Journalists

October 26, 2009

Mike Raicht and Brian Smith talk ‘The Stuff of Legend!’

The Stuff of Legend, published by Th3rd World Studios, is easily the indie surprise title of the year, and a valued favorite of mine. It’s a story where a child is abducted by the Boogey Man, taken into an evil realm, and a small platoon of the boys’ toys (and pet dog) go on a mission to rescue him. Once the toys leave our world and cross the threshold into The Dark, they take on more realistic and durable forms; the teddy bear becomes a grizzly bear, the piggy bank turns into an actual pig, and an Indian princess takes on a deadly persona, amongst others. The Stuff of Legend #2 came out last Wednesday, so ComicAttack.net grabbed series’ writers Mike Raicht and Brian Smith for a brief chat about everything The Stuff of Legend!

118ComicAttack: Ok guys, lets jump right in to the important ‘stuff!’ What inspired the idea of The Stuff of Legend; was it something you’ve each had inside your head since childhood, or was it more recently spurred by your imaginations?

Mike Raicht: I first started thinking about this story shortly after the birth of my son, Austin, who is now 3. I wanted to create a story for him to enjoy when he was older. A type of long form bedtime story. I think all kids imagine their toys as real in some way. It’s just part of growing up.

Brian Smith: For me, it’s not about any particular memory from my childhood or any recent incident in my adult life. I approach the characters and story believing that most kids feel this way about their toys — they assign important roles to each of them, making them as real as any flesh and blood friend. I think The Stuff of Legend is a tribute to the imagination that all children possess.

CA: At the beginning of the story, the reader is left wondering how in the heck a teddy bear, wooden duck, jack in the box, piggy bank, a lone WWI soldier, an Indian princess, a ballerina, and a small dog are going to rescue their human owner from the notorious Boogey Man. Then Chapter I begins and the tone of the book is totally different- we see a very realistic battlefield complete with chaos and bloodshed. That reveal was absolutely wonderful, and I’m curious as to where the thought came from to have the toys experience such a dramatic metamorphosis upon entering The Dark?

MR: At this point I can’t remember who came up with it. Brian and I discuss so many things it’s tough to remember where certain aspects came from.

CA: My favorite character is easily Jester aka the Jack in the Box toy. He’s so bad ass with those hatchets and his swashbuckling-esque banter is highly amusing, yet he’s an honorable warrior. How about you guys, who are your favorite characters in the story?

MR: I love Max and Scout the best. Although the more we write Percy the more I enjoy him as well. He’s just a fun character and personality to write.

BS: All of the characters will eventually have their triumphs and tragedies, and there’s some new faces coming up that I’m partial to — but out of all we’ve shown so far, I think Quackers is my favorite, with Percy as a close second.

115CA: The setting of the book is the 1940s during WWII as opposed to 2009 during the War on Terrorism, giving the story a much different feel than had the setting been different. Why this choice?

MR: Toys back then didn’t come with a back story. You had to create that story and build their personalties on your own. Looking back at those toys they just seem to have so much character and be so unique. As far as World War II goes, it’s just a wonderful backdrop for a battle between good and evil.

BS: We specifically chose a time that would provide an assortment of “classic” toys for our boy to play with — so many of the modern toys you find in kid’s rooms today come pre-packaged with a story in place. Toys that come with names, histories, alliances, all pre-fabbed before you even open the box. The personalities and traits of the toys in the Stuff of Legend are defined by their owner, the boy.

CA: How differently do you think the story would play out if it took place in the modern day?

MR: A lot. I think the World War II setting just affords us so many cool visuals and reference points for the reader to grab on to.

CA: The hierarchy amongst the toys is intriguing to see unfold throughout the two issues. Especially after one of the main characters bites the bullet. Is there any subtext here that you were trying to voice in the way the toys establish their pecking order?

MR: I think the only thing we were trying to establish is that The Dark is a very different place from where these toys were coming from. God does not always win in in a world ruled by The Boogeyman. No pecking order… at least none that we would want to reveal here!

CA: From the moment the book is opened, the art is visually stunning as it totally immerses the reader into the adventure. Obviously, artistic talent and style are incredibly important to The Stuff of Legend, so can you tell us what the process was like finding Charles Paul Wilson III and why you ultimately chose him to rock the pencils for this project?

MR: Finding Charles was awesome. When Mike Devito introduced his art to us we were definitely interested in his abltities, but it wasn’t until when he did the sketches of the characters that it was completely clear he was the only person for this book.

CA: On the technical side of things, what’s with the format of the book? Given its dimensions, it almost looks like a kids story book as opposed to a comic.

MR: We were really hoping to make this book stand out in any way possible. Charles is a huge help in that way, since his has a storybook feel to it. And since we’ve always felt we were telling a storybook type it is just great for the book.

