Independently Well Done highlights completed and/or noteworthy story-arcs published by indie and small press creators.
Written By: Mike Kunkle
Art By: Mike Kunkle
Published By: Astonish Factory
I was an odd child growing up, and I honestly don’t mind admitting it, mostly because I’m now an odd adult. My obsession with toys, cartoons, and comics went well into the ages when it became awkward. I had stuffed animals in my early teens, I never stopped reading comics, and I would record cartoons on my parents VCR (Google it kids), just so I could re-watch them over and over. I’m pretty sure I still have Batman: The Animated Series on a couple VHS tapes (again, Google it). There was just something about these worlds of whimsy that has continued to fascinate me for my entire life. So when I come across a comic that delves into that childhood, with all the different components of nostalgia that I remember, it has my immediate attention. Now, add to that multiple awards including two Eisners, and what you end up with is something special, something like Herobear and the Kid, by Mike Kunkle.
I don’t draw comparisons too often between creators, but there’s such a pure innocence in this comic that I immediately connected it with Calvin and Hobbes. Where Bill Watterson portrays a young boy and his toy tiger getting into mischief, most of which was in Calvin’s head, Kunkle takes it far more literal. Herobear isn’t simply a conjuration of a kid’s overactive mind, he’s real.
After his grandfather’s passing, our story’s main character, Tyler, inherits this old, stuffed toy bear and a broken pocket watch. His parents on the other hand, received grandpa’s house, which apparently came with its own butler named Henry. Thus, Tyler’s family relocates to their new home, which spurs into action the infamous “new kid” catastrophe. An often miserable experience many kids have been forced to endure for various reasons. Tyler, as one would imagine, isn’t too happy with his families relocation, but decides to make the most out if it.
Luckily for Tyler his first day at the new school goes off without a single snag. Well, except for the fact that he didn’t wake up on time, missed the school bus, gave the kids on the bus a good laugh as he chased it, ran five miles to get to school, and arrived just in time to be called up to solve a math problem on the board. Okay, so his first day isn’t going the best, but solving a simple math problem isn’t a big deal. Oh look, the school bully is called up alongside him and demands the answer to the problem they’re working out.
Stay calm Tyler, you got this. Wait…what are you doing…no, don’t blurt out a random number to the bully. Okay, chill out Tyler…wait, who are you looking at? Why’re your eyes all big? Are you seriously falling in love with a classmate right now…really? Hello…Tyler…are you daydreaming about the girl in front of the whole class? What’s wrong with you? Pull yourself together. Look, it’s recess, let’s get out there and regroup. Hey it’s your sister…is that your toy bear she’s holding up in the air…well that’s embarrassing. Luckily the bully wasn’t too mad about the wrong answer you gave him…oh look, here he comes with his two older brothers…they look pissed. You know, I’ll see you around Tyler…better luck tomorrow.
I think I’ll stop here because it’s at this point when the bullies establish dominance, Tyler wanders off in anger to lick his wounds, discovers his bear is magical, passes out in the snow, and is left unconscious in the yard as everyone goes back to class. For Tyler, his first day really could’ve gone better. However, for the readers, what transpires next is a story with the ability to create wonderment and adventure within your hands.
After my first read-through of the Herobear and the Kid: Inheritance, I found myself almost immediately flipping back to the front for a second pass. What Kunkle does with a pencil and panels is nothing short of magical. It’s more than a story about a kid and his superhero toy. It’s about innocence, adventure, change, love, family, growing up, and yeah…a magic bear.