at me. i wanted those to get into a grove together. Jean and I have worked together for 12+ years so it’s too each for he and to start talking in our shortcuts. haha.

BCP: And finally, what would you each say to somebody who was on the fence about picking up BULLY WARS to help convince them to give it a try?

SKOTTIE: If you like the wackiness of Captain Underpants or Diary of a Wimpy kid, or you dig old school Ren and Stimpy or Invader Zim, then you’ll love this book!

AARON: Do you like to crack up? Do you want to read a book full of fun characters and off-the-wall visuals? This is the book for you!

BULLY WARS #1 goes on sale September 5th, including variant covers from Skottie Young and Scott Brown.

ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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