A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about why bunnies are the protagonists of Starbunny, Inc., so I figured I should also write a post about their co-stars!
The most immediate inspiration is video games, which should come as no surprise to any one who has read Astronaut Academy. The iconography, level designs, textures, and general vibe produced by 8-bit and 16-bit video games are permanently imprinted in my heart, and filter into pretty much all the comics and creative work I’ve produced. Whether as characters, power-ups or just recurring background details, the image of a star, especially one with a face on it, has always been really compelling to me.
Visually, the stars in my comic look the most like the ones that appear in Super Mario Bros., which I started playing in 1986 when I was nine years old. But the stars in Starbunny, Inc. (who don’t offer invincibility so much as constructive criticism) have an inspiration that goes even further back into my childhood.
I first discovered the Care Bears in kindergarten (which for me would’ve been about 1982). They were a big phenomenon at the time, and with all the merchandise produced, the stuff that most resonated with me were the notebooks, folders, and metal lunchboxes that my classmates were bringing to school. Much like the Nestle Quik tin canisters, I would stare at the images on these various Care Bears products for hours! My favorite scenes were hand-painted, with visible brush strokes featuring those colorful little bears just kicking back in the clouds, sliding on rainbows and making friends with anthropomorphized stars. Eventually I’d learn from commercials that their cloud home was called Care-A-Lot, and how the bears monitored the feelings of children with a Caring Meter, but at the time, my imagination was content to work out its own logistics, accepting these heart-warming visuals on face value. My main takeaway was that bears who lived in the sky, and smiling stars who hung out during the daytime, made me happy.
I’m glad to say that as I revisit these early images from childhood, they still make me happy. Yes, I know they can be overly saccharine, and I should see through the marketing calculations that created such images. But commercialism aside, I still think there’s something cool about something that is so unapologetically cute! I can’t speak for the later incarnations of the Care Bears or Super Mario Bros., or any similar franchise, but something about their original iconography still gets to me. It gives me a shot of optimistic feeling, and I can only I hope that a similar bit of magic comes through when people read Starbunny, Inc.
During our brief hiatus, super-friends Laura Given and Jerzy Drozd were inspired to share their love of Starbunny by creating a #bluespotting hashtag all over the internet! Their family and friends helped out, making cute drawings of Blue and placing them near ice-cream-centric locations.
I discovered this while driving up the California coast (post Comic-Con roadtrip), and decided to get in on the fun.
But it doesn’t have to end there! I’d love to see YOUR art and creativity added to the mix. Just upload a photo somewhere online (Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Tumblr, Facebook…) and be sure to include the #bluespotting or #starbunny hastags!
I recieved this hilarious piece of fan art by cartoonist Elbert Or! You should check out his wonderful comics & more of his artwork HERE!
Starbunny, Inc. is far from autobiographical, but sadly, being lactose intolerant is something I have very much in common with the main character, Blue. When I first wrote the prequel “The Great Bunny Migration” for the Flight anthology, I was so young and carefree! I made a story about bunnies and milkshakes because I loved drawing cute things and eating and drinking ice cream! I grew up in a household that really appreciated their dairy products. I’d literally eat cereal for three meals a day and be happy. And there was no greater party than getting to eat pizza for dinner (or an order of mozzerella- and ricotta-stuffed shells), and a Coke float or strawberry milkshake for dessert.
Then, somewhere around 2008, my body turned on me! I ended up hospitalized for colitis, and was never able to look at my precious pizza or ice cream the same way again. I didn’t have to swear off cheese completely, but to this day I know I’m taking a big risk any time I let myself partake in the pleasure of milk-based treats. There are always consequences. Digestive pills like Lactaid only seem to delay the inevitable “blow out,” as we lovingly refer to it my household. I’ll refrain from going into too many more details, but much like the bunny in the last panel of page 15, I’m sure you get the idea.
The workaround has been adapting to non-dairy substitutes like soy and rice based milk. I’m so grateful to live in an age where these products are increasingly available. So I can still enjoy a bowl of rice krispies on a regular basis. And of course there are many delicious sorbets out there. But if I’m being honest, nothing can replace the childhood sense of wonder that comes from an old-timey ice cream parlor! The magic of small ice cream shops like Ample Hills Creamery and Mt. Dessert Island, that constantly create new flavors like Breakfast Cereal (with milk-sogged bits of Capt. Crunch in it)!! Why are these places trying to kill me?!
So yeah, Starbunny will explore some of my love/fear of ice cream in what will hopefully be a cute and funny way. And maybe together we can discover something equally delicious to help us cope in a world where milkshakes rule.