Monster Fun’s Favorite Shark Is Back: Talking ‘Gums’ With Writer Stacey Whittle

A shark without teeth might not seem that dangerous, but what Gums lacks in teeth he makes up for in determination in writer Stacey Whittle and artist Brett Parson‘s new monthly strip for Monster Fun. Gums has been raising havoc at the beach since the ’70s (when the character made his debut in issue 35 of Monster Fun Comic), but find out why Whittle still finds him sympathetic in the following interview:

Rachel Bellwoar: Overall, do you enjoy the constraints of only having one page to tell a story or do you wish Gums was longer sometimes? 

Stacey Whittle: I love it! As a writer who is new to comic writing, I think it is less intimidating and quite joyful. The only real constraint is being careful plotting the page, so it isn’t overloaded and I’m learning with every script, but I absolutely love the process and love the challenge of it.

Bellwoar: For the moment Gums’ grudge seems to be with humans in general. Will there be any other recurring characters as the strip goes on?

Whittle: I am not sure I would call it a grudge; I think he is just hungry! That poor Shark is starving. In my head he is just a little like Wil E. Coyote forever chasing the Road Runner. Gums, to me, just wants some tasty human goodness but can’t quite manage it either.

Bellwoar: I really enjoyed how your first Gums story paid homage to the original “Jump the Shark” moment on Happy Days (where the Fonz waterskied over a shark). How did that idea come about?

Whittle: This was my fabulous editor Keith [Richardson]‘s suggestion, and it works perfectly, doesn’t it? I’m so happy with it. To go slightly off track can I just say that I am so very proud and pleased with how that page came out. I have been a comic reviewer and commentator for more than a decade and to see my first story in print was a feeling I can’t quite describe. Utterly amazing!

Bellwoar: For the time travel issue, Gums doesn’t just travel back in time as his current self, but we see his look evolve as he goes back in time. Is that meant to reflect how sharks have evolved as a species or how Gums has evolved in comics?

Whittle: This was really about the joke, I thought it was just so funny to take this not very scary shark and make him scarier and scarier and scarier but then completely ineffectual because he is tiny. But I had a fantastic time researching sharks through history with my five year old, we had a brilliant time looking at horrifying teeth! And I love seeing how Brett pulled that off, the art is just fabulous.

Bellwoar: The ending works as the perfect lead-in to June’s Dino-scare issue. Was that intentional, and can you tease anything that might be coming next in Gums?

Whittle: It wasn’t intentional I’m afraid, I didn’t know the theme of the next issue when I wrote it, a lucky accident! What can I say about what is coming up? More failed attempts at snacking in a variety of awful and hopefully hilarious ways! That is properly vague, and rubbish isn’t it! Sorry!

Bellwoar: No apologies necessary! Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Stacey.

Whittle and Parson’s Gums debuted in the Monster Fun ‘Ghoulish’ Gaming Special. Back issues of Monster Fun can be ordered here.

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