The creators of the comic strip figure Bruce the Angry Bear, Jonathan Duffy (Jono) and Einar Valur Másson, have teamed up with GayIceland to launch a T-shirt with a drawing of the well loved, or hated, bear. The T-shirt will be sold this week during Reykjavik Pride. The bear Bruce has thereby made a leap from the being a comic figure on GayIceland into the real world.
To get to know what this is all about we got Jonathan and Einar Valur to answer a few questions about this new project. And the obvious first question was, of course, what made you decide to launch the T-shirt?
JONO: “A little while ago we were sent some fan art. A reader of the comic sent a little sketch to us as a thank you. It was sort of a keep up the good work message. It was cool that someone had taken the time to match the likeness of Bruce and Spencer which left us thinking about the possibility of creating merchandise so that people who really enjoy it can take it with them in their daily lives. Einar knows all about this stuff coming from the comic world and I’ve certainly seen lots of it because I perform with Hugleikur Dagsson a lot. Einar and I spoke with the guys at Gayiceland about finding a way to make this happen so now we’re here. We’re also going to do a little competition on Facebook to test the knowledge of some of our readers and the winner will get a free shirt.”
EINAR: “We’ve been looking into ways to get something physical to offer our fans. A T-shirt seemed like a good place to start.”
Is this the beginning of something bigger and more? A product line maybe? J: “It could be, you never know. It’s still early days with the whole comic so I’m not going to give away too much, just know that there are dreams and plans for the future.”
“We’ve been looking into ways to get something physical to offer our fans. A T-shirt seemed like a good place to start.”
E: “You could say this is our canary in the coal-mine. If this shirt is well-received, we’ll definitely look into making more stuff for our fans.”
Now the comic strip has been published on GayIceland for over a half a year. At that time, it has been widely discussed in the media. In addition, it’s now also published on the biggest Danish queer website, Out & About. How do you feel like about the good receptions, did you expect them when you started?
J: “I had no idea what to expect. For me this was just about finally making something happen that I had held on to for years. I just was so excited to finally see it as a tangible thing in the real world instead of these characters in the back of my mind, and the most fun part has always been working with Einar, coming up with jokes and seeing if it’s too far then of course seeing him work his magic. I had no idea that it would have taken off as fast as it has.”
E: “It’s very humbling to be so well-received. I have a pretty bad case of Impostor Syndrome, so I try not to think about it too much.”
The idea behind of Bruce the Angry Bear didn’t get this far in one night, of course, or what?
J: “I’ve been a comedian for 13 years and I can tell you that absolutely nothing ever happens over night. This began as an idea I had way back in 2011 and it’s taken this long for me to find a way to make it happen and an artist to collaborate with.
Bruce was born from me watching a group of actual bears angrily speaking to a festival manager because the movie they wanted to watch was late to start. They wanted to see Bear City and the film I was promoting at the festival (The Doctor’s Wife) was running longer than they anticipated and they were very angry. This sparked an idea for a character in my then twinky head that stayed there until I met Einar. Bruce has been a project a long time in the making.”
E: “Bruce was one of maybe a dozen ideas that Jono and I kicked around between us. I did a quick doodle as Jono described him to me, and Bruce just… appeared, fully formed. The ideas came to us pretty rapidly that day, but several weeks had to pass after that before I could put together what is now the first strip in the Angry Bear Saga.
So no, even if the initial meeting went very well, producing the actual strips takes a lot of work for both of us.”
Is it not good, but maybe a little strange too, to see your brainchild become a reality? And then go in all sorts of directions, with the The new T shirt.
J: “It’s an incredible gift to be able to see it come to life and go in all sorts of directions. Also as a comedian and a podcaster I find it fascinating when you are only known for one of the things you do. I met someone recently who recognised my name at an event I was performing standup. They said,
“Yes, a portion of the proceeds will go directly to the Pride fund. Bruce the Angry Bear is after all set in a parallel universe version of Reykjavik (Gaykjavik) so it only makes sense that we give back to the community who have helped inspire so much of this project.”
“you do that comic, oh I didn’t know you’re also a comedian, I wondered what you looked like.”
For me to see something you create take off and sort of have a life of it’s own is incredible.”
E: “I’m just glad people seem to like Bruce. As a straight dude, I’ve been very nervous about working on a story that sometimes pokes fun at the LGBTQ community. I don’t think I have the right. But people seem to respond positively to Bruce and Spencer’s adventures and for that I’m grateful.”
The T shirt will be sold around the Reykjavík Pride. Is there any particular reason for that?
J: “Yes, a portion of the proceeds will go directly to the Pride fund. Bruce the Angry Bear is after all set in a parallel universe version of Reykjavik (Gaykjavik) so it only makes sense that we give back to the community who have helped inspire so much of this project.”
E: “Bruce the Angry Bear is a gay comic. Well, half-gay maybe since I’m straight and Jono’s gay. Bi-curious?
Working on Bruce has been an opportunity for me to be an ally to the LGBTQ community in a small way by lending my talents to Jono’s voice. I still feel like I could be doing more, and selling shirts and donating part of the proceeds to the Pride fund seems like a logical next step.