On June 23rd, the constant bickering in the zoology community over who’d win a fight between a bear and shark will finally be settled. In the upcoming one-shot Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark, cartoonists Ryan Ottley (Invincible) and Jason Howard (Astounding Wolf-Man) are picking up their pencils for a forty-eight page comics clash pitting a ferocious Sea Bear versus a monstrous Grizzly Shark. When pencils – and teeth – and claws – collide, only readers of this comic will be able to determine the victor. Each artist will be writing & drawing a complete twenty-two page story, with friend & writer Robert Kirkman providing a prose story describing the origins of these two monstrous beasts.
For more on this unique one-shot, Newsarama talked with Ryan Ottley & Jason Howard and found them just as combative as their characters.
Newsarama: Forget Team Edward & Team Jacob – you’ve really pitted people to root for either Sea Bear or Grizzly Shark. How did you two choose sides on what to draw?
Ryan Ottley: Oh I'm totally with team Jacob. As to how we chose though, Jason was quick on the draw on this one. He snagged up Sea Bear quicker than I could say....."Hey....I wanted Sea Bear." But that's ok, in the end I'm happy good ol' Grizzly Shark was pushed on me.Jason Howard: It was really for Ryan's own good. We all see how infrequently he draws sharks in Invincible. It seemed clear to me that he was purposely avoiding drawing them. I know how important it is as an artist to push yourself to draw new things in order to develop and grow as an artist. Ryan's shark phobia was bringing him down and could only lead to his eventual disillusionment with the entire comics industry and send him back to a life of sadness. So I made him draw Grizzly Shark, and his life has only improved since. Now when an Invincible script calls for a shark battle Ryan no longer has to be afraid, he can draw that shark with confidence!
Nrama: What’s the story of this book?
Ottley: I don't want to give too much away but it explains all about HOW the Bear and Shark got mixed up in Robert Kirkman's brilliant origin story at the start of the book. Jason and my stories were written separately of each other, without either of us knowing what the other was going to do. It worked well this way, we didn't want to interfere in each other's stories.Howard: Part of the fun of working on this was not knowing what Ryan was going to do. It was really cool to see the finished stories and realize how much parts of our stories were similar, like the violence. And how much parts were really different, like the Bear and the Shark.
Nrama: The cover image seems pretty violent – will this be 40 plus pages of violence, or will we get to see a tender side of these blood- thirsty creatures? Maybe some romance?Ottley: Grizzly Shark is more than just violence. There is ice cream involved too. It's mostly a fun survival story and teaches people about sharks. Like they can smell blood for a hundred miles. So if you get stabbed in the woods, good luck not getting eaten to death by a shark.
Howard: Like all good literature, the violence in this book is really used as an allegory to comment on the important issues facing our society and a heartfelt look at what it means to really love someone. It also speaks to what it takes to survive a bear attack while fishing off the coast of a small Caribbean island.Nrama: I heard this project came about during Heroes Con ’08 and sharing a hotel room. Before the rumors start – set the record straight for us – what happened?
Howard: First off, Heroes Con is an amazing convention. The fact that the idea for this book came while Ryan and I were there should in no way keep people from wanting to attend the convention or think poorly of it. Secondly most of the events of that night are covered under a non-disclosure agreement that was the result of some regrettable legal action by the state of North Carolina. All we can really say is that before the convention there were no Bears in the ocean or Sharks in the woods. And after the convention well, here we are 2 years later with this comic. I think most people are smart enough to fill in the blanks.Nrama: I know it’s a bit premature – but someone has to ask… could there be more Sea Bear vs. Grizzly Shark after this one-shot?
Ottley: I don't know. I was really thinking about doing a book called Sea Lion, it's about a Lion in the ocean.
Howard: Hold on right there buddy, you are clearly still jealous that I got to draw Sea Bear. Sea Lion sounds way too close. I mean really, a lion in the ocean? That is so not believable. How does it even breathe? I'm calling my lawyer, have fun in jail!
Nrama: You’re both best known for drawing comics other people write – some guy named Robert usually – so what’s it like to be able to let loose and draw whatever you wanted to in serve of your own story here?Ottley: It was fun, I miss it already. I can't wait to do more one-shots or a mini-series someday soon. I tried writing the regular way of typing or writing it down and it just doesn't work for me. I do it all with thumbnail sketches and scribble dialogue on the side.
Howard: I agree, it was fun. Because we worked on it over a long period of time I never really felt rushed to work on it. I had the luxury to let the story kick around in my head for a while, then in a couple sessions I did the same sort of thumbnail writing process that Ryan mentioned. Working that way made the process very organic and if in the penciling stage I came up with a cooler idea I could just do it and adjust the story as I went. Tell me now, who's this Robert guy you mentioned...?
Nrama: Your guess is as good as mine, Jason.I could ask you who’s better – bears or sharks – but I’m afraid you’d both devolve into a knockdown drag-out of your own. But let me ask this – if Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark formed a tag team to fight Invincible and Wolf-Man, who would win?
Ottley: We've already both agreed that a Bear would take down a Shark since Bears have claws where Sharks have fins. But to answer your question, I would say Bear and Shark would win over Invincible and Wolf-Man, because superheroes are not real, silly.
Howard: Its true. Superheroes are way faker than even (spoiler alert) Santa Claus. I think it is important for comics that publishers focus on more realistic characters, like bears and sharks.