Charles P. Wilson: Illustrating the 'Stuff of Legend'

When Newsarama shared a 10-page preview of Stuff of Legend two weeks ago, one thing became apparent in the comments from fans: There's something special about that artwork.

In Stuff of Legend, artist Charles P. Wilson III draws a story of a group of toys who venture off from the security of the toy chest to save their kidnapped young master from the Boogeyman. The comic, which is written by Mike Raicht and Brian Smith, is being released for Free Comic Book Day as a 20-page preview before the main series begins in July from publisher Th3rd World Studios.

Fans on Newsarama aren't the only ones raving about the look of the comic. Writer Brian K. Vaughan said of the book, "This is some of the loveliest artwork I've seen in a comic book in a long, long time, and a darkly beautiful story to boot." The art was also called "fantastic" and "luxurious" by comics scribe Joe Kelly, and Stuff of Legend writer Raicht told Newsarama last month: "Charles is a genius. He really brings so much to what we're doing and adds a completely classic feel to the story I'm not sure we would get from anyone else."

When the series is released this summer in two 50-page issues, the comic's story will tell a complete tale, but will leave enough room for more stories if Stuff of Legend proves popular enough. Although the FCBD preview is standard comic size, the issues will be square bound similar to Archaia's Mouse Guard comic, giving the comic a storybook feel.

Newsarama decided to find this new artist and find out more about Wilson's background and his upcoming work on Stuff of Legend.

Newsarama: Have you done comic art before, or is this your first title? And why did you want to do comics?

Charles Paul Wilson III: I've worked on a few projects here and there, one of which will be a short story in C.B. Cebulski's Wonderlost trade, but this will be the first published book I've worked on where I've done all of the interior pages. As far back as I can remember, I've always loved comics and I've always loved to draw. I think it was just inevitable I'd eventually think of putting the two together.

NRAMA: What's your artistic background? What are your artistic influences?

CW: Education-wise, I started off at the John Herron School of Art in Indiana where I took my first life drawing classes and worked with sculpture, but I didn't feel I had any real direction with where I wanted to take my drawing until I arrived at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. There were some really great and influential instructors there as well as classmates who still, to this day, help provide me with enough inspiration and motivation to learn more about the craft. As far as artistic influence, really, anything that catches my eye, whether it's a Rockwell painting or a swirly finger painting from my niece, who seems to have a good eye for color. I also pull a great deal of inspiration and influence from comic artists such as Kevin Nowlan, Frank Quitely, Joe Kubert and Håvard Johansen.

NRAMA: How did you get started doing art for Stuff of Legend? What did you like about this project when you were first chosen as artist?

CW: Mike Devito from Th3rd World Studios contacted me a while back and told me he, Mike Raicht and Brian Smith ("Smitty") had just the right project for me to work on, and he was right! I was reading through descriptions of the project and found it was filled with all kinds of stuff I had always wanted to draw; I just hadn't known it yet.

NRAMA: What look were you hoping to achieve in Stuff of Legend?

CW: I was really hoping to bring a classic fairy tale feeling to the artwork which, to me, felt appropriate given the material and the time the story takes place (1944). I've always enjoyed drawing characters with exaggerated features, and there are quite a few in this book, but I found a lot of fun in figuring out how to implement patterns into the design of the characters so the toys would instantly be recognizable as soon as you were introduced to their realistic counterparts. [Th3rd World publisher Michael] DeVito and I also worked really hard on color selection for our characters so the colors would function for each individual as well as for the group. He also felt rendering the drawings in tonal pencils would be more appropriate for this particular story than traditional pen and ink, and with the way the book's turned out, I couldn't agree more.

NRAMA: What have been your favorite scenes to draw in Stuff of Legend?

CW: I loved working on the meeting of the toys, where they decide who's going to enter The Dark Realm in the closet in pursuit of the kidnapped boy. I had learned a few new tricks working with lighting, and the toys were a lot of fun to draw. But my absolute favorite, without giving away too much, has been the scene where Hammy, the pig, interacts with the Boogeyman in The Dark. It's cold, calculated and gives me chills when I think about it. I've always felt the best kinds of stories are the ones that have an emotional impact, no matter the emotion, and I hope readers really enjoy this as much I have.

NRAMA: Who's your favorite character to draw in Stuff of Legend?

CW: I'd have to say Jester. I love drawing his costume and his face, and I think his personality really comes through in his appearance, especially once he enters The Dark realm and transforms. He has a bit of a default jerkish expression on his face. At times it can come off as cheery, and I think that lends well to his character considering he is free to run and jump around in The Dark as opposed to being confined to his box in toy form.

NRAMA: What's specifically challenging about drawing (normally) inanimate toys as the main characters... as opposed to, for example, the cape-clad superheroes we see in so many comics?

CW: I think the trick is to sell their gestures, give them a human quality the reader can relate to or understand, but interdependant story-telling comes into play a great deal as well. If half of the experience of reading a comic is looking at the artwork, the other half would be to read it. So while I have to make sure the toys' gestures work with what they're saying, I can also acknowledge that what the toys are actually saying is also going to express what's going on in the story, especially with characters like Quackers, the duck pull-toy who is more limited with body language than most of the others.

NRAMA: What do you think of the story in Stuff of Legend? What can you tell us about your reaction having read the whole thing... and what we might expect from it?

CW: Raicht and Smitty put something really special together. The ball really starts to roll once the toys enter The Dark and transform. There, they not only find new freedoms in their new forms, but some of them find difficulty with the roles they're expected to take on, both physically and mentally, and I find that really intriguing. With that in mind, I think readers can expect a good story filled with adventure, interesting concepts, character depth and possibly a twist and turn or two.

NRAMA: What do you hope people will take away from your art on Stuff of Legend?

CW: I'm really hoping they enjoy looking at it as much as I have enjoyed drawing it, and that it helps add excitement when they see previews for the second book.

NRAMA: Anything else you want to share about Stuff of Legend?

CW: Just that it's felt really good working with everyone on the project. Everyone's on the same page creatively, really neat and interesting ideas are constantly flying all over the place and I can't wait for the rest of the world to see what we've come up with.

Twitter activity