The GeeksverseThe Stuff Of Legend’s Mike Raicht

The Stuff Of Legend’s Mike Raicht
Published on Monday, August 15, 2011 by

With the third volume coming out this week, we talk with writer Mike Raicht.

Kitty’s Pryde: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. First off, how did you come to be a writer in comics? Was this something you always wanted to do?

Mike Raicht: I’ve been into comics since I was 8 years old. I would ride my bike to my local comic shop and pick up Uncanny X-Men, Teen Titans, Star Wars, GI Joe, Alpha Flight. I would save up my lunch money, skip having a milk and chips, to save to buy a $.60 or $.65 book. “In my day, we could pick up comics for 6 dimes and a nickel!” Ugh, I’m old.

I don’t think I even realized there were writers as a kid. I just loved the characters and couldn’t wait to see what happened next. As I got older I started to realize the difference between the writers and think maybe this was something you could do as a profession but I never thought I’d be a writer. Then I got to High School and played sports and had girlfriends and kind of was a closet comic geek.

In college I started writing a lot, I took a lot of creative writing and journalism classes, and ended up getting into an MFA program at Long Island University at Southampton. I interned at Marvel for a year. One semester I was in the Fantastic Four office working for Brian Smith (my Stuff co-creator/co-writer) and Bobbie Chase and another semester under Jason Liegbig in the Junior X-office. After that I was hired as an assistant to Mike Marts. We worked on a bunch of smaller books and then graduated to the main X-titles. It was great. Eventually my wife and I decided we’d like to move back to Syracuse, our hometown, so we did. I started writing and was lucky enough to get some gigs.

How did you come to be involved with IDW’s Infestation and the G.I. Joe chapters? Were you always a fan of Joe?

I’ve always been a big GI Joe fan. It was a huge part of my childhood. The toys, the comic and the TV show were all hugely influential. My friends and I used to play GI Joe everyday after school.

I had been talking with Andy Schmidt about doing something at IDW for awhile but nothing had clicked yet. Artist Zach Howard, who is working on the The Cape, which is amazing, actually wanted to work with me on something. We initially thought this might be the project but it didn’t pan out schedule wise. However, Andy and I had talked so much about the project that Andy asked for a pitch from me and luckily he liked it. Then he brought in Gio Timpano and the rest is history.

I enjoyed the way you did the crossover. Not involving zombies was a great idea and the story still had a darker then normal tone. How much of the story was you and what directives did the editors give you?

I was nervous about that because IDW was announcing ZOMBIES! ZOMBIES! ZOMBIES! for each crossover and we were not using Zombies. Andy let me know right away that Zombies would not be a real prominent part of our section of the crossover because IDW wanted to keep the realistic nature of the Joe universe intact. I loved that. The IDW guys had done such a great job with the core book and the Cobra book in creating a gritty realistic military book that adding in supernatural zombies just might be too much. A computer infestation that was triggered by the virus however made complete sense. Then we brought in the BATS and decided to play with the more nasty tone of the Cobra book. Andy gave me a lot of freedom story wise and I think we were all pretty happy with the results.

Did you pick the characters that you got to use?

I know I brought in Psyche Out due to the nature of the story. The scientists were somewhat new. We have a plan for one of them but I don’t want to really talk about that in case we get the chance to do it. I think originally I wanted to use Crystal Ball because of his connection to the BATS and his son’s work with them, but he was not available. However, I think it worked out pretty well because we had the chance to bring in Interrogator from Hearts and Minds which was was a lot of fun. I had suggested a few other obscure character as well but Andy rightly shot me down. He wanted this to be focused and zombie like in its cast. A small band, trapped, fighting seemingly insurmountable odds. Throw in the Baroness and we had our cast.

One thing I really wanted to do was use the Cobra Eels that were like the toys I had as a kid. Seeing them in the story made me smile.

What was your experience with the event and getting into the world of a property like Joe? Is G.I. Joe something you’d like to work in again?

I loved the event and I would kill to write G.I. Joe and the Baroness again. She is awesome. Just tell me the time and place.

Who was your favorite Joe?

I liked Snake Eyes and Lowlight. But deep down I really loved Firefly the most.

G.I. Joe seems like it was alot of people’s gateway into the world of comics. It seems like there is a lack of that gateway book, something in another medium that can draw the kids into comics, as well as a lack of overall location availability for that gateway with no more newstand comics. Why do you think the industry has changed from then to now and where do you think it’s going? What can be done to provide that new gateway for new readers?

I think GI Joe was pretty much the greatest gateway drug ever for a pre-teen during the 80s. You had the cartoon, comic and toys running at a hugely successful level. Every facet of GI Joe felt important and I wanted it all. So did my friends. I know it was one of the comics I looked forward to every week as a kid.

I’m not sure how to get that back. There are so many different forms of media out there right now fighting for the attention of the kids and their parent’s dollars. It’s tough right now to find a way for a kid to get into comics without a parent physically taking them to a comic store. I love comic stores but that’s not where my love affair with comic books began. It was at a local newsstand. I’m not sure exactly why we lost the ability to reach non-comic readers but I hope we can find another book like GI Joe to get kids back into the stores. Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer beyond just continuing to do the best stories we can. Whoever does figure it out is going to have the thanks of the entire industry.

I’ve just finished reading the first volume of The Stuff of Legend, The Dark, and I am in love with this series. It’s beautiful. I wish I had found it sooner. It seems like a childhood fantasy come to life. Where did the idea for Stuff come from?

After my son was born I wanted to try and write a comic for him to enjoy. Something more like the stories I loved as a kid like Watership Down, Secret of Nimh and other stories like that. I started thinking of ideas but nothing stuck. I became fixated on the teddy bear above his bed. I started to wonder what lengths that bear would go to protect my son. Then because I’m sick and twisted I immediately started to worry about the Boogeyman coming to get him. From there I contacted Brian Smith, a frequent collaborator and former colleague at Marvel, and talked about the idea with him.

