One of the biggest surprise hits in the world of independent comics last year was The Stuff of Legend, the fantasy comic from Th3rd World Studios.
"Retailers and fans came out and showed us a ton of support, which is how the book became such a success," Publisher Mike Devito told Newsarama. "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."
Those multiple volumes get rolling in July as the second volume of the acclaimed series begins. Previewed on Free Comic Book Day (and again here on Newsrama), the second volume picks up where the first volume left off, continuing the journey of a band of toy as they rescue their young master from the nightmare realm of the Dark and the treacherous Boogeyman.
One of the most recognizable things about Stuff of Legend is the amazingly detailed and realistic artwork by comics newcomer Charles P. Wilson III, who credits the comic as his first published work. Reviewers have lauded the artist's ability to bring fantasy alive, while the book's format has given his images even more of a storybook feeling.
Newsarama talked with Wilson about the reception he's gotten from fans and what readers can expect to see in Volume 2 of Stuff of Legend.
Newsarama: Charles, did you feel more comfortable going into this second volume? And how do you think that influenced the way you approached the art?
Charles P. Wilson III: I think I definitely felt more comfortable walking into the second volume. I feel the artwork is more refined, I'm already very comfortable working with the writers, Mike Raicht and Brian Smith, and the publishers Mike Devito and Jon Conkling, and I've got a better handle on the size format and how to utilize it as a visual storyteller. Next to that, I'm really, really excited about what's happening in the story and the exchange of ideas with the writers and publishers.
Nrama: Mike Devito told us the first volume was a huge success for Th3rd World, and there's certainly been a lot of positive buzz about it online, particularly your work. What do you think of the fan response to the artwork in Stuff of Legend?
Wilson: I think it's fantastic so many people gave the book a shot. I feel happy all of the hard work my teammates put into the book is paying off with the positive response we've been seeing. When I'm at a show or signing I think it's absolutely lovely when someone brings a book from home for us to sign, a book they've taken the effort to pack up carefully for travel. The response has been really great, and it's enabling us to keep going with the title.
Nrama: What can you tell us overall about Volume 2 of Stuff of Legend?
Wilson: Volume 2 brings our small group of adventuring toys into The Jungle where they encounter another group who isn't too kind to human toys. Horrible lies are told, secrets come to light, there's fighting and blood and the duck gets a love interest. All this with the Boogeyman's army hot on their trail.
Nrama: Did you have to design some new characters for this volume?
Wilson: I can safely mention the two that were present on our Free Comic Book Day cover offering this year: Monty and the King Cobra. The cobra's big, he's eaten a lot and has grown and grown, and from what I understand he's going to be a problem for our battling grizzly bear. Monty is a somewhat well-dressed monkey with crashing cymbals. Both of these guys have already had the "really bad day in their lifetime" experience, and I get a bit of a bad feeling in my stomach when I think of Quackers the duck and Scout the puppy dog meeting them.
Nrama: Did you have to design any new settings?
Wilson: There are going to be new locations as the characters move through The Dark. When the book starts off we're in McCarren Marsh, filled with wet-looking, low-hanging trees, high grass and small ponds. I really wanted to separate this area from the forest visually so I tried to give the trees a different, almost toy-like quality to their look that would be a bit unique to any other area we visit in The Dark.
We're also going to see some ruins that have an interesting back story that will carry us right into the jungle and the places within.
Nrama What can you tell us about how the story influences the art style in this second volume? Does the style stay pretty much the same as Volume 1, or did it change up a little?
Wilson: The style's the same, but I feel the art and storytelling are a whole lot better. I've been able to pick up a little speed with the more I do and I've been trying to utilize the time to make improvements here and there so the readers can have a greater experience and I can be as satisfied with the work as I can possibly be as an illustrator.
Nrama: There are so many really quirky and adorable characters in this series. Who's your favorite character to draw in Stuff of Legend?
Wilson: Quackers the duck. And he's such a nice duck. He worships the bear, he wisecracks a little and he's always welcome in every scene I draw.
Nrama: What character was the biggest challenge for you?
Wilson: Max the bear was the toughest to nail down for a consistent likeness at first, but I'm very happy with the way he's turned out. We even get to see him smile in this volume!
Nrama: Can you describe a favorite scene from Volume 2, and why it's a favorite?
Wilson: Without really spoiling anything, there's a secret one of them has been keeping since just before the beginning of the first issue that puts a few things into context. We're gonna find out what it is, and we're going to want the characters to react a certain way, but the characters are gonna do what they're gonna do and the writers are all the more genius for it, in my opinion.
Nrama: Why do you think the artwork you've done in Stuff of Legend has won such accolades?
Wilson: I'm not entirely sure altogether, but I have spoken with a number of people who've picked up the book and they seemed to enjoy the variety of characters and their designs, and I think the visuals coupled with the story helps enhance the artwork. Not to mention how effective the monochromatic sepia work Mike Devito and Jon Conkling put into each page can be. I think it helps ground the artwork in 1944, the year the story takes place. But I think it's the whole package, from the concept to the story and all of the production work involved that helps the artwork stand out a bit.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about Volume 2?
Wilson: Volume 2 will start in July with the first of four issues, and each issue will be released bimonthly through January with Volume 3 following soon after. There's going to be a lot of ground for our characters to cover. Hopefully I'll get to draw lots of maps!
Also, I will be attending Wizard World Philly, the Baltimore Con and the NY Comic Con with Th3rd World Studios this summer and fall to promote it for anyone interested in stopping by.