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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Raicht

The Stuff of Legend, Book Two CoverMy love affair with The Stuff of Legend might be a little overwhelming. After picking the first issue up at random this summer, I couldn’t stop gushing – which led to interviews with 2/3 of the creative team; artist Charles P Wilson III and writer Mike Raicht.

In Book One, our walking talking toy heroes ventured into The Dark to rescue their owner, the Boy, transforming into ‘real life’ versions of themselves. Max, the teddy bear, became a growling grizzly. The Colonel, a toy soldier, became a real live officer. And Jester, the jack in the box, became a lanky, somewhat crazy, double axe wielding…jester.

All of the toys are singularly devoted to their goal of rescuing the boy, except perhaps Percy, the piggy bank. He’s a real pig now and he knows what the Boy will do to him in Real Life once he’s full up of coins.

“He breaks me.”

Of the entire delegation, Percy is the only toy who stands to lose anything once the Boy is rescued and they return to the real world. Taking advantage of Percy’s fear of being broken, the evil Boogeyman tempts and appears to buy Percy’s loyalty in Book One.

As Book Two opens, the toys have ventured much further into the Dark, stumbling upon the town of Hopscotch in search of a lead on the Boy’s whereabouts. In Hopscoth, the hapless citizens are forced to play a neverending board game based on rules that constantly change with the whims of the town’s diabolical Mayor – and it doesn’t take long for our heroes to break a rule.

The need to escape is immediate and each toy reacts to this desperation in a radically different way – most of all Percy. Book Two of ‘The Dark’ is fairly static compared to the push forward in the debut issue, but in this case it’s a good thing; the Hopscotch interlude takes a moment to expand upon the psychology of these toys-made-flesh and the decisions they make in light of their history with the Boy and the significant amount of free will they’ve gained in the Dark. Can Max control his temper? Is the Jester psychotic, or brilliant, or both? Will Percy pull a Judas and betray them all?

And, once again, the artwork is over-the-top gorgeous. The Stuff of Legend feels more Dark Crystal than Toy Story, reminiscent of the old Claymation storytime movies on PBS. (Seriously, does anyone else remember those?) So far, The Stuff of Legend has begun carving itself a place amongst the greats of childrens’ sci-fi/fantasy stories, thanks in large part to Charles P Wilson’s fantastic art.

The Stuff of Legend leaps solidly over the sophomore slump hurdle. My only complaint is that we’ve got at least six months to wait for the next installment.

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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.

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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.

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A few weeks ago, we picked up The Stuff of Legend on a whim. To our delight, this outstanding book has become a surprise hit; with many shops selling completely out of Issue #1, “The Dark”. Mike Raicht and Brian Smith have crafted a truly haunting original story that turns the toys-coming-to-life theme completely on its ear – and the artwork is striking to say the least. We recently conducted a little Q&A with the artist,  Charles P. Wilson III, on The Stuff of Legend, comics in general, and high five etiquette.

High Five!: My favorite real-live version of the toys from Stuff of Legend is the Jack-in-the-Box. He honestly looks kind of psycho. How did you go about character design as far as translating the toys to “real life?”

jesterCharles P. Wilson III : Jester’s one of my favorites too. Mike Raicht and Brian Smith did a great job putting together a well rounded ensemble cast of characters in the story. Each one has a unique role to play with a level of depth to each of their personalities, developed when they were toys in the kid’s bedroom. They carry those personalities into The Dark, the realm created by the Boogeyman, and while the transition may be beneficial to some, it has disastrous consequences for others.

As far as character design, each of the characters were based on toys that had to exist in or before 1944, when the story takes place. A lot of toys back then were made from materials like lead, wood and cloth with little-to-no articulation, so the toys were relatively simplistic in design. A lot of the real-life counterparts, or Dark versions, of the toys were drawn up first and then translated to toy form, like the Jester. I tried to give most of the characters some kind of pattern unique to their look so the reader could make a definite connection between the toy versions and the Dark versions.

High Five!: So what was your favorite childhood toy? And were you the sort of kid who imagined your toys probably came to life while you were gone? What adventures did you think they got up to?

Charles P. Wilson III : Absolute favorite? Before Transformers, G.I. Joe and Star Wars I had a white stuffed bear that looked kinda like the Snuggle bear, and is sort of the basis for Maxwell. From what I can remember, it had a bow, although I can’t remember the color (pretty sure I took it off at some point), and the bear was pretty dirty most of the time due to its color. My brother got a black, bean bag kind of bear at the same time, and I think I remember that was more fun to play with, but I had the bear for a very long time. I don’t remember thinking my toys had any kind of life to them outside the times I played with them, but after seeing Poltergeist (I think it was a clown doll) I didn’t look at inanimate toys the same way again. Same thing with my early phobia of the ocean after seeing Jaws.

