Interview with Mike Raicht: Writer, The Stuff of Legend
Posted October 6, 2009on:
We first discovered The Stuff of Legend back in August and gave it a glowing review. Last month, we chatted with Charles P. Wilson III, the talented man behind the book’s amazing art. And now, to kick off a return to post-con regular posting, we bring you our interview with Mike Raicht, who co-writes The Stuff of Legend along with Brian Smith.
Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for us! (And congratulations on selling out the first printing, by the way.)
No problem. And thanks for taking the time to speak with me. It’s been a very exciting time for us on The Stuff of Legend. Everyone from Jon and Mike D. at Th3rd World Studios, to Brian, Charles and I, really put our hearts into it. The first issue selling out was a complete thrill and we’re happy people like yourself have really been supporting it and us. We hope we can keep bringing people on board.
Happy to help! First off, I read your interview with Liam Bradley; I noticed that you’ve got a plan to get out of your house in case of a zombie attack. If you need somewhere to hide afterward, I’ve always planned to hole up in a Costco (or better yet, a Sam’s Club – they have guns). Food for years, household goods, generators, pretty much no windows at all, block those front doors and you’re home free until the zombiepocalypse is over. As someone who’s written a fair amount of horror, do you think that’s a safe bet?
I’d be nervous that, just like a mall, a Costco might be a zombie magnet. Romero zombies especially seem to have a need to go where they’ve been before and lots of people have been to Costco. Maybe even more than malls now. Unfortunately, the real unspoken golden rule of the zombie apocalypse is to be aware and cautious about the company you keep. It’s the dopey alive humans that always seem to burn you in the end. You may have all that stuff but you have to make sure the people in your Costco aren’t going to end up getting you killed or getting you infected. It’s quite a complicated scenario.
After writing Army of Darkness and a few zombie books, it was inevitable that The Stuff of Legend might find itself peppered with traces of horror. The Stuff of Legend originally started out as a somewhat more family friendly piece, obviously there’s a scene with the Colonel that took the book to a much darker place – to say nothing of Percy’s dilemma when you consider that in The Dark he’s a Real Pig. At what point did you realize this book was skewing older, so to speak, and how has that affected the direction the book is taking now?
It was only family friendly in that when I approached Brian Smith with the initial idea, which has morphed quite a bit, I originally wanted to create something my son, Austin, would enjoy.
The way I look at it is, I was into X-Men comics by the time I was 8 and if it had puppets or was a cartoon, my dad took me to see it in the theater. The Secret of Nimh, Watership Down and The Dark Crystal were all pretty intense back in the day. I was scared but it was an awesome scared. So in the end, I think this is a kids’ story because kids want to read cool and intense things. It’s just in the way that it is presented that can push it over the top.
I think that, when we got going on the story, we wanted to do something kids and parents would enjoy and experience together. We still do think this is something kids will enjoy and while we are aware we shouldn’t push things too far, we do want to tell the story as it should be told. Sometimes it will be a little scary and there will be tragic moments, I hope parents are involved enough with their kids to make sure it’s something they can handle.
The Stuff of Legend might help start Family Comic Night! (Take that, Monopoly.) This is really a book for parents to read with their kids then – especially the younger ones?
I’d probably say really young kids would not be the audience on this book. Every parent needs to kind of make that call themselves. My son is 3 and I would never dream of really telling him what’s up with certain scenes. He is drawn to the art but that’s because Charles is a twisted, evil genius who makes nice cute little itty bitty animal things that eventually transform into something wicked. It’s a demented gift.
The art in this book is some of the most gorgeous I’ve seen. What was it like the first time you got sketches back from Charles?
Seeing Charles’ art for the first time was amazing. It was clear he completely got it and was going to take our script and make it way bigger than anything we could have imagined it being. It’s an awesome feeling when you find the perfect artist.
We were extremely lucky that Mike Devito brought Charles on board. He was a graduate of the Kubert School and was there when Mike’s brother was going to school there. This project wouldn’t be close to what it is now without Charles.
The toys-coming-to-life convention is not a new one. There’s Steadfast Tin Soldier, Indian in the Cupboard, Toy Story – the list goes on. They all feature the beloved toy heroes with little if any focus on the shabby old ones cast off by their owners. Any plans to go in-depth with the rejected toys that have gone over to the Boogeyman?
The second chapter focuses on a few of the villains and we get to know them quite a bit better. We definitely believe developing the villains is just as important as the heroes, otherwise the conflict just isn’t as compelling. However, a lot of the characters in this book, good and evil, will have their beliefs and roles challenged, making them evolve into much different places than they are now. At least we hope so.
So we’ll see or learn about the origins of some of the Boogeyman’s army, stories of their lives back when the Boy played with them? Are you hoping to build a much wider universe within The Stuff of Legend?
Right now, most of the Before… scenes are planned to focus on those toys in our band fighting to save the boy. We’re playing with doing some different things in the next volume, The Jungle, coming in Spring 2010. We have a lot of plans for the Stuff of Legend universe we just hope we can get to them all. Brian (my co-writer) has some amazing ideas on different places our characters can visit and who they will meet when they get there. Both of us are just really excited the book did well enough to continue. The best thing about all of it is that Charles will be drawing it. He brings so much to the book.
You were a huge X-Men fan as a kid (yes, we did some light internet stalking.) Do you ever find yourself applying the classic superhero team dynamic to our toy heroes?
The mutant books were hugely influential in my life as a kid. Of course that was back when only Uncanny X-Men and New Mutants existed. The staple of those books was the interpersonal drama going on between these amazing characters. So, I think since that is my background, I definitely brought some of those team dynamics into what we’re doing. The relationships between all of our characters are the cornerstone of this book and will drive most everything in it for a long time to come.
I have to ask this. What was your favorite childhood toy?
That’s a good one. I loved Star Wars toys. But they were kind of a cheat, compared to the old time toys, imagination-wise because they came with a personality built in. My mom and I used to go down to Fey’s Drug Store every Tuesday to go through the new shipment. I was only like 4 or 5 years old. Unfortunately, I always let people borrow them and they’re all gone now. Those are the toys I miss the most and wish I could have passed on to Austin, so they must have been my favorites.
You’ve got a great point there about modern toys being “cheats.” One of the greatest concepts in The Stuff of Legend is that the toys’ personalities all stem from what the boy imprinted on them during playtime; are we going to see those personalities change at all now that the toys are ‘real’?
I’d hate to give too much away! Some people thrive under pressure while others wither. How each toy is ultimately effected remains to be seen.
Darn! You saw right through my clever attempt to get some spoilers, but Book Two is out this month, right? What’s the release date?
Yes, the book hits this month. Right now it looks like the book will be hitting on October 21st. It’s been sent to the printer so it is in their hands. It is 56 pages of amazing art, in a very cool Th3rd World Studios package for the amazing price of $4.99. Not bad.
Not bad at all! If you haven’t yet, go check out the first issue, the second printing should still be available in stores! If you’re on the east coast and headed to Baltimore Comic-Con this weekend, swing by the Th3rd World Studios booth (1904) and pick up the convention exclusive variant. And send it to me.