Comics Interviews

INTERVIEW: Brett Uren, Creator of Torsobear Volume 3: Back on the Blocks

Written by Fred McNamara

Brett Uren‘s masterful fluffy noir saga Torsobear has returned to Kickstarter for a third (and possibly final) volume. Torsobear‘s past two volumes, Yarns from Toyburg and All Stitched Up, met with great acclaim from critics and the comic world alike, including A Place To Hang Your Cape!

We’ve been following Brett’s work for some time now, and recently managed to catch a few brief moments with him before the Kickstarter for Torsobear: Back on the Blocks blasts off. We dive deep into what will be in store for Detective Ruxby Bear, Officer Hazbrow, and the other citizens, cops and crooks of Toyburg. Additionally, we discuss the joys of working so closely with fellow comic creatives, preventing characters outstay their welcome, and the never-ending dare to push oneself creatively…

A Place To Hang Your Cape: For those who may not be aware, can you tell our readers a little bit about Torsobear?

Brett Uren: Our series follows teddy detective Ruxby Bear, and his gruff wooden partner Hazbrow, as they follow a trail of clues from a dismembered teddy all the way into the corrupt political sphere of Toyburg.

AP2HYC: What’s Back on the Blocks all about then?

Uren: Ruxby has been out of prison for a while, back in Toyburg Police, however the city is starting to pull apart through unrest and an increasingly military response to protestors. There is more going on than that, but all I’ll say is that Ruxby’s nemesis, The Copycat, finds events in Toyburg are a convenient distraction…

AP2HYC: We left Detective Ruxby Bear and the city of Toyburg in a fairly apocalyptic state at the end of All Stitched Up, thanks to corrupt officials gaining control of the city. What might be in store for our favourite detective teddy bear in this new volume?

Uren: Our little bear friend is going to be tested like never before, as he has no choice but to cede to the Mayor and participate in the hard line taken against dissent. All will find out though, that things can get much worse than a dictatorship by another name in Toyworld… things that could shake the foundations of Toyworld itself.

AP2HYC: Since Yarns from Toyburg, we’ve seen Ruxby Bear fall into a dark descent as he’s constantly subjected to the horrors of Toyburg. Does Back on the Blocks continue that tradition?

Uren: The previous two volumes actually set us on a pretty direct trajectory, I came to realise later on. It may or may not be darker per se, but it is far more shattering. Ruxby will see many things that no toy has ever seen, or should.

AP2HYC: And what perhaps of Officer Hazbrow? We see him develop from a rough, antagonistic sort of character in Yarns from Toyburg, who initially appears unwilling to accept Ruxby into the world of policing, to becoming something of his equal in All Stitched Up. Will he be getting up to much in Back on the Blocks?

Uren: Oh Hazbrow… he has always been a difficult character but has some decent intentions. Having woodworm can either harden a toy or soften it. You will have to find out, but he does play a pivotal role.

AP2HYC: The world of Torsobear is an intoxicating place to get lost in, and both Yarns from Toyburg and All Stitched Up paint wildly different pictures of the city of Toyburg and its surroundings. Do we see more of that in Back on the Blocks?

Uren: We do change things up again, but it isn’t a case of showing new things in the Toyworld. Back on the Blocks focuses on what you can do to that world, how can you change it?

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AP2HYC: Do any characters from past volumes make an appearance?

Uren: We wanted to wrap up many of the series characters, like Snaplok, Edwin and Stretcho Savage. How many anthologies get the opportunity to have one character arc resolved, let alone several!

AP2HYC: Now that we’re at the third (and final?) volume in the Torsobear saga, has the saga evolved/altered at all in your mind since Yarns from Toyburg?

Uren: There’s a definite sense that this time we’ve taken the concepts of an imaginary city, toys with religion and the tenuous awareness of humans through playtime to a logical conclusion. Many things suggested in volume 1 become full-blown in the final book.

AP2HYC: Have you always envisioned Torsobear to be a trilogy?

Uren: Not a chance!! At each stage the next step seemed just as much of a joke, a dare almost, as the initial short story. But despite having tons of ideas, we are aware of letting Toyburg outstay its welcome. Better to round things off in a (hopefully) satisfying way.

AP2HYC: If anything, one can take Torsobear as something of a ‘greatest hits’ compilation of the U.K. indie comics scene, with many well-known writers and artists helping you bring Torsobear to life. Are there any returning faces for Back on the Blocks? Any new talent perhaps?

Uren: That’s kind to say, I’m often taken aback by the incredible talents we’ve been lucky enough to work with on this quite silly series. Cy Dethan, Glenn Møane, Frank Martin, Kieran Squires, Janos Honkonen, Saoirse Towler, Jon Scrivens, Ed Norden, Charlie Hogg, Carlos Zamudio, Faye Harmon & Renzo Rodriguez return – so we have a team primarily comprised of returning creative.

New faces do appear though, as we have Mike Orvis, Cassie Gregory and Yen Quach contributing their amazing skills.

AP2HYC: What’s the process like of bringing all these writers/artists together? Has it gotten any smoother with further volumes?

Uren: I wouldn’t say it’s smoother, the hiccups are more expected from certain areas where they’ve appeared before. We definitely learned that making a book as large as volume 2 is not manageable long-term, so we have paired it back as much as possible. Some people need more direction or encouragement than others, but all in all if you’re aware of your own pitfalls as a creative person it does make understanding other people’s difficulties a little easier.

Artists do often have some emotional or mental difficulties to overcome, as myself I had a difficult first half of the year, with psychological and career issues making it difficult to pull this book together to begin with. Probably still burned from starting this series, getting into design agency jobs and becoming a dad.

Be kind to yourself guys, and remember that we humans are very fallible and limited. You literally can’t do it all without getting damaged.

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AP2HYC: Fellow comic creator Glenn Møane has been a part of Torsobear since day one, lending his editorial skills in assisting you with piecing together this series. Has he been an invaluable source of support? And might be returning for Back on the Blocks?

Uren: Glenn edited the very first Torsobear story for his and Magnus’ anthology Outre. He literally is the reason this series exists at all, by taking my rough idea and actually refining it into something palatable. I’m so grateful to him for making something I created actually come together properly. He has had to take a little more of a back seat this time due to his understandably packed schedule, but that’s what being a writer of his calibre should be leading to. I’m proud to know him.

AP2HYC: One of the most thrilling elements of Torsobear is the anthology-nature of the series, where every character, crook, cop or otherwise, feels like they should have their own spin-off series. Where might Torsobear go from here?

Uren: There’s actually a little cache of standalone crime stories we had pitched that didn’t really fit into a previous book, but has been discussed to become a smaller collection of one-off yarns. Also, one particular team from the series has enquired if we could publish their music-themed one shot, set in Mytell’s Song Bear bar. Even if I’m done with it, others will probably get to play in Toyburg.

AP2HYC: What’s been the most rewarding thing about Torsobear for you?

Uren: Two things stand out most to me. 1) A group of amazing UK comics talents got to make something totally unique together, without being compromised by a overbearing publisher or other outside force. 2) The reaction from readers has been incredibly warm. One that sticks in my mind when the going gets tough is an email I received from an American ex-cop after volume 1. He said it gave him hope that other people might understand what he went through as a police officer, that as he became a citizen again that he wouldn’t be on his own feeling the way he did.

I kept going with Torsobear in part because people have said reading it has helped them at points in their lives, and I can’t think of a better reason to do anything with your life.

Are you a Torsobear fan? Let us know in the comments section or send us a Tweet! You can back Torsobear: Back on the Blocks on Kickstarter here!

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Fred McNamara

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