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Jamie Smart on Creating Bunny vs Monkey

Posted on 14th December 2023 by Mark Skinner

Children's comic books are exploding (not literally) and there is no series more popular than Jamie Smart's gleefully goofy Bunny vs Monkey - the latest instalment of which, Bunny Bonanza, is out this January. In this exclusive piece, Jamie talks about how he came up with the hilarious cast of characters for his bestselling phenomenon and what they reveal about his personality... 

Bunny vs Monkey: Bunny Bonanza is the new book in the (bestselling!) Bunny vs Monkey series, and it features all of our regular heroes and villains exploding, farting and shrieking their way around the woods. However, things are a little different this time around. You see, it all started in the previous book, The Impossible Pig. At the end of that book (spoilers), Bunny released himself into the atmosphere to go looking for other bunny friends. Now he's back, but he has a slight problem. He's lost his memory. And when Monkey gets closer than ever to taking over the woods, Bunny's going to need to gather all the friends he can find! 

Like the other Bunny vs Monkey books, this one is absolutely filled with the most bonkers, impractical inventions you could think of. There’s the Bum-O-Tron 5000, which is a huge hovering bottom trying to stink up the woods. There’s the Shut-Up-A-Lump, which is an enormous hamster running around telling everyone to be quiet. Or how about the Doom Fists, a set of metal gloves wired up to a mystical gem, which enables Monkey to wield EXTRAORDINARY POWER. When it comes to inventions, if Skunky the inventor can imagine it, he can make it become a reality (as long as he remembers to plug it in). 

For me, however, the most fun part of Bunny vs Monkey is the characters themselves. The whole idea for Bunny vs Monkey came about because I thought it would be funny to draw two cute animals fighting in the woods (there’s no more origin story than that I’m afraid, I wish I had a funnier/cleverer tale to tell, but I don’t!), and so I started adding more and more characters around Bunny and Monkey to build up these two teams. Good vs evil. Nature vs science. And while I thought I was just imagining silly characters, it was only much later on I realised they were all parts of me. I had created little exaggerations of my own personality, and hidden them inside these animals. 

So on the good team, we have Bunny. Bunny is sensible, self-sufficient, all he wants is a little house in the woods where he can be left alone to read his books. Bunny is friends with Weenie, who is a nervous squirrel who loves baking, but is terrified of facing any bigger dangers than a burnt meringue. Pig is Weenie’s closest friend. Pig is, shall we say, not very smart, and can often be found tripping over his own feet or stuck in a ditch somewhere. Le Fox is the grumpiest character, often trying to hide from all the calamity above ground by crawling through his underground tunnels. 

Those were the original four ‘good’ characters. Four aspects of my own personality written large and colourful across the comic page. Over the years, however, I’ve added a few more. Ai, for example, is an aye-aye who is super fast, and scared of nothing (she is, perhaps, more aspirational!). Metal Eve is a robot bear, very logical, clinical, struggling to understand the whimsical world she lives in. And Lucky is an extraordinarily unlucky red panda, always accidentally setting foot in the path of danger. All of them are such fun to write for, and throwing them together comes up with conversations, and solutions to the stories, that sometimes surprise even me. 

Anyway, that’s the good guys. On the ‘evil’ team, things are just as chaotic. Monkey is of course the main event here: he’s not clever, he’s not particularly skilled at anything, he just has a ruthless determination to take over the woods by any means. And it’s Skunky who helps him do it. Skunky IS clever, a super-brain, capable of inventing the most reality-changing inventions at the drop of a hat, feeding Monkey these devices to carry out his devious plans, so that Skunky might get a moment’s peace from him. Alongside them, Metal Steve is another robot, but an older model, prone to falling apart and exploding. And Action Beaver is the strangest of them all, communicating only in noises, and throwing himself into catastrophe wherever possible. 

I might not want to say that the evil team are quite as representative of me, but who amongst us hasn’t hatched the occasional evil scheme before? Or at the very least, fallen apart and exploded? 

I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say, since they appear on the front cover, but in Bunny Bonanza other Bunnies do appear, all of them weird and wonderful in their own ways. And I really want to tell you how they turn up, or why Bunny has lost his memory, or how the great finale ends… but I can’t. You’ll just have to read the book to find out. What I can say is as much as the characters are little bits of me, so, I’m sure, they’re little bits of everyone else too. And by that thinking, perhaps the story of Bunny Bonanza isn’t just about lots of cute animals running around shouting at each other. Perhaps, instead, it is some great allegory for all of our lives. 

(And if anyone works out what that allegory is, I’d be grateful if they could let me know.)

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