A few days ago I reviewed a fun, all-ages one-shot comic featuring Kung Fu legend Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee: The Walk of the Dragon reminded me of some of those great cartoon episodes that just showed a day in the life of the character. And that is just what happens in the comic, or does it?
I had the tremendous opportunity to interview the writer of Bruce Lee: The Walk of the Dragon, animation superstar Nicole Dubuc. Nicole has worked on My Little Pony, Star Wars: Rebels and Transformers: Rescue Bots so that cartoon vibe I got from the comic is well earned. But, as if I wasn’t lucky enough to be interviewing Nicole, Bruce Lee Entertainment’s Shannon Lee also joined us as well!
Martin Boruta: Thank you both for talking with me today about Bruce Lee: The Walk of the Dragon.
Nicole Dubuc: Thanks to you and the team at First Comics News for having us.
Shannon Lee: We’re always happy to chat about our book!
Martin: Shannon, why is this a good time to reintroduce your father, Bruce Lee, as a pop culture personality to new audiences?
Shannon: I don’t think there would ever be a bad time to introduce Bruce Lee to anyone. But now is a particularly important time, I feel, because of the conversations we are engaged in concerning inclusion, personal and community responsibility, and acceptance. My father was so ahead of his time with the way he lived his life, worked on himself as a human being, and his philosophies and teachings. I feel like we are finally at the intersection where Bruce Lee meets a growing global awareness, and my father has some great tools that we can all apply to help us through our transitions.
Martin: Why specifically a comic book for Bruce Lee?
Shannon: First of all, I’m a fan of comic books from a young age. My brother had them scattered all over the house, and I used to pick them up and read them, too. Comics are such an engaging introduction for kids to… well… anything — storytelling, characters, historical information, you name it. We try very hard to keep our books fun and to have some wisdom sprinkled in at the same time – much like my father did in his films.
Nicole: I’m new to the series, but as someone who is constantly pressing “pause” to look at the physics and cool poses involved in a movie fight sequence, a comic book feels like a fantastic way to naturally freeze-frame on Bruce Lee’s signature moves and abilities. Comics can also cover as little or as much time as you need them to, which gives us this great range to tell an epic story that would be impossible to produce, or a character side-story that might get left on the editing room floor in a film.
Martin: Tell me a bit about Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises, the five-issue series that preceded this book.
Shannon: Well, Jeff Kline and I wrote the first double issue together. We chose to bring Bruce Lee back and place him in today’s culture as a way of relating to today’s audiences and having fun with my dad. The Bruce Lee of our book arrives in the 21st Century with all his skills intact but none of his memories. He has these flashes of philosophy and imagery that pop into his mind but they are incoherent to him. We did this on purpose so that he would not only have to learn about this new world around him but also learn about himself all over again. And the reader goes on the journey with him.
Martin: What was your reaction to the fan response and positive sales of the series?
Shannon: I’ve been really happy with the response we’ve had. The reviews have been really complimentary and the fans, new and established, seem to have found our efforts really fun. The sales have been strong, too. It’s always rewarding to see a labour of love accepted and celebrated!
Martin: You chose Darby Pop to be the publishing partner. Why Darby Pop and how did that collaboration with Bruce Lee Entertainment come about?
Shannon: I was introduced to Jeff Kline through a mutual friend who I had been talking about comics with because I was lamenting that there wasn’t a legit Bruce Lee comic book out there. Jeff and I hit it off and I really liked the idea of partnering and doing it ourselves. We could have gone with a bigger company, but then there would have been a whole lot of negotiating and compromising, and I wanted to control how we spoke to our fans and have fun doing it.
Nicole: I’m lucky enough to have come onto the project after the collaboration was in place, so all I can say is that it’s a dream come true to work with Shannon and Jeff in creating new Bruce Lee stories. Jeff and I had worked together quite a bit in animation (Transformers: Prime, Transformers: Robots in Disguise) and when he reached out, I leapt.
Martin: Walk of the Dragon is a one-shot and not a full mini-series like The Dragon Rises. Was this just a fun story that needed to be told?
