Co-writer for a graphic novel on the title Stuff of Legends and the hardcover has to come out batting on “The Natural” level of upper deck. Volume three and trade review acclaims later, follow up that indie sensation with solo writing a monster lore where amongst the fandoms of vampires and zombies, werewolves rank with amnesiac extinction, and in a miniseries where the grizzly lunar beast has to reclaim becoming a stuff of legend.
Mike Raicht came to Annapolis for a signing on his comic book that is getting its howling horror tale heard. The end of Oct. signing went so well at the scheduled Third Eye Comics store, Raicht decided to do the same at Third Eye’s other Maryland locale.
The Pack is an impressive intermix of murder-mystery and horror and – where frights of past fashions always return to rend TV and film’s currently well-known and savvier glib arrangement of trendy backdrop – high school. Raicht is able to put a new moody lens on a monster tale that has been written into an endangered template for all its worth.
Washington D.C. Comic Books Examiner and Mike Raicht had a talk via phone regarding his latest comic book series. The former Marvel Comics editor conveys openly regarding his own source of understanding horror and placing it into the comic book’s three-issues story; his signing at Third Eye and also how tragedies can suddenly storm open a laughter response.
The latter the awkwardness of it, and that odd timing – similar to the Nor’Easter that struck the upper Mid-Atlantic and the NorthEast on Raicht’s drive back to New York after Third Eye Comics events. When talking matters of werewolves and high school for The Pack, the Nor’Easter came to be the right segue anecdote prologuing an interview on the emotional agitatation that drives werewolf transformations and roots every day high school clique interactions.
Examiner: What brought you from Stuff of Legends to The Pack?
Mike Raicht: The Pack is the first thing I pitched Th3rd World, back when they started in 2005 or ’06. And we’d gotten a couple of different artists to start it. But usually they’d finish the first part with the father and the son. Then Marvel or DC would come along and offer them a book and of course I couldn’t say not to do what they get paid to do. So, The Pack is actually something I’ve been working on for like five or six years. But we got Daniel on it. He’s been working on it off and on for two years while he’d do other work. So, in actuality I pitched this first and after my son was born I came up with Stuff of Legend. I brought it to my writing partner Brian Smith and we put it together towards 2007, I think.
Examiner: Was this at a time when you were a Marvel editor?
MR: No, basically it was after I was editor there. They’d [the artists] get offered jobs. It’s hard to tell them not to take jobs where they’d make good money as opposed to an indie book. But it all worked out because Daniel does a great job on it. But I’ve always been a big horror fan, and I’ve done a lot of zombie books. So its what I’ve always wanted to do because I love teenage angst and werewolves. Ive always thaought it was a cool thing. I try to create the feel of horror I got when I was younger from “Halloween” and “Nightmare on Elm Street”. Where the kids are real personalities and they get killed. Or whatever. You actually care about the cast.
Examiner: Exactly. So it’s not like the gore films.
MR: Yeah, the relationships are just as important as the horror, but the horror adds a lot to it.
Examiner: Now you added a bit of murder mystery in there – was that a later concept or right from the beginning?
MR: No, I always wanted it to be a whodunit, but with werewolves. I think an issue or two it becomes clear that the murder is not a normal murder and what happened to Brian Foster. The town doesn’t really know how to deal with it or what to do with it so they kind of have to move on. And they have to fill the void of this sports star. That’s where a guy like Blake and guys like Craig come in and fill that void. Like any situation there are roles to be filled.
Examiner: What were the initial ideas that led to this script. I know you said you liked horrors but was there something about that it’s in a high school, the fact that it’s a murder mystery?
MR: Yeah, I think that a high school is a great place to set stories because a lot is going on there. So the drama is so heightened compared to real life. Everything seems important. I think when we’re high schoolers we think everything’s the end of the world when things happen. And kids make bad decisions all the time just based off of need or embarrassment or anger. Where adults, we still make those decisions but sometimes we can temper them a little bit. You’re not constantly in this type of fishbowl environment when you’re an adult. Things can become much end of the worldish when things go wrong from there. And with hormones going on you’re going to have people talking behind each other’s backs and fighting. And here it’s the idea that becoming a werewolf is ferocity and this lack of keeping things in. So they’ll talk behind each other’s back and try then tear each other’s head off and try to kill each other off. They try to infect each other, things like that. It’s kind of an idea I went with that werewolfism is like an STD. If you like this girl things get out of control because there’s a group of people there and now they’re all a bunch of werewolves. Out of control.
Examiner: You’re really building in the first issue. Did you have a faster pace originally or did you want the story to take its time?
MR: I just wanted everyone to know the characters so when things start to go badly you actually care. There’s characters people are naturally going to gravitate to. I’m just, you know, trying to play off things like “Breakfast Club” and different John Hughes movies where everyone has kind of a role and they click in their group. Hopefully everyone has someone they can relate to where they fit in or where they didn’t fit in. I try to drive that home in first issue. Especially with everybody like Greg and Nancy and David. Just show the things thy’re going through. Hopefully the ratio will gravitate towards them and start to care what’s going on with them.
Examiner: Giving everybody their role: is it difficult not to make them like a single note and still make them adhere to what they’re supposed to be?
MR: There’s a fear of that, but I think once you realize on the outside looking in you get a feel for the characters. Like if you look at when you went to high school you had “this kid” or “that kid”. Once you get to know them you find out they’re not just “this kid” or “that kid”. You know there’s more to them.
You almost get assigned positions sometimes. David thinks of himself as the hero but there’s the fact that he’s the geeky kind of kid at school. Blake thinks of himself as the Big Guy on Campus even if Brian is the bigger deal. Some like Greg. Nancy wants no part of this. Nancy seems like this outsider and is just the average kid that wants to fit in. She’s just getting good grades and doing her thing but somehow winds up in this thing because she likes Greg.
Things start to go that way. The high school cheerleader seems like she has it all going for her but her boyfreind’s stepping out. So that’s wherere you see things kind of fall apart. That they have their roles. They might not see themselves in that role. It kind of let’s them stretch and change a little bit.
Examiner: Now there’s also this sort of bleakness in the book, especially at the beginning, but it’s not a bleak story. Was that difficult to balance.
MR: It’s definitely down but I try to write things like we’ve all had these horrible stories. I mean obviously this is a werewolf story, so that’s somewhat different. But everyone has a time somebody dies, somebody they care about. I think we deal with it with a kind of humor. So I got that in there a little bit. Even when you push someone away friends might make you laugh. It seems inappropriate at the time but its the most appropriate thing you can do. I try to add that stuff. I mean David is a bleak character. Greg and his sister Annie have a lot dealing with their mom passing on from cancer. They’re dealing with moving to a new town. David has noone anymore. I think that when you;re brooding in your bedroom things can come bleak like that. When you have your Dad and your sister to deal with it together it can come about better. It’s kind of bleak, but at the same time its meant to show people get through this kind of stuff.
Examiner: I want to get back to your signing at Third Eye [Comics]. This is you’re second time there.
MR: My first signing is when we launched Stuff of Legends volume 2. This one was for The Pack.
Examiner: What were a lot of responses for The pack?
MR: It seems like a lot of people were interested. Steve [Anderson] at Third Eye did a great job pushing the event. He knows his customers really well. If he knows you’re a horror fan he pushes you that way. If he knows you’re a Stuff of Legends fan he’ll let you know this is by one of the people who did it. There were some people who came and didn’t know Stuff of Legends at all. I think people who give our first issue a try – and there’s a lot of horror stuff on the stands – I try to give a story I would want to read. This is something I’d want to read. So hopefully there’s more people like me out there.
Examiner: Yes, I think you’ll find that actually. There’s also a factor of what’s to come. What can people expect?
MR: From this next issue people will start to see who’s the Alpha Male in the school. That role will cause some things to go out of control. Find out about Brian Foster and how he was killed. That someone else was there when he was killed, somebody we’ve seen in the book already. Whether they were the murderer or not. More and more what happened with David and his Dad. When we last saw them before the year jump they had that attack by the werewolf that killed the mother. Those are the things we’ll start to answer. We’ll start to see different sides forming in the high school.
Examiner: Were there a lot people mentioning their surprise for a werewolf story?
MR: A lot of people said they didn’t expect the book to be like this. It usually has to do with there was a lot of character stuff going on. I think people, when they see a werewolf story, they think it’s only going to be a lot of fur flashing by. There can be, but it builds towards something more.
Examiner: There is a looming, like a lurking feel.
