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Chris Grine Discusses Chickenhare

Chris Grine’s delightful Chickenhare returns in glorious color! Here’s what Grine has to say about revisiting the book after all this time…and introducing his band of adventurers to a new audience.

 

Chickenhare

Chickenhare
 
After publishing the first two volumes of Chickenhare in black and white, you began to color the series when the third volume became a webcomic. Was it a bit of a shock to see the series in color? Did it change how you approach either the artwork or the storytelling in any way?
It actually did change how I approach the artwork in that, before, when it was just black and white, I had to rely on only line work and solid blacks to make up my environment. Adding color adds SO many new layers of subtlety to the art I just could not get before. I especially like how by just changing the line work to a color other than black, it almost instantly adds depth to the background and really makes the foreground pop out.
 
Did you do all the coloring yourself?
I did. It was a lot of work, but I’m really happy with the end result. Like you mentioned earlier, it wasn’t until I began volume three as a webcomic that I started using color. That was for a few reasons. The first OGN was, as you know, originally in black and white. I may have been up for the task of color by the time book two rolled around, but it seemed odd to have one in color and one in black and white so for the sake of continuity, I didn’t add color. The other reason was that the webcomic allowed me the freedom to learn as I went. I was posting one new page a week, which gave me time to figure out the best way to color this world, and the ability to be able to fix something even after it was posted. I’m so happy I had already mostly found my way by the time Scholastic was interested in new, full color volumes.
 
Will Volume 2 of Chickenhare also be released in color soon?
I sure hope so. Given that volume one was only just published in February, it may be a little while yet. Volume one took me about six months to color and I would imagine volume two would take about as long, or maybe an additional month or so because it’s about fifty pages longer.
 
For those who haven’t read Volume 2 and 3, what more should they now expect?
Readers can expect more of the same fun, slightly off-center, adventure. Volume two finds Chickenhare in a race against time and the forces of evil to save his friends from the treacherous Underworld, while volume three takes the story to a mysterious island where the “weird” ramps up and not everything is as it seems. So, while these are mostly stand-alone books, there is a definite continuity of which the seeds planted in books one and two truly begin to bloom by the third volume. 
 
What’s the latest on the film version of Chickenhare?
The latest I’ve heard is that the screenplay is well into its second draft. I was able to read the first draft and Dave is doing a great job in my opinion. Everybody involved so far seems really happy with the progress. Fingers crossed it stays that way.
 
What inspired you to create Chickenhare?
Chickenhare was a long time coming. I was an idea I had back in 2002 when it was just a rabbit in a chicken-suit, believe it or not. I just liked the idea of it. Then I started building a world for him in my mind and that’s when it changed into the character he is today. The world, however, is a little different story. I don’t want to ruin anything for volume two, but Banjo and Meg’s story was another idea I had and when I realized both stories could blend together, I knew I was on to something fun. From there I just created the backstories for everyone and jumped to the place in time where it made most sense for them to meet. The fun thing for me now is that I have a story moving forward, culminating in what I hope to be a really cool finale, as well as a backstory to pick from and slowly reveal over time.
 
One of the things I love about Chickenhare is that it’s a kids’ book, but it’s not childish. In fact, a lot of the adventures are really violent or frightening, when you think about it. What kind of line were you looking to walk in terms of being a story for young readers but still the complete story you wanted to tell?
That’s a tricky question to answer because everyone’s “line” is in a different place so I do my best to have a reason for the way things play out. For example, the Villain in volume one, Klaus, is ultimately a pretty scary guy, but it comes from a place of sadness, loss, and the fear of being alone. Sure, he’s turned to taxidermy to solve this problem, but it’s just a way for him to make the ones he cares about stay with him, no matter what.
 
I realize Chickenhare skews a bit dark at times, but I like to think that helps to set it apart from other OGNs for young readers. Some of the characters …ahem…Banjo and Meg come from a darker place, but they themselves are not bad characters. That said, anytime I need to dig into their stories, the story will inevitably get a little darker. The same goes for Chickenhare and Abe. It would pretty boring if they just showed up on Klaus’s front door with no reason for being there except to be sold. They have a darker side as well, and one I began to explore in volume two and a lot more in volume three. I believe it’s what grounds these characters to their world.
 
Now all that said, there are certain important lines I won’t cross such as foul language, adult themes, etc, and I try to keep the violence to a minimum. When I’m writing these stories, I’m trying to entertain myself as much as anyone. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I write these for everyone, including adults, but with kids in mind.
 
Another thing I keep in mind is that when I was a kid back in the day, I was (and still am), a huge movie fan. Some of my favorite films where plenty dark at times. (The Neverending Story, Return to OZ, The Dark Crystal, The Goonies with the hand in the blender scene, yikes!) I like to give kids the benefit of the doubt that they’re okay with these types of stories and if they’re not, that’s okay too.
 
What’s next for Chickenhare? What plans do you have?
Moving forward, I really just want to get the chance to tell the whole story. It’s been an uphill fight for so long, but I have a lot of hope and optimism that it’ll happen. After that, I have some really cool new ideas for some graphic novels I can’t wait to explore.
 
What other projects do you have in the works that you’d like readers to know about?
For now, the only thing on my radar is more Chickenhare.
 
 

-- John Hogan