High School can be hell, but next week, it’s war when Skottie Young and Aaron Conley team up for Bully Wars from Image Comics.
Young Spencer is starting high school, and his long-time bully Rufus thinks he has the year all figured out until Rufus becomes the bully victim. Making an uneasy alliance with his former bully, Spencer teams with Rufus to help him with the secret games of the Bully Wars, where the winner rules the school.
Young and Conley opened up to Newsarama about their new ongoing series, the rules and regulations of the Bully Wars, any influence from their high school days they might have snuck in, and what led to them teaming up for the book.
Newsarama: Skottie, Aaron, how did you guys come together for Bully Wars?
Skottie Young: Some friends of mine talked about Aaron’s books Sabertooth Swordsman on their podcast 11 O’Clock Comics years ago and I fell in love with his work. We met at a con and over time talked about doing a project together. He joined me on an issue of Rocket Raccoon that I wrote for him and we had a blast together.
I had Bully Wars in “one day I’ll work on this” folder and after an idea that Aaron and I were exploring didn’t work out, I proposed Bully Wars to him and he was like “sure, sounds fun.” And there you go, it was love at first comic book.
Aaron Conley: There might have also been a few moments of me on Skype going, "Skottie! When are we going to work together again?!"
Nrama: Into the book itself, what can you tell us about the population of Rottenville?
Young: It’s a town with a crazy amount of bullies. Like, the most bullies. Probably all the bullies. [Laughs]
We don’t see much of the town, but we wanted to let you know just from the name, this place isn’t fun for a kid who is just trying to make through school with his head still attached.
Nrama: What was the design process like these characters, especially for young Spencer and Rufus, our bully?
Young: It was really smooth. Aaron just started sketching and pretty much nailed them all right away. It was awesome to see him brain at work.
Conley: Skottie makes this sound easier than it was. Spencer and Rufus did come around pretty quickly. Hock went through a few different haircuts, and I did struggle a bit with the final versions of Ernie and Troy. All along, Skottie would throw ideas out here and there and those were helpful for nailing the final designs down.
Nrama: Can you tell us what the rules are for the Bully Wars?
Young: Well, what fun would that be if I told you know. You’ll have to wait and see when we get there.
Nrama: We all kinda suffered one way or the other in high school trying to find ourselves, did you put any autobiographical or material influenced by your own high school days in here?
Young: One part of my life that I’ve put in there is the friendship of Spencer, Edith, and Ernie. I wasn’t bullied a lot as a kid, but home life was rough at times and I found a lot of comfort and safety in my friends. I still do to this day. So even though this book is mostly meant to make you laugh, I wanted you to feel like these kids really do have a history and like each other, even if they give each other business every now and then.
Conley: Spencer's bedroom is hugely influenced by how mine looked as a teen, and Rufus is how I wished I dressed!
Nrama: Aaron, you’re not coloring yourself this time around. What can you say about the colorist you got for Bully Wars?
Conley: I am not coloring this; colors are by the amazing Jean-Francois Beaulieu. Yes, there are a few things that make it look a bit different than Sabertooth. Sabertooth Swordsman was in black and white so I did a lot of detail work. With Jean backing me on colors, I can leave things a little more open for him to have fun with. I've always been hugely influenced by animated shows like Ren & Stimpy and Invader Zim, so I've definitely brought a little more of that to the table. Last but definitely not least: I've gotten five more years of artistic development in since Sabertooth, so hopefully I've gotten a little better.
Nrama: You don't see a ton of all-ages material coming from Image, what made you want to take this to them?
Young: Exactly that reason. I love Image Comics! i love that as creators, we can publish anything we want there and they support you. I drew the Oz comics for five years and it was awesome getting to be a part of a kids’ entry into comics. I’ve watched kids grow up and get married since I did those books. I’ve watched a few kids become parents since I did those books and being a part of their lives through comics is pretty amazing.
Image has some really fun all ages books and I wanted to help add to that catalog if I could and luckily Aaron was up for the challenge. I hope we can help get some more kids into reading and reading comics.
Nrama: How do you think either of you would do in the Bully Wars?
Young: [Laughs] I don’t know. I pretty big so I wouldn’t do well getting shoved into lockers.