Well over a decade ago, when I was but a young college freshman (I’m an old coot now. I’m lovable…but I’m a coot!), I was hanging with a fellow geek friend of mine who happened to be wearing a t-shirt with a picture of a large, heroic looking polar bear in a red cape.
I asked him what the shirt was all about and he told me about a comic that Mike Kunkel, his brother in-law, had written and drawn called “Herobear and the Kid.” He described it as a fun hybrid of Calvin & Hobbes and the classic superhero stories we all grew up on, drawn in a very Disney animation like style (I found out later that Kunkel had been a Disney animator). I was very intrigued and ordered the first issue.
As soon as I read the tag line, “Remember your childhood…and pass it on,” I knew I would enjoy the book. What blew me away was just how much I fell in LOVE with Herobear. After that first issue I was completely hooked! Sincerely, “Herobear and the Kid” is one of the best comic experiences I’ve had in my entire geeky life. I’ve talked it up to many over the years and with the first storyline being re-released through Boom! Studios (you can download the issues on ComiXology), now seemed like a good time to get on my soapbox and profess my love for Mike Kunkel’s “Herobear and the Kid.”
The premise – After the passing of his grandfather, a young boy named Tyler (the titular “Kid”) and his family move into his grandfather’s home to begin a new chapter in their lives. On top of dealing with normal kid issues: starting a new school, making friends, bullies, a first love and little sister drama, Tyler has also inherited his grandfather’s stuffed bear and broken pocket watch. After a run in with the local bullies (the lovably dumb Bullio brothers), Tyler accidentally hits the stuffed bear in the nose, transforming it into a ten foot tall talking polar bear superhero named Herobear. With this discovery Tyler realizes that when it comes to his grandfather, there is much that isn’t what it seems. Through this arc (“The Inheritance”), Tyler begins a fun journey of discovering the secrets his grandfather left behind, all while discovering that Herobear is the best friend he’s been waiting for his entire life.
If I had only one word to describe the tone and feel of this story it would be SWEET. Kunkel writes each character – both primary and secondary, each interaction, and particularly Tyler and Herobear’s friendship with such a sweetness that anyone, even you Grinches out there that have a heart three times too small, won’t be able to help but sport a HUGE smile while reading “Herobear and the Kid.” Every aspect of this story oozes this sweet tone, making it obvious to see and feel on each page. One great example of this is in how the characters on the “bad” end of the spectrum are written. The bullies and the villains (an old toy maker/villainous mastermind with a crazy robot) never come across as irredeemably mean or evil. There’s always hope for them and not only do Herobear and Tyler both see that, but the reader does as well. You never find yourself really rooting against anyone, but rather rooting for the “bad guys” to be the better people the heroes see in them.
Another core reason why I adore this book is because of the character of Tyler himself. What I’ve realized is that I connect so deeply with him because I was Tyler growing up. In fact, ALL OF US have at one point or another in our childhood been Tyler. We’ve all been that young dreamer. We’ve all dealt with the loss of a loved one. We’ve all had that first crush. We’ve all seen the world through innocent eyes, and so on. Tyler’s story is very much our story too and that makes it so easy to connect emotionally with his journey. Kids of all ages will love this book because they are currently walking in Tyler’s shoes and see the world much as he does. Adults will love this book because Herobear takes them back to when they were Tyler and they will recall that sense of childlike awe and adventure. It’s a book that works so well, regardless of age.
There is much more praise I can give this book, but the best compliment I can give is deeply personal to me. I was 18 when I first read “Herobear and the Kid” and even as a young nerd that didn’t look into the future much farther than what fast food I’d eat the next day, one of the thoughts I kept coming back to while reading Herobear was, “I cannot wait to share this story with my own children one day!” Fast forward many years to now. I’m happily married to a girl WAY out of my league and I’m a father to a bouncing lil’ Avenger boy. Additionally, I’m blessed to have a beautiful geek girl on the way. I’m older (early bird dinners are my jam) and a much different person than I was when I was 18, yet I’ve never forgotten that thought I had when I first experienced this book. I’ve sincerely been waiting many years for this and now…my little boy has a stuffed Herobear guarding his room and both my kids will be spending MANY nights joining Herobear and Tyler on their various adventures.
That’s a gift Mike Kunkel has given me through “Herobear and the Kid.” And one day many years from now, I hope that my kids remember their childhood…and pass it along to their own “Tyler.” Like the title of this post says, PICK UP THIS BOOK!
What was your favorite part of the first arc? What aspect of your childhood did Herobear remind you of? Would your head explode if Herobear and Hobbes hung out together? Sound off in the comments below!
This has been a NERD ALERT!