Mike Bullock is a man of many talents. He has been a musician, a promoter, a journalist, and now an acclaimed writer. His mind has become a cornucopia of ideas. A fresh breath of air in the comic book industry he has made his splash with the highly lauded "Lions, Tigers, and Bears". Currently continuing the series, as well as writing The Gimoles, he is the president of Runemaster Studios.
Take a trip into an insightful mind of a creator on the rise and read on to learn why you should quickly watch out for his face in the coming years.
Blazedent(BE): Would you ever consider fusing a comic book with music?
Mike Bullock(MB): I've thought about it, and my friend Ken Lillie-Paetz has done it with his book Elsinore. The trouble is that comics are almost exclusively visual, while music is exclusively aural, so it makes it hard to find a merge point where the two would compliment one another. The key to a good comic is getting the reader to make an imaginative investment in the story. By providing background music or any other form of audible enhancements, you interrupt that process for the reader, thus reducing their ability to make the story a part of their imagination.
I have dabbled with taking some of my old song lyrics and converting them to comic scripts, however. Hopefully, when the right opportunity comes along, I'll be able to get those tales on the comic store shelves.
BE: What did you learn from the music business that you carried over to comic books?
MB: Quite a few things actually. The music business, or any other branch of the entertainment industry, prepares you to live in the public eye, prepares you to deal with fandom assembled and helps you learn to promote your work and yourself. Having owned my own music promotion company also provided me with many experiences to draw from in promoting my comic works.
BE: Is there anything in particular that you liked more or less about each business?
MB: There are definitely things I loved about each one. There is nothing on earth that compares to the feeling of getting on stage in front of hundreds or thousands of fans and listening to them sing your lyrics back at you with one voice. The energy that gets exchanged between musician and the crowd is uniquely electrifying.
With comics, the real excitement for me comes from the process of dreaming up characters and stories, then seeing some really talented artists bring them to life. Just as the feeling of being on stage in front of a hungry crowd of metal fans is unique, so too is the feeling you get when you first look at new art pages or a completed comic book. When Jack Lawrence or Theo Bain send me new artwork, I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve, it's a wonderful feeling.
BE: Can you also reflect on your journalistic experience? Any similarities?
MB: Journalism isn't nearly as rewarding for me. I'm a self-professed imagination junkie and Journalism sort of flies in the face of that. A journalist isn't supposed to allow their imagination to color events they document. A journalist needs to turn off the imagination, and imagination is what turns me on.
BE: Reflect on your BrokenFrontier.com experience. How has it helped you within the comic book industry?
MB: My time on the Frontier was wonderful. The staff of the site has, for the most part, always been a wonderful group of people. It was really nice to see it start from a boring looking, basic web page and grow into one the most read online comic news sites. It's nice to look back and know I was a part of making that happen, alongside the great folks Frederik Hautain brought along to help him out. As for helping in my comic career, it certainly taught me to be a "student of the game" so to speak. I really had to re-think how I viewed comics, what about them I enjoyed and what it was that triggered that enjoyment. I can now take that knowledge and apply it to my own scripts.
BE: Why the fascination with space? I see you want to be Silver Surfer and an Astronaut. You also are "birthed" at Area 51.
MB: I'm not really sure why, I just know I've always been fascinated with space and science fiction. When I was little, my brother and I would run home from school to watch the televised coverage of the Apollo launches. I'd spend weekday afternoons watching Ultraman and Johnny Socko and Saturday afternoons watching re-runs of the old Flash Gordon black and white serials. When Star Wars first hit, I was eight years old and my friends and I went to see it the week it came out. I think my jaw fell open at the opening volley of blaster fire the Star Destroyer shot at the Rebel Blockade Runner and didn't close until the final credits.
BE: Could we possibly see a space related series in the future?
MB: I actually have a huge space opera story I've been working on for over a decade. Above my desk are several notebooks full of starship designs, planet files, species files, government overviews, explanations of the galactic religions, cultures and history. I originally envisioned the story would come to life as an animated film, and I'm not sure the comic medium would do it justice (although if I had the right artist, it might work out very well), so I'm just bidding my time until I come across the right opportunity to bring this to life.
