Bully Wars

BULLY WARS: An Interview with Skottie Young and Aaron Conley

I think we can all remember our first day in High School. A new chance at life, new friends, new experiences, new… bullies!?! Welcome to Rottenville, home to Skottie Young’s and Aaron Conley’s newest comics creation, BULLY WARS! Billed as an all-ages FREAKS AND GEEKS meets HUNGER GAMES, but without the killing, BULLY WARS tells the story of a bully who may have to up his game. We talked to Skottie and Aaron about the series and what you can expect when it debuts in September.

ComicsVerse (CV): For those not in the know, what is BULLY WARS about?

Skottie Young (SY): It’s pretty simple. It’s about Rufus, a bully who thinks he’s going to be the biggest bully in high school, but finds out that’s not as easy as he thought. There’s a competition called The Bully Wars that determines who will be top bully in Rottenville High and to win, Rufus is forced to team up with some unlikely allies… the kids he’s been bullying his whole life.

Bully Wars

Courtesy of Image Comics

CV:  BULLY WARS was announced at C2E2 this year. How long has it been in development, and how did your collaboration come about?

SY: I’ve been kicking the general idea around for nearly 10 years. Aaron and I started developing a different project a few years ago and then one weekend STRANGER THINGS came out. The following Monday I called Aaron and said “well, our story just came out on Netflix.” Haha. It was so close to what we had started to build that we just didn’t want to seem like we were riding that wave. That’s when I thought I’d float the idea of BULLY WARS by him. After some talk and some sketching, it seemed to click and this became our project. And after years of it just sitting there, I realized I was waiting for someone like Aaron to come along and help complete the vision for it, and that’s what he did.

CV: Aaron, you have a very energetic cartoonish style that really suits the story. How did you approach the look and feel of the series? What were your influences?

Aaron Conley (AC): I have definitely tried to bring more of an animation influence to the book and my style more than anything I’ve ever done before. REN & STIMPY have always been a huge influence and I’ve been rewatching FLAPJACK and ADVENTURE TIME while working on BULLY WARS. Gross close ups, and weird off-model characters are a blast to draw, and I try to bring a lot of that. In the end though it’s a lot of stuff that’s been spinning around in my brain for years and years, and I just spit it out to try and make the best pictures I can to compliment Skottie’s story.

CV: What do you think colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu and letterer Nate Piekos bring to BULLY WARS?

SY: EVERYTHING. These two are magicians. They take what we do and plus it up so much. It really is wonderful to work with these two!

AC: Yeah, they are both great, Jean just understands my shapes so much and takes everything I’m thinking and makes it 20 times better! We are really lucky to have both of these guys!

CV: Skottie, what kind of things can we expect from the Bully Wars contest?

SY: It’s like a wacky gauntlet, similar to the Hunger Games. You’ll have monsters pop out of toilets, locker mazes, crazy food fights that result in interesting tidal waves… haha.  That’s the part where I’m just coming up with ways to let Aaron show off and dunk all over everyone. He’s so good!

Bully Wars

Courtesy of Image Comics

CV: One of the first things that struck me about BULLY WARS was the relationship the three friends, Spencer, Edith, and Ernie, have with the bully Rufus. On one hand, he bullies them relentlessly, but on the other hand, they also have a sort of friendship with him, or at least tolerate him. What was the intention behind this decision?

SY: I seem to remember that the lines were always more blurred than we show them on TV and in movies. Often, you are stuck with the same group of people in school, doing projects together, paired up in gym class, etc. it’s not always black and white. And I like that they aren’t terrified of him. They don’t like it and want it to change and I like that Spencer decides to be proactive in changing it.

CV: While we are introduced to Spencer, Edith, and Ernie from the get-go, this issue really focused on Rufus. How much focus will there be on Rufus in upcoming issues?

SY: I think it gets pretty even between the four of them after issue 1. I mean, I see Rufus as the main character for now, for this arc. But the four are really the focus. I’m pretty close to it, though, so others may see it differently. That’s the great thing about storytelling. I can see our story as one thing while others see it in a different light.

CV: Without going too much into spoiler territory, is the thing in Spencers bag at the beginning of the issue what we see at the end of the issue?

SY: Hahahaha. No comment.

CV: What was your own first day in High School like? Are there any experiences from your own life you reference in BULLY WARS?

SY: I don’t really remember the first day that well. It was fine I think. I never got bullied too bad. It was more like what we talked about above, the grey area. I was tall and really skinny so it was easy for some “friends” who played football to walk by and give me a “friendly” punch to the arm or chest and it hurt like hell but they were “just joking around.” So you start to learn how to spot it, avoid it, or distract them somehow. I think that’s where the idea for Spencer’s plan came from.

AC: I wasn’t bullied a lot either, everybody treated me okay because they wanted me to draw them pictures! However, I definitely would have hung out with Spencer in my high school days over Rufus!

CV: Are there any other projects you would like to mention?

SY: Well, if you haven’t read SABERTOOTH SWORDSMAN then you should absolutely go to do that. I fell in love with Aaron’s work on that book. As for me, I have another Image book coming out in November called MIDDLEWEST. Written by me and drawn by Jorge Corona. It’s about a boy named Abel on a journey through a rural, fantasy like version of the Midwest.

AC: I’m going to do another SABERTOOTH SWORDSMAN volume one of these days, but I’m happily pouring all of my love into BULLY WARS right now!

Bully Wars

Courtesy of Image Comics

Want to know more about BULLY WARS?

BULLY WARS #1 punches comic shops on September 5th. More information can be found about BULLY WARS here. You can keep up to date with the creators on Twitter, @skottieyoung and @AaronConley77.


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