Okay, I've been knocking around the comics industry for nearly 10 years now. I've been out of Marvel for about four and most people still know me as "That Marvel editor who...". But I have to say, there are some really great books being published by other publishers and independent creators. And they SHOULD be selling better. Some of these are selling just great, but they should be selling more and more. It's not all super heroes all the time. Heck, that's a big part of why I left Marvel in the first place. I was running out of genres to merge with super heroes!
So, I plan on running these little blogs occasionally to spotlight books I'm reading that I think are really great and worthy of wider recognition. As such, this is my first real entry for "THE GOOD BOOKS".
And here we have Mike Raicht, Brian Smith and Charles Paul Wilson III's THE STUFF OF LEGEND. It's published by Th3rd World Studios.
Why's it so great? Well, it's got a couple of things going for it.
1. The concept is a great mash up of TOY STORY and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Essentially, "the boy" is kidnapped out of his bedroom at night by a black, tentacle creature and sucked into his closet--into "The Dark." Is it the boogieman himself? Could be. We don't know right off. What we do know is that with the "boy" gone, his toys, a rag-tag team of awesome and different toys, gets together, musters up the courage, and goes in after him, knowing full well that no one has ever returned from The Dark.
2. The next great thing it does is stray far from TOY STORY. The similarities end at the concept of toys that come to life. Once they enter The Dark, the toys are transformed (no pun intended) into more life-like or idealized versions of themselves. Still clearly the toys, but sort of imbued with life the way Disney portrayed Pinocchio in its animated film. And the story gets cooking. The characters are more well rounded, they have conflict--real conflict within the group--and the story can often go to dark places. It reminds me at times of my favorite parts of NARNIA.
3. Writers Raicht and Smith don't shy away from where their story is going. It's not that the story is horrific, but it does at times go to dark places--and it goes to light places, too--and their metaphor with the toys and the world in The Dark is well thought out and consistent so far. And their dialogue is spot on. Every character has his or her own voice.
4. Wilson's artwork is perfect for this story. Wilson has been doing some of his finest work to date--scratch that--it IS his finest work on this book. It looks somehow cartoon-like and totally real at the same time. The gray tones and the figure work as well as how he's modifying the art in Photoshop to give it a scratchy feel to it is all extremely calculated and effective. I feel like I'm a kid and an adult at the same time. I feel that unbridled imaginative spirit of my youth as well as the more pragmatic and sometimes defeatism of my current self.
5. The story as these elements come together on the page is a simple one, but an effective and also intricate at the same time. A simple story about a simple emotion and a definitive mission but thrown into a complex and wonderful world with engaging and well-rounded characters.
Currently on sale are the trade paperback: THE STUFF OF LEGEND: BOOK I: THE DARK and the first three single issues of THE STUFF OF LEGEND: BOOK II: THE JUNGLE.
A great read. Go check it out!