The Stuff of Legend, one of the surprise hits of Free Comic Book Day in 2009, returns this year for the event with a free preview of its second volume and the announcement of a third.
"The book was a huge hit for us relatively speaking. We always felt like if people gave it a chance that they would get on board, but there was of course the fear that if would go unnoticed," said Michael DeVito, publisher at Th3rd World Studios, which released the comic. "Retailers and fans came out and showed us a ton of support, which is how the book became such a success. As soon as Issue #1 went to a second printing, we knew we were going to be able to take this series down the original path that we intended with multiple volumes."
The Stuff of Legend follows the story of a group of toys whose young master was kidnapped by the Boogeyman during the era of World War II. Written by Mike Raicht and Brian Smith, the comic won rave reviews for not only its story, but the detailed artwork by new comics artist Charles Paul Wilson III.
"No promotion or marketing plans would have meant anything without some amazing artwork by Charles Paul Wilson III and a great story by Mike Raicht and Brian Smith," DeVito said of the Free Comic Book Day success. "It made the job of promoting the book that much easier. All we needed to do was flash some of Charles' artwork and most people were sold. The design work is unique and his rendered pencils make each and every panel a work of art unto themselves."
A small publisher with a limited number of titles, Th3rd World will also be releasing The Stuff of Legend as a collected comic: Random House will publish the first volume's trade paperback in April. The second volume, which will be a three-issue comic, will be solicited in May Previews and will be released bi-monthly beginning in July.
"Our hope is to keep going so that we can tell the full story," DeVito said. "Unless we see a big dip in numbers, we don't plan on cutting things short until the story comes to its natural end, and even then we would make sure that the story is ended in proper fashion. Ideally there will be less [of a] break from one volume to the next. As it stands, we already have a working outline for Volume 3."
The publisher is hoping that lightning will strike twice – or at least on two different Free Comic Book Days – as Th3rd World will give away another free preview issue this year.
"For Free Comic Book, day we will be including a recap of books 1 and 2 so if you aren't familiar with the story it should whet your appetite before checking out the preview of volume 2," DeVito said. "The first chapter of our adaption of The Mortal Instruments will be included as well, so there should be a good chunk of story to give people a peek at either series. Also, for web comic fans, you'll be able to check out one-page exclusive stories for Pinkerton, The SuperFogeys and The Legend of Bill."
The publisher said credits most of the success on the story and art, but he did make an effort to get the attention of retailers for this book in particular.
"For us the success of this book was very much a huge test for us as a company," he said. "We felt like, if we couldn't find success in the market with this book, then what chance did we have? Our goal became to give retailers no excuses to not carry the book. If it failed it wasn't because we hadn't tried everything in our power to make it work.
"Our efforts didn't go unnoticed, there were a lot of things that retailers have been telling us that we did that helped to catch their eye with Stuff," he said. "For one, Free Comic Book Day was huge for us. The book instantly went from being something that no one knew about to something that there was some buzz on. We also did a buy-3-get-1-free promotion on Issue #1, which meant that even if you only ordered three copies, you automatically had four copies on your shelf. And the sale of just one book you had almost recovered your costs."
Whatever the reason, because of the success the publisher experienced with The Stuff of Legend, DeVito said the company will be taking a few more chances with new comic books that will be announced this year, including this summer's The Mortal Instruments series.
"Stuff of Legend has given us something that we've been trying to achieve since the company began, which is visibility to both readers and retailers -- to know that an offering will at least be seen," he said. "We should be able to take some more chances on books that we feel passionate about and give each of those properties a better chance to succeed. The adaptation we're doing this summer for Cassandra Clare's NY Times bestselling series The Mortal Instruments was made possible in part by these successes, and while we don't intend to start flooding the market with books, it does afford us a little room for expansion."