Shannon: We wanted to keep the comic going and knew we weren’t going to be able to get another full arc for THE DRAGON RISES done given our schedules this year, so we decided to tell more of a self-contained legacy story that spoke to my father’s impact in an entertaining way.
Nicole: I really love slice-of-life stories because when you don’t have to dedicate all your page-space to servicing a multi-issue plot, you get the opportunity for lots of humour and great character moments. Sometimes what’s revealed about someone in the day-to-day can change how you view everything that’s come before, or after. For me, doing this book as a one-shot was a chance to dig into some of Bruce’s philosophies, and write a love letter back about how he touched the world.
Martin: Tell me a little bit about the genesis of the story idea for The Walk of the Dragon.
Nicole: When you get to do a one-shot, the whole world is open to you. It’s almost harder to decide what story to tell when you have the freedom to do anything you want! Jeff suggested a bit of a riff on the movie “After Hours,” and I kept that in mind while ruminating on some of Bruce Lee’s more famous quotes. One that stood out for me was: “a goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.” What better prompt for a story about a simple errand that leads to an unexpected adventure – and with it, the discovery of a greater truth?
Martin: What was it like working with the other members of the creative team on this comic?
Shannon: It’s always great. Darby Pop is just the best and everyone we have worked with has been an absolutely wonderful human being.
Nicole: The team is so talented and welcoming! I’m totally blown away by Brandon McKinney’s art, and Zac Atkinson’s work as a colourist is beautiful. Shannon and Jeff were wonderful sounding boards and collaborators during the story process. When everyone is excited about a project like this, there’s a positive energy that imbues the final product.
Martin: Was keeping the book all-ages important and was this a Darby Pop or Bruce Lee Entertainment choice? If I had to guess I would assume everyone started off on the same page.
Shannon: We were always on the same page. We, of course, discussed all the possibilities but from the outset, we really wanted to speak to kids and adults alike. And though all-ages books aren’t always positively acknowledged by critics or fans (though ours has been – yay!), we were more interested in introducing Bruce Lee to those who might not otherwise know about him or might not find out about him until later in life.
Nicole: Bruce Lee’s philosophies have something to teach all ages, so it felt natural that this book is for everyone. Coming from animation, I like telling stories that can be accessed by any and every audience.
Martin: Shannon, what’s next for Bruce Lee from Darby Pop?
Shannon: We are talking about what’s next in collaboration with Darby Pop and will keep you posted! As for Bruce Lee, we always have things we are working on. We have a tv series we are producing with Justin Lin for Cinemax that is shooting right now. We also have an indie film about my father as a teenager in Hong Kong that we are about to go into pre-production on and shoot later this year. We are developing and testing a new program for kids through the Bruce Lee Foundation (www.bruceleefoundation.org) this year. I’m working on a book about my father’s philosophy right now… and much, much more!
Martin: Nicole, do you have any upcoming projects we should know about?
Nicole: I recently executive produced season eight of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which premieres this month on Discovery Family. I’m currently showrunning The Rocketeer, an animated TV series I developed for Disney Junior. And I have another Ponyville Mysteries book, “Cursed Crusaders,” that I co-wrote with Michael Vogel, coming out in April.
Martin: We here at First Comics News and myself, in particular, are absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with you ladies today. Thanks all around.
Shannon: Thank you, Martin. We’re truly grateful for your support and interest. Thank you for helping to keep my father’s legacy alive!
Nicole: We really appreciate the opportunity to chat with you!
Bruce Lee: The Walk of the Dragon #1 hits the shelves of your Local Comic Shops March 28th, 2018. Be sure to grab a copy. And if your shop missed ordering some in give them Diamond code JAN181591 and have some copies brought in.
Issue: Bruce Lee: The Walk of the Dragon #1 | Publisher: Darby Pop Publishing
Writer: Nicole Dubuc | Artists: Brandon McKinney & Zac Atkinson
Lettering: Troy Peteri | Editor: Renae Geerlings
Price: $3.99 – 32 pages