High Five!: The Stuff of Legend is your first published gig, correct? What’s it like to find yourself on the other side of the table?

Charles P. Wilson III : This book is my first published gig where I had the luxury of  drawing all the interiors and painting up the covers, and Mike Devito and Jon Conkling did an outstanding job putting it together and designing everything around the artwork. Every now and then I like to pick up my copy and imagine what it must be like for a complete stranger to look at and read it for the first time, what they might think of it. Reading through the reviews and seeing initial reactions to the book has been fantastic, and I’m grateful so many people gave the book a shot.

High Five!: It’s a great book! If you were given the chance to draw any cape & tights book right now, who would you draw? And who would you want writing it?

Charles P. Wilson III : Tough to say. The first book I ever picked up was a Superman book, so it would feel right getting a chance to work on one of those as my first superhero gig, but I’d love to tackle a book with Batman or Spider-Man villains, or maybe even The Hulk, and I’d like to keep working with Raicht and Smitty – if they could dream up the stuff behind The Stuff of Legend who wouldn’t want to work on whatever they create for any cape and tights title?

High Five!: So what’s your favorite comic out right now? And what do you recommend drinking with it?

Charles P. Wilson III : Right now I’m heavily in favor of The Walking Dead. Still trying to catch up (I think I’m on issue 60) but it’s immensely satisfying. It manages to pull off what a lot of the zombie flicks haven’t been able to do for me completely, something that I’ve always been interested in, and that’s what the characters do next with pacing that doesn’t make me feel rushed. I think comics are the appropriate medium to pull that off, with TV not far behind it (and wouldn’t you know it, The Walking Dead is going television!). And with this book I’d say a nice, light beer, kick your feet up and let the story pull you in.

High Five!: And finally, if a complete stranger walks up to you with an arm extended aloft for a high five, do you enthusiastically return the gesture or get creeped out?

Charles P. Wilson III: I’d gladly return the gesture! Might have reservations if there are obvious hygiene issues, but I highly encourage any positive greetings if the two people will have a better day for it, and what epitomizes that more than the high five?

Pretty much nothing, if you ask us. Thanks to Charles for chatting with us! Y’all should check out his deviantArt page (pretties!), and follow him on Twitter. And if you’re not reading Th3rd World Studios’ The Stuff of Legend yet (read our review!), the second printing of issue #1 should hit stores this week. Pick it up and add it to your pull lists!

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Stuff Cover

You know, even though the first Toy Story came out when I was 11 or so, and I read the whole Indian in the Cupboard series years before that – I never entertained the notion or fantasy that my playthings might be sentient. I had a stuffed dog (named Doggy) that I was pretty desperately attached to, but not once did I even consider for a second that my love “made him real.” So what on earth posessed me to pick up a comic book about living toys, I have no idea – but this book is good. Really good.

First off, I’ll say what everyone’s said about this book; the art is prettttty. It looks like a vintage children’s book – all pen & ink in sepia tone. I can’t even do it justice, I’m a damned comic book nerd, not an art critic. There are probably technical terms for why this stuff is so great, but I don’t know them. It just is. Charles Paul Wilson III somehow made a stuffed teddy bear look more intense than even some of the caped guys.

Heads up, some spoilers ahead.

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Mike Raicht & Brian Smith’s The Stuff of Legend takes place in 1944. A young boy is kidnapped by a closet-dwelling sinister shadow and his toys resolve to brave ‘The Dark’ and rescue him. They must pass into the Boogeyman’s realm and when they do, they become real. A real bear. A real soldier. An Indian princess. Even the Jack-in-the-Box is freed from his box. The catch though, is that their personalities and all of their motivations stem from whatever the Boy projected onto them during play time [I absolutely adore the line, “The Boy didn’t even have the courtesy to tell this fool that sometimes getting to the top of the hill is only the beginning of the fight.” Plus, Scout (the dog) is so fucking cute! COME ‘ERE, BOY! -R].

What begins as a mostly juvenile premise – kidnapping notwithstanding – proves itself to be anything but a young reader’s title after the toys fight their first battle against the Boogeyman’s forces. A piggy bank is tempted. A man gets ripped in half. In other words, shit gets real. But The Stuff of Legend never loses it’s vintage children’s book aesthetic, which tempers the violence somewhat. The first issue costs $4.99, but with a whopping 52 pages, it’s worth it.

I really don’t know what you should drink with this.

Rob?

[Man, I dunno. Warm milk? With, like, booze in it? What do the kids drink nowadays? -R]

I would say hot buttered rum, but that shit is nasty. Maybe some kind of spiked hot cocoa. Anyone know how to make such a thing? Because that would be AWESOME. Like this book.


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