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The Stuff of Legend may have once been the little book that could, but now it’s the indie book that already did. And in July, the comic and its whimsical characters return with a third volume, "A Jester’s Tale."

Released by small independent publisher Th3rd World Studios, The Stuff of Legend is one of the comic book industry’s success stories, making it all the way to the New York Times bestseller list after its introduction in Free Comic Book Day in 2009.

The comic, which is co-written by Brian Smith and Mike Raicht, begins its third volume in July with "A Jester’s Tale," continuing the adventures of the World War II-era toys who took off from the safety of home to rescue their young master from the Boogeyman. And as always, the series features the amazingly detailed artwork by Charles P. Wilson III.

This part of the story will be four issues long at a regular 24-page size — a slight change of format for the book, which was formerly oversized and bi-monthly. But the change makes the new price point $3.99, and it will allow Th3rd World to release Stuff of Legendmonthly beginning in July.

The series also won a few more interested readers thanks to Th3rd World’s participation in Free Comic Book Day again, this time showcasing both Stuff and their new series, The Intrepid EscapeGoat.
Newsarama talked with Raicht and Th3rd World publisher Michael DeVito to find out more about the change and what readers can expect from July’s kick-off of the third volume.

Newsarama: Mike, as co-writer on Stuff, what’s been the feedback so far from readers of Stuff?
Mike Raicht: It has continued to be really positive and exciting to us. Word of mouth from readers and retailers, especially with the release of our second trade, has really piqued interest in what’s coming next. We’ve been extremely fortunate to get such good buzz.
We loved doing the first arc of the book, but we couldn’t wait to get to the second arc because we knew a lot of the secrets of the book and The Dark would be revealed. It was kind of our make-or-break arc. We tried to take some chances and hopefully surprise our readers. People are coming back for more and excited about the upcoming arcs, so it’s all good on our end.

Nrama: What do you think has been so captivating about Stuff that it has won such a loyal following?
Raicht: I think a lot of it is the beautiful Charles Paul Wilson III artwork and the book design by Mike DeVito and Jon Conkling. Very few books on the stands look like Stuff of Legend.

After that, it’s a combination of the world and the characters. The characters are diverse enough that everyone has a different favorite they can relate to or cheer for or, in Percy’s case, against. The world is something we try to make interesting and different and, to be honest, we’re just as excited as the readers are to see what Charles comes up with for a board game city or a ruined zoo.
I also think everyone can relate to this story. Who didn’t have a favorite toy as a kid and have epic adventures with them? This is just that idea pushed to a slightly more, somewhat scary, extreme. We’d all like to believe that our toys were alive and loved us enough to save us from The Boogeyman. At least I hope they would.

Nrama: What will readers see in the next volume?
Raicht: "A Jester’s Tale" will focus a lot on Jester and a quest he feels compelled to go on. I don’t want to give too much away yet, but if you know Jester, he is always a character who follows his heart and that is what he is doing here.

Nrama: How is it different from previous volumes?
Raicht: This is the first time in one of our volumes where a character ventures off from the main cast for an extended period. People seem to really be into Jester so it seemed a great time for a solo tale within the framework of what we are trying to accomplish with the book. Jester has been a favorite of ours, and especially my co-writer Brian Smith’s, for a while now.

We will see our other toys and the two boys’ journey as well, but a lot of this arc is devoted to Jester’s quest. Even though the focus is Jester, this tale still continues our Stuff of Legend storyline.
Nrama: Which characters will we see as the focus of the next volume? What will their journey be?
Raicht: Jester gets a lot of the focus but most of the characters save one or two will appear. The boys will be trying to find their way out of The Dark. The others will be on a quest will be a little different than what we’ve seen so far. It’s all playing off of the finale of The Jungle arc so I don’t want to give too much away.

Nrama: What new characters will we meet?
Raicht: This arc introduces a new adversary for our gang. Can’t tell you who, but he is cool. Charles came up with a design, and he and our publisher Mike Devito jammed a little on his history at a con. Brian and I were excited to use the idea. It was great. Jester has also been paired with the most unlikely of sidekicks on his journey. A perfect foil for Jester’s outlook on life. Most interestingly, this arc has a nice influx of female characters including Rosie the Falcon, who we met briefly in The Jungle arc.

Nrama: Have you and Brian seen Charles’ art progress as you guys have been working together on the next volume?
Raicht: Brian and I see new pages every week. They are as stunning as ever. Anyone who picked up the sneak peak of Volume 3 in Th3rd World Studios FCBD issue saw the amazing sea battle that Charles has drawn for the beginning of issue #1. Just gorgeous, stunning stuff.
Nrama: Michael, how was the response to the FCBD issue?
DeVito: The response on both sides of the book — Stuff of Legend and Intrepid EscapeGoat — has been fantastic. Retailers really liked that we basically created an easy springboard to hook new fans on Stuff. We had a lot of retailers tell us that they sold a lot of trades because of it and had fans looking forward to the start of the new arc. Giving a full, self-encapsulated story for EscapeGoat was a winner too, because it gave people a chance to see what they can look forward to in the upcoming series.
Nrama: Why the change in format for the next volume of Stuff?
DeVito: [Because of] retailer and fan feedback. The newest volume will be released monthly as opposed to the normal bi-monthly schedule that we’ve been following. To meet the demand, we reduced not only the page count (down to 24) but also the price point ($3.99) making it that much cheaper for fans and new readers to pick up.

The first issue will hit in July with another three issues to follow to close out this arc. Readers can look for a trade a couple months after, just like we did for volume 2.
Nrama: Mike, what else are you working on now?
Raicht: I’m wrapping up a werewolf story called The Pack with artist Daniel Faccilongo, which should debut in October, and I’m also adapting Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments with Nicole Virella. Both of these will be coming out through Th3rd World Studios.
Brian, meanwhile, is busy writing and drawing the very funIntrepid EscapeGoat for Th3rd World which launches in July, as well as writing Voltron Force for Viz.

Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell readers about the next volume of Stuff of Legend?
Nrama: We have a lot more stories to tell about Max, Jester, Percy and the rest, but we also can’t wait to get to our ending and complete the tale. Thank you to everyone who is supporting us and allowing us the opportunity to tell our story. It’s a great feeling that people are interested in coming along for the ride with us.