A de luxe edition of the comic strip Bruce the angry bear has been published. We spoke to the brains behind the book, Einar Valur Másson (34) and Jonathan H.Duffy, Jono (33) about the good reception it has gotten and possible new projects.
Tell us about the new book? “Bruce the Angry Bear, vol. 1: Welcome to Gaykjavík, is a collection of the first year of Bruce-strips,” says Einar and Jono adds: “From the very first one which came out in January 2017 up to Christmas and New Year’s. There’s a foreword from my friend Hulli, i.e. comic creator Hugleikur Dagsson, who was one of the people who encouraged me to try to make this happen and a lot of bonus content.”
Einar nods: “Probably the biggest addition is the neighborhood map. It’s based off downtown Reykjavík, so Bruce fans can go on a “tour” of Gaykjavík by visiting noted spots and comparing them to locations in the comic. The map is exclusive to the book for the time being as a sort of incentive to those who would like to buy it.”
Why a book? Was that always the plan?
“I don’t know that printing a book was ever part of the plan, but then we didn’t have much of a plan beyond “let’s make neat stuff and maybe people will pay us to make neat stuff for them”,” Einar says laughing.
“We had quite a few people ask us about 6 months in if we would put it in print form so they could hold it and read it in more of an old school way,” says Jono. “Also we love that the internet format has meant that we are able to get an audience without landing a massive publishing deal, but we love that in the book format you can follow the story really easily from start to finish. And yes, being able to get paid for something you’re proud of always helps.”
Was the book long time in the making?
“That depends on how you measure these things,” says Einar. “We’ve worked on Bruce strips nonstop for almost two years now. In addition, I had to create a cover for the front and back, I had to create the map, do a new illustration for the forward section, and of course had to lay an entire year’s worth of my work out for the print format.” The last sentence he says smiling. “Well, I say I had to. Of course, we didn’t HAVE to include the map. I could probably have dusted off some old artwork and used that for the forward and covers. But I wanted to make sure people got something new and nice along with the old strips.”
Jono: “The process of actually getting the book together was hands down, more work for Einar. But we were very lucky that he has done it before with other works so he already knew what we would have to do. I’m so new to the whole comic genre even after 2 years so it’s great to have my work partner be someone who is already very knowledgeable about how it all works.”
Einar: “Aw, shucks! I don’t mind much. Bruce is a labor of love for me.”
The difference between bears and twinks
When asked where and when they met and how the idea behind Bruce the angry bear actually came to life Jono says that when he spoke at Tedx Reykjavik that’s when he met Einar for the first time.
“It was a crazy time of life for me because I had just come back from being the creative director for Iceland’s entry to Eurovision. I was very nervous that day because my talk was actually dealing with some very dark elements and people were only used to me being a comedian. Einar was there as a volunteer and was drawing all the speakers. I remember that when I had spoken I was having lunch with Hulli and Einar and speaking to them about comics and asking them lots of questions. Then I mentioned the idea I had for Bruce which I had actually been working on since 2011 but never really knew how to make it happen. Hulli said that it sounds hilarious, I needed to make it happen and I asked Einar if he would be interested in chatting about it.”
Einar smiles: “Jono is incredibly good at introducing himself to new people and suggested to me that we should meet up, discuss ideas and see how we get along.”
Later the two met at a coffee-shop at Kringlan, where Jono told Einar about the difference between bears and twinks, not being sure the illustrator was listening when Einar suddenly showed Jonathan his notebook and said, ‘do you think this is what Bruce looks like?’ “I was stunned,” recalls Jono. “It was like he pulled Bruce directly out of my head. That first image is basically the same one used on Bruce the Angry Bear T-shirts that were made.”
“Ultimately it would be amazing to do an animated series. When we write now each weekly strip is often a smaller part of a 10-strip story arc, so this would translate very easily to video.”
Einar: “The ideas started flowing from both of us. Bruce would work at a steakhouse, he’d have a cute, little boyfriend by the name of Spencer, he’d have conflicts with tourists and fitness-geeks, etc.”
Jono: “From there we came up with 5 small strips and sent them to a few people to see if anyone here would be interested in publishing them. GayIceland snapped it up and were even able to get us a sponsor. And the rest is history.”
Animated series up next?
Going back to the new book, how have people responded to it? “The feedback has been great,” says Jono with a smile. “It’s rewarding to be standing at a stall where people are looking at it and actually hearing them laugh at the jokes. For me as a comedian I sometimes use the jokes I have said on stage in the comic. Just recently I did that at an event and an audience member came to me after and accused me of stealing a joke from the comic book they had bought at pride. I smiled and said, when you go home have a look at one of the names on the front of that book.”
Einar says that people are very enthusiastic about the book and that he and Jono are this month going to the Thought Bubble Comic Festival in Leeds to run a table and see if they can sell some copies of the book. “After that, we’re going to see about getting it into shops here in Reykjavík for the holidays. You’ll also be able to order copies directly from us through BrucetheAngryBear@gmail.com”
Do you see yourselves taking the concept further?
“Sure, there’s always new ground to explore,” says Einar. “Depending on how well this book sells, we’ll probably do another one next year. We’ve already done more strips this year than the previous one, so it’s guaranteed to have a higher page-count. We also brainstormed other merchandise like beer coasters, hats, stickers, posters, etc. We’ll have to see what kind of demand there is for any of this stuff first. Also, if there are any animation studios out there who are ready to give us loads of money to produce a movie or animated series, we’re all ears! (laughs)”
Jono: “Ultimately it would be amazing to do an animated series. When we write now each weekly strip is often a smaller part of a 10-strip story arc, so this would translate very easily to video. I like that we’re both really open to exploring where this goes.
For now I think we are just going to focus on getting Bruce out there more and trying to get some more international attention too. I was at the Bears on Ice event recently and was told that there is a bit of a following for Bruce in Seattle, so maybe that’s a good next stop.”