BS: That was a decision we made very early on. We wanted not only the story and art, but the physical book itself to help set the tone that this is something different.

116CA: While The Stuff of Legend may look like a kids book, it is most definitely not intended for children, given the adult themes and bloody violence. What made you guys decide that it was going to be a toy story for adults as opposed to kids?

MR: I think that while it isn’t for the youngest kids, it is a story for kids and their parents to enjoy together. Some of the coolest stories I watched as a kid were pretty intense. Stories like Watership Down, The Dark Crystal and The Secret of Nimh shaped my childhood. Those stories lasted because they have real adult themes presented to kids in a way they can understand and enjoy. Kids want to be excited and scared and feel like there are real consequences to what they are reading. I think we’re trying to give them that experience again without talking down to them. They see right through that stuff.

BS: I’d disagree that it’s intended for adults only. In my opinion, the level of violence is no greater than say the Harry Potter series, or Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy. Obviously I don’t think our story is appropriate for the Dora crowd, but it’s hardly inappropriate for kids reading X-Men.

CA: The first printing of the first issue is already going for double it’s cover price on eBay, and in some cases bids begin as high as $20. How does this make you feel as creators of a very successful indy title?

MR: I’d honestly rather have lots of copies out there for people to check out. But if the demand for the book drives other readers to search the book out to see what all the commotion is about that’s great for us as well. I just want people to give it a chance.

BS: Honestly, I wish people didn’t have to pay so much to get their hands on a copy. I guess it’s flattering in a way, but at the same time my only goal as a writer is to have as many people as possible read this book and enjoy it.

CA: I have to ask this question; of all the toys you owned as a child, which one would you wish had the power to come to life, and what would you do with it if it could?

MR: I loved my Star Wars toys as a kid. If they would have come to life though, I probably would have run from the room screaming. I’m kind of a big wimp.

CA: Stepping away from The Stuff of Legend for a moment to focus on other aspects of your lives, where are you two originally from, and how did you break into the comic book industry?

MR: I grew up in Central New York in a small town called Marcellus. I was going to grad school at LIU in Southampton for Fiction Writing and got an internship at Marvel (with Brian Smith). After a year interning there I was hired by Mike Marts and became his assitant editor. After a few years at Marvel I left to write full time.

BS: I’m originally from Queens, NY. I got my start in comics as an intern at Marvel while I was still in college.

119CA: What comics did you guys like to read as a kid? How about today?

MR: I was a huge Uncanny X-Men fan and I liked Teen Titans. The 80s was a great time for both of those books.

BS: I’d read pretty much whatever I could get my hands on as a kid. A lot of DC stuff, Archie Digests, GI JOE, the Sunday funnies. I loved Bloom County. I started getting really into the Marvel U. in Junior High.

CA: Ok, time for a silly question. Pick your favorite comic book characters of all time (that you haven’t created) and tell me what story you’d like to see them in and if you’d like to be the one writing it. Ready? Go!

MR: I love Exiles. I got the chance to do one story with them but I’d love to do more. Not sure what I’d write… or maybe I do and I’m keeping it to myself. I also love what Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi are doing with the Green Lantern Corps. I’m a huge Guy Gardner fan and would love a chance to write stories about him.

BS: Having worked on most of the Marvel Universe in my time as an Editor there, I’ve already had my shot at most of those characters. My favorite comic book character of all time is Snake-Eyes, and I would kill to get a shot at writing GI JOE. I’d also really enjoy writing Jughead.

CA: At the end of Part 1 Book II, an add for Part 2 of the story, called ‘The Jungle,’ states that the series will begin in 2010. Is this going to be a direct sequel to the two issues that are already published or is it something totally different?

MR: This is a direct sequel. We have a lot of stories to tell and we’re excited Th3rd World and the fans are giving us a chance to tell them. We have an ending planned, and right now we’re just enjoying the chance to tell the stories that will take us there.

CA: Thanks guys for taking the time to talk about The Stuff of Legend with ComicAttack.net! So now for the final question; what’s next in store for you two?

BS: Hopefully lots more Stuff of Legend.

111

In closing, I can’t say enough good things about this comic. Simply put, it’s fantastic and you should do your best to find the first two issues. Be sure to keep tabs on ComicAttack.net as we also interviewed the man behind the pencils of The Stuff of Legend, Charles Paul Wilson III!

Andy Liegl
andy@comicattack.net

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9 Comments


  1. InfiniteSpeech

    definitely interested in this! think it would make a great movie as well!



  2. Without a doubt it would make a fantastic film!


  3. billy

    This looks spectacular! This will probably be the first non-Marvel book I’ve bought in years.



  4. It’ll be well worth the investment Billy!



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