BE: And while on the subject, have you ever considered writing for Marvel or DC? Are there any characters in particular that you would like to write about?
MB: I'd think every comic writer has considered writing for Marvel & DC at one point or another. Unfortunately, it's not like you can just call them up and tell them you'll be writing Ultimate Moon Knight next month. For Marvel, Moon Knight is definitely high on my list of characters I'd love to tackle at some point. With DC, I really want to get a chance to write Captain Marvel and Firestorm.
BE: I see you wrote for Panzer Magazine (an online metal magazine). I am a huge fan of Metal music, of the underground variety. I enjoy any good melodic death metal, ambient, experimental, technical stuff. What type of metal do you enjoy the most? Do you still listen to the music? What bands? What type of music did your band play when you were in it?
MB: I enjoy all sorts of metal, and really all sorts of music. Every genre has good and bad artists. With metal, my all time favorites would be Opeth, Voivod, Pantera, Possessed, Venom and certain albums from Metallica, Slayer and Testament. I'm really loving the new crop of metal bands that have come out in the last few years, too. Bands like Chimera, Shadows Fall, Living Sacrifice and Demon Hunter are really adding a lot to the metal movement and might be the best new crop of bands since the 80s.
As for playing, I was in several bands that ranged from pure speed metal to crossover punk/metal to grindcore and back again. I really just loved playing anything heavy and aggressive.
BE: Do you miss the music industry?
MB: I really miss playing the music. Very much so. But I don't miss the business end of it one bit, nor do I miss the harsh lifestyle. Playing music is incredibly rewarding. Playing music in front of fans who get off on it, ten times so. There are days where I really want to just go start a new band and head off on tour again, but then I remember the time when we broke down in a blizzard outside Cleveland on Christmas Eve, or the time we all got food poisoning at a night club in Pittsburgh, or almost getting arrested for having band practice in LA or any of a hundred other "paying our dues" moments that really sucked and just figure I'm better off jamming by myself.
I'm very thankful for the time I spent in the music scene, but also very appreciative of the life I have now that I've left that world behind me.
BE: Lions, Tigers and Bears is your most acclaimed comic book, due to its wide range of appeal. Do you see your work in other mediums, possibly as a cartoon or film? Is there perhaps a toy line of some sort to accompany the book in the works?
MB: Union Entertainment recently optioned both Lions, Tigers and Bears and The Gimoles with aspirations of bringing them both to the movie screen and video game consoles. Along the way, there are plans to create a line of Stuffed Animal Kingdom stuffed animals and toys, as well as Gimoles merchandise.
BE: Outside of The Gimoles and Lions, Tigers and Bears, what can our readers expect from you?
MB: I just finished my first "work-for-hire" script, featuring a very legendary character, that I'm pretty excited about. I really love the character and can't wait to see the art pages start rolling in. It should be announced sometime in the next few weeks to a month. After that, I have a lot of irons in the fire, it's just a matter of seeing what pans out and what doesn't.
BE: What is your take on contract exclusivity? What are the pros and cons?
MB: I don't have any real experience with that in the comic industry, so I don't have an educated opinion on it. I doubt it's much different than being "exclusive" in the music industry, where, when I was contracted to Restless Records I couldn't go record for Roadrunner, but I really don't know.
BE: As a writer do you have any "habits" or "rituals" you go through when approaching a particular project or script?
MB: I've never thought of them as rituals, per se, but I spend a lot of time researching and thinking about the story before I ever type anything out. Then I sit and type out a short story synopsis, use that to lay out my script into pages, then flesh out each page. Once that's done, I re-write the dialogue, then give it a final once over before handing it over to my editor.
BE: What 3 things are there in your fridge right now?
MB: Gatorade, water & Chinese leftovers.
Thanks for the interview, it was a lot of fun.
BE: Thank you very much Mike from the entire Blazedent team.
Special thanks to James Chan for his help with the interview.
It is highly recommended that everyone pick up the first volume of Lions, Tigers, and Bears. You can also keep track of everything that Mike Bullock does at www.runemasterstudios.com.
- Pawel Goj