NOV, 2010 – This is a companion interview to the one I did with artist CHARLES P. WILSON, III who is the artist on THE STUFF OF LEGEND. Here I was able to get input from the two writers of the fairy tale comic book series, MIKE RAICHT and BRIAN SMITH.
I’m a huge fan of All Ages comics but even when parents are looking for recommendations, Stacy, Bill & I at Comic Fusion try to get to know the kids; MOUSE GUARD, we agree is great, however one mom told me about the nightmares and new phobias her child developed towards certain animals and she had no idea why until I told her about the book Dad had been reading to their kids. Parents, please communicate! THE STUFF OF LEGEND can be scary. It’s akin to Harry Potter level of tension. If you kids can handle HP or MOUSE GUARD, then I’m sure SoL will be just fine. Otherwise, it’s a story for a slightly older “all ages” crowd, like 12+.
How did you guys manage to make an epic tale about familiar story elements like the Boogeyman and bringing toys to life when no one is looking into something new for audiences?
BRIAN SMITH – There are familiar ideas incorporated into The Stuff of Legend to be sure, but I think what sets us apart is our characters and their mission. The cast is real, not just in how they transform in the Dark, but in how they interact, how they show emotion and in their personal motivations.
MIKE RAICHT – Everyone, especially those interested in comic books, had a favorite toy growing up. The go to toys that you always played with. Those you actually created a special voice for or kept with you wherever you went.
Who hasn’t imagined their toys going on amazing adventures with them? We just tweaked the concept a bit and developed some characters and a world for them to inhabit. We’ve been really lucky that readers have come along with us. It also helps that we have an artist like Charles Paul Wilson III and publishers like Mike DeVito and Jon Conkling who are as interested as we are in creating something fun for readers.
Were either of you afraid of the dark?
BRIAN SMITH – When I was a kid, sure. But I shared a room with my two brothers, so that definitely helped me feel safer. If the Boogeyman showed up the odds were good he’d snatch one of them, instead!
MIKE RAICHT – I was. My dad was especially lax on what I could and could not watch when I was young. I remember a viewing of Nightmare on Elm Street the first night it was on HBO that left me a little stunned. Not cool.
As writers, how have you determined the line where the story would become too scary for young readers? Did you compare your ideas to popular work and figure if it’s ok for something like Harry Potter or Toy Story then kids can handle it?
BRIAN SMITH – As a creator, especially when you’re writing for all ages, I think you’re always looking at what’s popular as a guide for acceptable levels of violence/fright.
MIKE RAICHT – I think we looked to some of our favorite kid stories to see what the line might be for cues on how far to take the drama and the intensity of certain scenes. We’ve always wanted to make sure that parents and kids can enjoy this book together so hopefully parents are making the decision on what’s appropriate or not for their kids. I think we’ve tried our best to deliver a story we would enjoy reading.
Admittedly, these are new characters and they are yours so you don’t have a board yelling at you about where you cannot possibly take a beloved classic character. What advice do you have to new (or *cough* currently published) writers that need a better grasp of pacing, exposition each issue for orientation, and continuity?
BRIAN SMITH – Mike and I both come to the table with a pretty critical eye, always looking for ways to be clearer in what we’re trying to say without sacrificing character or momentum. I think it helps that we’ve written the ending to our story, so we know what eventually happens to all of the players involved.
MIKE RAICHT – The coolest thing about creating your own characters is that you are in charge of those characters’ destinies. It allows us to do things you can’t do with characters who are work for hire. That’s fun too but in a different way.
We also have a lot of comic book hours between us. Not just reading them but editing, writing, and in Brian’s case, drawing them. We’ve easily worked on hundreds, if not thousands, of comics between us. That type of experience can’t be discounted. At the end of the day, you just have to keep working on it and hope you hit on the right combination.
We’re very prepared. We have the characters down. We know the world. We have really mapped out where we are going with this story. Not only plot-wise but character wise down to the last page. We love working on this book. We’re really just lucky people are getting into it with us.
Since the book’s successful launch in 2009, have offers for licensing been coming out of the woodwork?
BRIAN SMITH – We hope to have some announcements this upcoming year (fingers crossed)!
MIKE RAICHT – I know I’d love to buy a box of Kraft mac and cheese with Percy the Pig staring back at me.
Whose idea was it to make the actual pages look like they were pictures of an old book’s pages? It’s like the reader is seeing a book within the book.
BRIAN SMITH – That was our publishers, Mike and Jon, and it was a great idea on their part. It’s a special touch that sets it apart from other comics on the stands, and really helps to set the proper tone for the reader.
MIKE RAICHT – We initially did some tests on Charles’ artwork with some colors but in the end we just kind of felt story wise and feel wise it would be cool to add this old feel to the book with the sepia tones. It definitely sets this book apart which is exactly what we wanted it to do.
To follow the careers and announcements of Mike and Brian check out their links: