There are these stories that have been passed down through generation – first as oral stories told around campfires and candlelight, and then transcribed to the written form. They are stories about fairies, goblins, princesses, trolls, talking animals and magic. Intended not only for children, these stories were partly to pass the time but also to learn morals and safety from the community, such as the Cry Wolf story.
But in modern times, these fairy tales have been regelated to the light all-ages arena, and while some of those can be entertaining --- few retain the dark elements they had in their earlier incarnations. But in the upcoming Radical Publishing series Legends: The Enchanted, these fairy tales get their edge back.
The Enchanted are the supernatural immortals such as Pinocchio, the Red Hood, the giant killer Jack, Goldilox. These aren't the children's storybook versions, but dark reimaginations made of Hagsteampunk and dark magic. In this miniseries, the murder of one of their own pulls together the group to find (and fight) the murderer in the ever-changing world.
The miniseries comes by way of European artist Nick Percival, who has worked extensively for 2000AD as well as Marvel's recent Dead of Night miniseries. But now Percival comes into his own writing and drawing this lush and bloody tale. For more, we talked to Percival by email from his home in England.
Newsarama: How would you describe Legends: The Enchanted, Nick?
Nick Percival: Legends: The Enchanted is set in a violent and corrupt world swarming with dangerous creatures and ruled by corrupt powerful tyrants. It’s a place where modern technology, twisted nature and dark magic battle for dominance. The plot focuses on a Hanselgroup of powerful characters known as the Enchanted - grim, adult versions of classic characters from folklore and fairytales that in this world, have always existed.
Loathed and feared by many, they spend their fractured existence as vigilantes, outlaws, bounty hunters and such trying to make a life for themselves in a land that is increasingly hostile towards them. Armed with a hard attitude, unique abilities and customized weaponry, the Enchanted’s world is shattered when they discover someone (or something) has found a way to break through their mystic immortality and is stealthily murdering them one by one.
Nrama: A murder sets this all off – the murder of Pinocchio. What was he like in this world, and who would have it out for him?
HanselPercival: Pinocchio is this huge warrior figure constructed of bionics, wood and human flesh. He’s one of the most powerful of the Enchanted, so when his mutilated and burnt body is discovered, it really hits home to the rest of them that they are now vulnerable and can be killed. I can’t really say who has it in for him but the person (or creature!) responsible has links to the rest of the Enchanted, knows their history and their secret weaknesses.
Nrama: It seems like the main characters in this are a wolf-hunting Red Hood and a giant-killing Jack. Can you tell us about them?
Percival: Red Hood lives in a harsh terrain known as the Bionic Woodlands - a place overgrown with spiked bio-mechanical trees and living, organic plant life, populated by mutated wolf creatures. She’s fiercely independent and lives there with her daughter, Verity. Basically, she just wants to be left alone and raise her child but the murder of Pinocchio and other events force her to seek out help from other Enchanted in a big story element that involves the safety of Verity.
Jack is a whole different ballgame. He’s a rogue, bit of a drunk and drives a monster of a motorcycle that runs on Giant’s blood for fuel. Powered up on a supply of various ’magic beans’ Jack hires out his violent Giant killing skills to the highest bidder. Initially he doesn’t think too deeply about things but after he gets himself seriously wounded, it kind of serves as wake up call for him as he becomes involved in the Enchanted’s fight for survival.
Nrama: What other familiar fairy tale folk will we see in this book?
JackPercival: A whole bunch of characters. We’ve got Goldilox, who’s a thief/mercenary type character with her partner ‘Bear’ - a nine foot tall half man/half bear creature built like a brick shithouse. Rapunzel and her unbreakable hair that she can control to strangle enemies and do nice things like that. Humpty Dumpty runs a vast crime organization, aided by the Billy Goats Gruff Biker Gang. Hansel and Gretel are Paranormal Exterminators hunting down demons and keeping check on things that go bump in the night. There are also cameo type appearance from other characters such as Miss Muffet, Jack Nimble, Rumplestiltskin, Jack and Jill, Tom Thumb, the Pied Piper but all delivered in a gritty, twisted style that fits in with the whole story and world they inhabit. Added to this we’ve got Vampire fairies, punk-rock Giants, Razor Head demons and a very, very large angry Troll from under the bridge.
Nrama: How would you describe the look and feel you’re aiming for in this book?
Percival: It’s an urban-action fantasy tale. On a visual level I’m aiming for a unique combination of post-apocalyptic decayed environments where nature is reclaiming the land. There’s also a heavy-duty industrial feel to the cities and vehicles and even the weapons with a smattering of steam-punk for good measure. I think the world is quite different from stuff normally seen in comics as well as the designs for the characters and creatures themselves - even the average Pinocchiocitizens have a weird look about them, so I’ve put a lot of effort into that, especially since all the artwork is fully painted. I want the story to feel dangerous and suspenseful with hopefully an ongoing feeling of dread as the situation for the characters worsens . Because no-one has really seen these characters before, all bets are off as to who will survive and what the outcomes will be. Their world has changed at the end of the book and lays the groundwork for further adventures in the Legends universe.
Nrama: I hear word of this simultaneously being developed for comics and the movie screen. Can you tell us about a Legends: The Enchanted movie?
Percival: I developed the story idea and initial concept artwork for the project quite a few years ago and part of that included a full script for the book. The aim has always been to produce a graphic novel but as with a lot of Radical’s projects, they plan for the bigger picture, saw the potential for a movie version and are heavily involved in that process for Legends. But my main focus has been to produce the best graphic novel I can and for me, that’s my version of the movie - I can include all the things I want and not worry about budgets, actors and so on, so I’ve been able to really cut loose with it. Where that helps Radical, is they have a ton of artwork and story elements already created to help people understand how a movie version could work but as with all Hollywood stuff, you really can’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen in any realistic timeframe, so I’m just getting on with the book.
Nrama: How did you get hooked up with Radical, Nick?
Percival: Well, I’d already written a full script for Legends and created a large volume of concept artwork for it and my managers in LA showed some of this material to Barry Levine who really responded to it. As I continued to work on it, Radical was in the early stages of coming together as a company and we agreed it would be a perfect fit for the kind of things they wanted to publish. They really understand the project and know the things that I’m trying to achieve on it, so it’s a mutually strong relationship.
Nrama: Before we go, I think this book is a first for you -- Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is your first time out writing and drawing your own comics. Can you tell us about that experience?
Percival: I’ve produced a lot of fully painted comic book interiors and covers for 2000AD, working on ‘Judge Dredd’ and ‘Slaine’ as well as painting material for Marvel’s Dead of Night series and various other stuff, so comics has always been in my background ( I even used to run a comic book store, here in the UK) but this is the first project that has been created, written and illustrated by myself, so that’s kind of a big deal for me and given me room to really expand as a storyteller and also take my artwork further. It’s a hell of a lot of work and a big responsibility but pretty damn cool as well.