By Danica Davidson
The iconic Mr. Men and Little Miss characters were created by British writer Roger Hargreaves, and more than forty years later they’re still entertaining readers . . . and coming out in new forms. The Mr. Men Show recently aired on Cartoon Network, and VIZ Media, the American company that licenses manga like Naruto and Bleach, has begun to come out with an original line of Mr. Men and Little Miss comic books. MTV Geek wanted to know what it was like to bring these characters to a new medium, so we spoke to John Hardman and Michael Daedalus Kenny, writers of the comics Mr. Bump: Lights, Camera, Bump! and Little Miss Sunshine: Here Comes the Sun!, respectively.
MTV Geek: How did you get involved writing the Mr. Men graphic novels?
John Hardman: I wrote two episodes for the TV series. VIZ reached out to the producers of the TV series and asked them for recommendations, and the producers recommended me. It was very nice.
Michael Daedalus Kenny: I got involved with the Mr. Men graphic novels because I had written an episode for The Mr. Men Show a few years back. I was a storyboard artist on that as well, so I got to spend months and months with Mr. Strong and Little Miss Sunshine before writing these adventures.
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Geek: How do you develop these characters that were already created and well-known?
Kenny: I think that makes it easier. When any of the Mr. Men faces a situation, both the reader and I know what his or her take would be, if only by the character’s name. I can just run with it and the reader is right with me. The best is if the reader is surprised but still thinks, “Of course Mr. Strong did that!” And laughs.
Hardman: They’re such iconic characters and they’re very well-defined, so you have to work in the parameters of who they are already and just try to find different ways to showcase their personalities and find some humor.
Geek: How do you approach writing about them?
Hardman: For a graphic novel it’s quite different from a TV series. With a TV series, you start first with, ‘What’s a really compelling story?’ and then you build that out. TV series are more about plot than the characters. With a graphic novel, it’s much more about jokes and physical comedy and getting as much comedy out there as possible. So you try to come up with as many different scenarios that would showcase the different characters’ personalities. I think I came up with twice as many story ideas as we ended up using.
Kenny: I just kept thinking up plots and imagining how Mr. Strong or Little Miss Sunshine would act in those circumstances. If it was fun enough I’d write the thing.
Geek: Were you able to pick what characters to write about?
Kenny: John Hardman and I got to choose from the first four Mr. Men and Little Misses that were getting their new books. I was really happy I got what I got, and jealous of the ones he got.
Hardman: They asked if I had any favorites and Mr. Bump was one of my favorites, so I asked if I could do that one. I don’t know if it’s common knowledge or not, but I was the one who coined Mr. Bump’s catchphrase “Poopity-poop.” I was at a dinner party with the producer and I said that phrase in the middle of the party. He said, “I’m going to use that for Mr. Bump.” That was why I requested Mr. Bump for the graphic novel. I have a special affinity for the character. Being very clumsy myself, I knew I could come up with a lot of different scenarios for him.
Geek: Did you read Mr. Men before you got involved writing about it?
Hardman: Oh, of course, of course. They had been a favorite of mine for a long time. I’ve been involved in children’s programing and animation for many years so I was very well aware of them, and had known them of course since my childhood. I was thrilled to get to work on such an iconic property.
Kenny: Like lots of people, yes.
Geek: How is writing Mr. Men graphic novels different from writing the Mr. Men show?
Kenny: The show was a series of sketches, like Saturday Night Live; These books are more often full stories. I read a lot of Uncle Scrooge and Little Lulu to get me in the right mood.
Hardman: These graphic novels are quite different because you have to set up punchlines at least once every page. So you’re not so concerned about the linear storytelling as you are with getting as many jokes in as possible with those six or eight frames you’ve got for every page. You had to treat each page separately like its own mini story with a beginning, middle and end. It’s an interesting challenge to figure out how to write in a new style like that, but ultimately it was really fun and I’d like to do more of them.