How did you and your collaborator, Brian Smith, meet and what made you decide to do The Stuff of Legend together? Did you bring Charles Paul Wilson III in, or did Th3rd World suggest him to you?

I actually interned for Brian when he was Bobbie Chase’s assistant at Marvel. I was eventually hired at Marvel as well and we continued to hang out. Brian left a few years later and I left a year after him. We kept in touch and started batting ideas around. We eventually sold a few cartoon ideas that we worked on together. That success led us to keep at it and we eventually started working on Stuff of Legend together.

Charles was brought in by Mike DeVito, the publisher at Th3rd World. Mike’s brother went to the Kubert School at the same time Charles did. Mike pitched him the project and Charles dug it and did some amazing character designs for us. It was pretty clear he was perfect for the book.

What led to the decision to publish Stuff in the smaller size format?

First and foremost we wanted it to feel and look like a storybook. We wanted the book to feel like you might have found it on some old book case. We also knew that Mouseguard had done a great job in that format and we thought we had similar product in that it was a fantasy title. We hoped we could get the attention of some of those readers.

I like how the toys personalities reflect their toy form to an extent. Percy, a piggy bank, is greedy and somewhat selfish. The Colonel, the toy soldier, is the ultimate soldier. Was this part of the thinking in deciding what toys would make up the ones that go into the Dark?

That was some of it. We wanted to bring in toys that would have most likely wanted to save the boy. Ones that we felt would still feel loved and used by him even as he grew older. All of the toys are kind of imbued with the personality the boy gave them when he was playing with them. The colonel is fearless. Max is the ultimate best friend. Quackers, the pull toy, is a follower. Unfortunately, those same personality traits can also be used against the toys as well and have been by the Boogeyman. The toys we chose though were very much characters we thought would step forward to risk their lives with little hesitation… minus Percy, of course.

It’s interesting that the bear, and what lengths he’d go to protect your son, became the start of the story. The introduction of the puppy, Scout, puts him at odds with Max the bear. Both are meant to do the same thing for their boy, protect. What was the idea behind adding Scout to the mix?

I think, at least for me, the dog, or any pet really, represents that next step in a kid’s life. Going from imaginary friends to a real pet that you care for and that can care back is a huge deal. Adding Scout just seemed like a natural progression in the boy’s and the toy’s lives. If someone else has the same purpose as you do how long is it until you become redundant? How can a toy compete with a real live dog that can play back? It might be impossible. Being replaced is a tough pill to swallow for anyone.

The setting is 1940s New York. Why that time?

A big part of it was that World War II gives us a real nice time frame to play with. A time when the world was battling evil. Men with families joined the military to help out and were gone for years. I can only imagine that is was a time when boys were forced to grow up very quickly and leave childish things behind in order to take a more active role in their households.

It was also a time when the toys were different. Back then toys were what a kid would make them. There were no prepackaged personalities. No GI Joe cards or Star Wars movies to tell you how a toy should act. It was all how a kid imagined them. They imbued a personality into their toys and that was the role the toy would ultimately fulfill. I think there are times in today’s world that we lose that special part of our imagination.

It seems like toys are becoming less and less important to a child as the years go on. In a way, SoL helps remind me of the toys when toys were important, when they provided comfort. Why did you choose to have the boy at the transition years, when they put away the old toys?

I think we all remember those days. It was a bittersweet time. One day you’re having a great time immersing yourself in a world of toys and over the course of a year or two that ability goes away. The toys don’t come to life like they used to. They aren’t real. They don’t talk back. Other things become more important. I can only imagine that time, when the magic starts to disappear, would be devastating for the toys as well.

The latest volume is due out this week. How has the series progressed? Is the story the same as you originally thought it would be or has it changed?

The newest chapter, A Jester’s Tale, hits in August. We are all so excited for it to come out. Charles is doing getting better every issue and he was already pretty stellar to begin with.

As far as the overall story goes, it’s very close to our original outline. We take little detours from time to time but we’re still driving towards the end of our tale. It’s tough because we love telling stories about our gang but we also really want to get to the end of our tale.

What can fans of The Stuff of Legend expect in the newest volume?

Hopefully more excitement and fun for the fans. Most importantly we will witness Jester in action as he goes on his quest. We’ll meet new villains, allies and go to new locations. Brian and I have so many people and places left to explore and play with in The Dark it makes it fun for us to write as well. We’re just as anxious to see the finished product after we hand off the script to Charles, Mike D. and Jon C. as our fans are. It has just been an amazing experience working on this together. Hopefully that comes through to those that give the book a chance.

The Pryde recently talked to Zach Howard and learned about the upcoming book you are doing with him, Wild Blue Yonder. How did that colloboration come about? What can you tells us about Wild Blue Yonder?

I think Zach and Charles are two of the best artists in the medium. I’m lucky to be working with both of them. Zach and I first met while working on an Exiles one shot. He drew a section of the story and seemed to really like what I was trying to do. I loved his pages. We started talking and I mentioned doing a creator owned project, which he was interested in. So I pitched him on Wild Blue Yonder which is a futuristic, apocalyptic type book. I don’t want to give too much away about the book but we plan to put it out through Th3rd World in 2012 if possible. Zach’s a busy guy. I think right now he’s working on the Eisner nominated The Cape with Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella and colorist Nelson Daniel. Should be amazing.

Thanks to Mike for taking the time to talk to us and if you haven’t checked it out yet, you have to read The Stuff Of Legend. The third volume, A Jester’s Tale, starts this week. Make sure you go back and pick up the prior volumes. It’ll be worth your time.

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