Stuff of Legend:
Book 1: The Dark
written by Mike Raicht
and Brian Smith
Charles Paul Wilson III
backed into a corner, with all the odds against them, these
raggedy heroes fight fiercely and pull out unexpected victories.
The cause is noble. The cause is just. And these are The
Stuff of Legend.
Actually, they might be the stuffing of
legend, as the heroes of this book are vintage toys. On
the surface, this book by Mike Raicht, Brian Smith and Charles
Paul Wilson III seems to borrow from Toy Story and
Lions and Tigers and Bears. The toys follow the same
rules as Pixar's creations, and their owner's dog is in
on the whole thing. They're also sworn to protect their
owner from imaginary harm.
Yet here in the late days of World War
II (Brooklyn, 1944), the imaginary harm becomes all too
real. The Boogie Man has reached out from his nightmare
dimension and kidnapped "the boy." For whatever nefarious
reasons, this monster in the closet has organized an army
of discarded toys to help keep the boy prisoner.
Many of the boy's playthings are too scared
to follow. But as a reflection of the boy's courage, his
toy soldier - and avatar of his absent father concurrently
fighting in Normandy - rallies a few fellows to his cause.
A classic Jack-in-the-Box joins Max the teddy bear, a wind-up
tin princess, an Indian Maiden and a Percy the Piggy Bank
to cross the threshold of the closet door.
Unlike its influences, The Stuff of
Legend really isn't a kids' story. The toys transform,
but not in a cartoony fashion. Max becomes a real bear,
savage and angry, the Jack-in-the-Box becomes a nightmarish
Jester wearing a wooden mask and the Indian Princess gains
a face that allows her to finally express her distaste at
all the prejudices heaped upon her people.
For even the discarded toys are a reflection
of the cultures that made them, full of just as much of
the ugliness of humanity as the potential. And as the "Battle
of Brooklyn Creek" makes clear, that also includes the capacity
for carnage and death.
All of is done in a beautiful chiaroscuro
by Wilson. From the binding of the book, it's meant to evoke
the look of old photography, a journal of an adventure long
past. That includes an extra story done especially for this
collection of the first two issues, as we get a glimpse
into the inner life of the Colonel, the boy's brave tin
The Stuff of Legend has a surprising
amount of depth beneath its high concept. Perhaps the Boogie
Man stands for the boy's fear of losing his father in the
war, perhaps he really is exactly what he seems - an ageless
evil that preys upon children. It is clear that in
our imaginations, we imbue toys with aspects of our own
personalities when we play with them, but Raicht and Smith
also make it clear that these toys are going to become something
Clearly Random House thought this effort
from Th3rd World Studios is going to be something more,
as they picked up the tab for collecting this in graphic
novel form. Perhaps you missed it the first time around,
but now's your chance to jump on board this intriguing and
literate odyssey. This is one that's going to reward reading
over and over again.