MR: Yes, there is a looming that builds. There’s a shadow over all of them. Something bad is going to happen. Especially with its high school kids. Especially since a lot has happened to them. It’s a matter of one more step and how deep will they get into this. It makes sense for what’s coming next. What’s kind of neat is if people like it we can do more werewolf stories. The thing that has been good by the publisher is my first issue is 36 pages, the next 32 pages and the next to 36 again. We feel good about that. We’re giving way more than the usual 22 pages for people to check out. It’s a pretty dense story for three issues.
Examiner: You mentioned previously that you liked horror novels. Are there any horror novels you’ve recommended to your circle of friends?
MR: I’m a big Stephen King fan. Right now I’m reading the novel by Kirkman and – I can’t remember the author working with him. It’s that book Rise of the Governor. I’m enjoying that. Anything zombie or things like that. But I’m a big fan of King. I like a lot of things he did, not always the horror stuff. The Long Walk. That was one of my favorite things growing up. I like post-Apocalyptic or anything like that. Things like The Stand. Then all of his short story books. Like Night Shift. I’m really into these. I can read those over and over.
Examiner: Since you were writing Stuff of Legend, and The Pack was your original prior concept were you able to add ideas during the five years?
MR: It changed over a lot. Probably the most changes I ever wrote. The first issue was done in two years, then we had time to shuffle around things that were happening in this book. Originally we saw Brian’s murder but then we put that in the second issue so we could focus on the murder. That was something we decided to do. The third issue, you know, I haven’t finished until recently. It’s definitely different from what we originally thought. I actually had what I thought a good idea for something to happen with the characters. And by the time I finished I realized they just wouldn’t do that. It didn’t make any sense for those characters. I was in a roadblock for a little while but I feel really good about where it is now. So I’m happy about that and Daniel is finishing up the third issue.
Examiner: Is that one of the better tasks about writing comics scripts? You know, going down an avenue that you might not find the right completed take. That you have to go back to find something that generally works?
MR: Yeah, I think that’s what gives you a chance to see when stuff’s not working. It’s always tough to switch ideas and switch some things. Its always stressful. I always want to finish something because I want it to be really good. I’m not sure everyone feels that way but I stress that a little more. But working in comics is something I love doing. They’re books I love writing. I love reading them. I think this medium opens itself out to so many things you can’t do anywhere else with a limited budget. Only the artist’s imagination can really hold them back.
Examiner: You seem to be on the same page (so to speak) with your artists.
MR: Daniel has been really great. He’s from Italy [speaks Daniel’s last name Faccilongo]. I’m not sure that’s how you pronounce it. I’ve never spoken to him. We’ve not spoken at all. We only email back and forth. He doesn’t speak English fully and has some things translated. That can be a bit of a struggle especially if I use the way I’ve spoken to artists on Stuff of Legend or any other with some slang term that translates into something that doesn’t make sense. Something I should’ve cleaned up; made more clear for him.
He’s great. I hope we work on more stuff together. I think when people see [The Pack] somebody will give another opportunity on a later book some place.
Examiner: Well that seems to be an understated change in comics. We’re talking about digital and other factors. We’re talking relaunches. But here I’m seeing an influx of artists from South America, from Italy – Europe, much more often.
MR: I think with a lot going on already it gets missed. They want to do American comics. It’s always good to have the opportunity to do comics somewhere else. If I had the opportunity I’d take it. I think a lot of artists see America as a place to do a lot of [comic books]. If they like superheroes or horror. There’s a lot of places for graphic novels but there’s also the chance for monthly comics.
Examiner: Well, superheroes and horror have their own myths. Did you, in working out the werewolf nature, tweak how you’d like to see the myth? Have the traditional abilities fit into your personal modern take?
MR: Yeah, I played around with it a bit. The werewolves here are tied to the moon but with a little more control. The closer it gets to changing by the moon they’ve less control. The decisions they’re making are a gut instinct by that point. Like what they really want. What they want to accomplish. There are times when its not closer to werewolf time and they can get away with things.
Examiner: That ties in well with what you were saying about being in high school.
MR: Exactly! Yes. The more the deeper they get into something they’re minds are just not in the right spot. So that’s where the werewolf ends up being.
The Pack is available in stores or from Th3rd World Studios.
Third Eye Comics has stores in Annapolis and Prince Frederick in Maryland.