As part of my Free Comic Book Day reviews I was saving my Th3rd World notes for the final write-up. However, these were somehow misplaced (not that hard to imagine happening if you know my organizational skills) so I never got to it. Fortunately, I have recovered them and just in time as the anxiously awaited first issue of THE STUFF OF LEGENDS will probably be released this last week of July 2009.
i attended an informal workshop/presentation featuring one of the publishers and an artist from Th3rd World Studios during the FCBD activities at Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, DE. Th3rd World (based in Ocean City, NJ) is an independent comics publisher with some very interesting offerings for readers who enjoy something a little different. ( www.th3rdworld.com)
The meet and greet session was devoted mostly to their latest offering, THE STUFF OF LEGENDS - - so I’ll begin by writing about that first.
The story, by Mike Raicht and Brian Smith, takes place during 1944 wartime in Brooklyn, NY. A young boy whose bedroom is a proper habitat for the kind of great toys you don’t see anymore (made from non-plastic materials, mostly wood or stuffed fabric/cloth and including all types of soldiers and cowboys/indians plus a jack-in-the-box, spinning top, and various domestic and wild animals) is taken away by the Boogeyman. The loyal and steadfast toys come to his rescue and the ensuing battle is the basis for this two-issue limited series (52 pages per issue). The FCBD preview allows a generous 25-page sampling of the first issue and it is definitely worth your time and attention.
THE STUFF OF LEGENDS has both the look and tone of a quality children’s book and it wouldn’t be hard to imagine this enjoying a favored shelf position on the bookcase. That obviously is the intention, as the front and back pages are elaborately detailed. I almost thought I could touch this and feel the raised areas and texture of the cover. I just can’t imagine how much time it must have required of the artist, inkers and colorists to achieve that look!
The entire book has this type of dedication to detail. Using varying shades of brown and gray and avoiding any vivid or bright colors helps give the book an authentic 1940’s look. The use of borders at the top and bottom of each page that seem to simulate the pages of a book (including creased or rounded edges) further enhances the effect. The credits page states “illustrated” by Charles Paul Wilson III, and that is very appropriate considering the quality of his work. Each panel is as painstakingly detailed as a separate drawing in a premium children’s book.
The placement of sunlight entering a room, the intensity of lighting that surrounds a lampshade, and the use of shadows and backgrounds are incredibly accurate. But in addition to his ability to depict such intricate details, Wilson is also quite effective at conveying emotion in the simple expressions on the toy faces as well as body language. Wilson is an artist to watch, and I look forward to seeing more of his action scenes in the first issue. The FCBD preview only has a few pages of such conflict, and the two-page battle scene is a delight to view.
The script also provides the same type of enjoyment and is as careful in the choice of content as the art that compliments it. Prior to making a commitment to enter the dark world and attempt a rescue of the boy there is some engaging dialogue between the toys, more than you would expect to find in a simple children’s story. The toys debate the pros and cons of attempting such a mission as well as discuss the probabilities of their success. However, it is written in such a way to hold the attention of an adult reader but not to be so complex as to confuse any young children that were having this read to them. It sounds hard to pull off, but it works here.
Th3rd World Studios started up in 2005 by Michael Devito and partner Jon Conkling. Their first book was published in 2007. SPACE DOUBLES managed to make the Top 300 list at Diamond Distributors, but as Mike explained this meant the book actually broke even rather than bring a huge profit. Mike has worked in the comics industry as a colorist for various independent publishers, and Th3rd World was started to provide another avenue for unknown talents to get their work to the public.
It’s obviously a labor of love or time-consuming hobby versus a profitable enterprise, as Mike explains that his Th3rd world duties require almost 40 hours per week and lots of contacts in addition to his regular day job. And once a new book completes production work, he spends twice as much time on marketing it. At any one time his garage may be storing 3,000 issues of various titles that he’ll take to conventions, etc. to promote.
Charles Paul Wilson III is both an artist and part-time instructor at the Kubert School, where he graduated from the 3-year program. His advice to aspiring artists is to be prepared to dedicate sometimes as much as 14 hours per day to drawing in order to develop good working habits. He finds that editors value timeliness, personality, and talent and it’s a good combination of the three that will help make an unknown obtain work.
Mike Devito’s advice to aspiring writers/storytellers is to find and partner up with a good artist. It’s too difficult for editors to evaluate a writer’s work without seeing the accompanying art. Mike says “you can’t guarantee success without it.” For example, THE STUFF OF LEGENDS was based on a proposed idea and then went to an artist.
Th3rd World Studios doesn’t develop ongoing series, 20 issue limited series, or even a 4-issue mini-series. Mike says that on average an independent effort will only support 1-3 issues. A better strategy that Th3rd World employs is to develop 2-issue series with 48+ pages on content in each, and then come back with a second effort/series for the successful ones.