The bears are back - and they're coming to comic books.
The iconically cute Care Bears are back with a hit animated series on Boomerang and now with a three-issue comic book series debuting July 10.
While some might peg these as nostalgia acts, these emotionally-coded anthromorphic animals could be considered ahead of their time given how they fit in with modern culture and how people express themselves today. That bleeds through in artist Agnes Garbowska's colorful work in the Care Bears series, as well as writers Matthew Erman and Nadia Shammas' story.
Newsarama spoke with all three creators about the new series, how Care Bears works, and even what Care Bear they see themselves as.
Newsarama: Hey gang, let's start off strong. To each of you, what's the magic that makes Care Bears special?
Agnes Garbowska: Their special friendship. Each Care Bear has a very unique personality, likes, and dislikes. It’s these unique personalities coming together to make something super special.
Nadia Shammas: I think the magic of the Care Bears is what's essential to a lot of stories, especially for younger readers. It's about empathy, kindness, personal growth. Sure, it's packaged in a pretty cutesy, bubblegum kind of way, but doesn't make the heart of those struggles any less. These are characters in a world dedicated to kindness, they've all got their little idiosyncrasies, they're learning how to be friends and teammates. They're pushing each other to be the best version of themselves. They're genuinely dedicated to being good and caring, and I think that's one of the most special things to teach and learn. It definitely helps that the world they exist in is just so delightful and pure. It's just a dessert of a concept.
Garbowska: They are also really cute designs that make them extremely likable.
Matthew Erman: Prior to getting into Care Bears: Unlock the Magic and the whole universe - I had a pretty loose understanding of the concept. They're bears, they're cute and they have magic powers that are shot through their bellies. Got it. What surprised me was how much there is to really grab onto as a writer and tell a rad story. I was apprehensive going into this but after writing and working with editor Bobby Curnow and Nadia (my co-writer) it became clear that there is something really special and I think what it is for me is their relationships with each other.
They've all got such interesting personalities and it's pretty varied but at the end of the day they're nature is good and want to help. The world itself is also pretty cool - it's so creative and offers such a colorful sandbox to play around in. If I could write a Care Bears story that's just them, sitting around a table, talking about nothing, hanging out and drinking...uhh smoothies? I would. I would do that in a heartbeat. They're just so fun to write.
Nrama: It's a classic franchise, and has found a new life with the recent Boomerang cartoon. For older fans - or fans of the older material - can you tell us about the stylistic and story updating that has been done?
Shammas: There's definitely been a big change stylistically; everything is much more streamlined, saturated, and it definitely feels like it fits in more closely with modern cartoons. They're still undeniably the Care Bears, but the visual shift moves the characters and the series into feeling very "today."
Garbowska: For me as an artist the new style is definitely a lot of fun to draw because of how organic and expressive it is. There is a lot that I can do with the new stylistic style and I can use a lot of body language and facial expressions to express the different emotions the bears go through.
Shammas: I think there's also an important tone shift for kids today. There's surface level stuff, like rapping and computers, but there's also conversations about being sensitive, being open to other people, learning how to communicate properly and in positive ways. There's emphasis on personal development, and healthy relationships. I'm really thrilled to being able to be part of helping kids grow up emotionally healthy with work like this.
Erman: Yeah, stylistically it's modern. I think that's the biggest thing - the stories are modern, the artwork has been modernized and the characters feel like they can relate to young kids these days. There is a bigger focus on the technological wonders. The Care Bears have the the Cloudseeker, which is this rainbow all-terrain mobile mission Headquarters for the team. It's pretty wild.
I think Nadia and I officially get to canonically introduce the bathroom which is really funny to me.
On the flip side, Bluster and the Bad Crowd is also always fiddling with new technology, new wacky machines or crazy doo-dads. That all feels very new and I think that's probably more top-of-mind with kids coming up now, dealing with all kinds of mobile devices.
I'm rambling. I sound like a senior citizen. I do not know if Blusterland has bathrooms, just to make that clear.
Nrama: Besides the mystery of bathrooms, what are the Care Bears faced with in this Unlock the Magic limited series?
Erman: In this particular story - Grumpy Bear is dealing with what I would call an existential dilemma - after having a day-off from missions cut short.
Shammas: He's stressed, he's overworked, and he's struggling to feel like a real part of the team.
I think in a lot of friendships, especially friendships where you're also colleagues, it can be really hard to separate feeling like you're letting everyone down if you're worn out.
Erman: The Cloudseeker team then has to investigate a brand-new area called the Glass Glaciers. It's very fun and I'm really proud with what Nadia and I came up. It's a really kooky adventure.
Garbowska: We get to meet Bluster and the Bad Crowd, and for those who have watched the Boomerang cartoon know that these guys are always up to no good.
Shammas: Throw in Bluster and the Bad Crowd, and surprise, shenanigans ensue.
Erman: Agnes's work on the interiors is absolutely stunning. It's so full of life and detail. She really knocked it out of the park. The whole team really. It's a beautiful book.
Shammas: It's been an absolute blast working with the creative team on this one, and I think readers will be able to tell how much fun we had coming up with everything.
Nrama: Maybe I'm the kind of fan that roots for villains, but I really love Bluster and the Bad Crowd - especially their design. What are your thoughts on those characters?
Shammas: I adore Bluster. He's hilarious.
Erman: Oh man. Bluster is the most fun to write.
Shammas: I love his design, I love the spiky purple punk thing he has going on, I love his bad guy voice, I love how over the top they all are. It's just fantastic. He's this rotten little villain who's selfish, edgy for no reason, and basically thinks he's cool because he doesn't care about anything. He's basically a bad teen. Just like a teen, he wants to make an over the top amusement park for baddies, which is just perfectly in line with his character. He's definitely the worst in the funniest way, but he does teach something important. Apathy, meanness, and selfishness don't make you cool, they make you hollow and lame. It's not cool not to care.
Erman: He's such a jerk. He is always trying to find an excuse to dunk on the Care Bears - whether that's stirring up trouble with The Whiffles or like, I don't know, terraforming some section of the Silver Lining into a Bad Crowd Fast Food Restaurant or something.
I don't think he's actually done that but it's very on-brand. Design wise, he's pretty bonkers looking. He's not really a human but the rest of the Bad Crowd look similar. Or maybe he is. He's purple with bad vibes. I think most adults somehow empathize with Bluster - who doesn't want to have their own theme park? It comes at a cost though, and if you get your own theme park at the expense of others or the planet then you're a bad person I think. That's Bluster. He wants fun, but the way he goes about it is bad. The Care Bears are a nice balance, they also want fun - but because they care about each other and those they meet they never have fun at someone else's expense. At least not without apologizing.
Shammas: If some child skips their terrible 12-year-old "I'm mean to be cool" phase because Bluster shows how boring and uninspired that is, I'll be so happy.
Garbowska: They are definitely awesome to work with. Bluster definitely has an ego about himself and his abilities, which does end up working against him in most situations. Robbie does not help Bluster’s ego since Robbie is always more than happy to go along with Bluster’s plans and has such confidence in him, fueling Bluster’s already large ego. Their plans are big and epic, and they may also fail in big and epic ways.
Nrama: Speaking of plans, what are your big plans or goals with Care Bears: Unlock the Magic?
Erman: I just really want to write a good story that isn't terrible and brings people joy. I don't think I have any other intentions beside that.
Garbowska: A really fun comic for everyone to enjoy! I think both older fans and new fans will take something away from these comics and will find them very enjoyable.
Shammas: I think it's pretty clear throughout this interview, but I really just want to tell a story that emphasizes caring, confidence, and companionship.
I'm definitely writing this for kids, imagining what I'd want to tell young children about growing up to be healthy, compassionate people. I never underestimate how much kids can pick up on, and I don't underestimate how much you can learn from a seemingly simple story.
Of course, my other big goal is for this to be funny. I think it's very, very funny, and in my dreams I'm imagining parents and kids laughing at what we've come up with. I really, really hope you all enjoy it as much as I enjoyed coming up with it with Matthew.
Nrama: Lastly - could each of you play with me and say what's the Care Bear who you feel you have the most in common with, and why?
Erman: Listen, we're all going to say Grumpy because deep down I think as an adult - you move through those emotions most frequently. Driving on the highway. Working a day job. Dealing with life or shopping or car problems or groceries. It's all just...more of an effort than it should be but Grumpy never loses sight of his mission. His purpose. His goals. He values his time and appreciates the moments when he gets to indulge in himself. That's adulthood dude. At least to me. He's an oddly complex little bear.
Shammas: Grumpy. Grumpy Bear, all the way. I tend towards the pessimistic, and I struggle with feelings of having to hold it together for everybody else (adulthood, am I right?). My gloominess and taste in media is a running joke with all my friends. It's out of love, though.
Garbowska: I would say I have the most in common with Cheer Bear with a dash of Share Bear. I am a very cheerful person with an out going personality. I try my best to look at the positive in everything but I am definitely very hard on myself, which reminds me of Cheer Bear a lot. As a leader she takes on a lot of responsibility and sometimes questions her own abilities. Share Bear is about sharing and loves animals, which is totally me. I am a huge animal lover.
Erman: I will say though that I love Cheer. She's a great leader and I am usually at my happiest and most comfortable coordinating teams. I really love the teams I get to work with on the comics I've done and am doing, so organizing the work, making sure everyone is happy and creatively fulfilled while also moving everyone along towards a shared goal is great. I really love that and I really get why she a great leader and someone who gets energy from a job well done.