I recently got the chance to catch up with writer/artist Nick Percival to talk about his upcoming project with Radical Comics, Legends.
These aren’t your grandma’s Fairy Tales anymore…
-Alex Rodrik, Editor of Features and Interviews
Alex Rodrik: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me and Comics Bulletin!
Nick Percival: No problem.
AR: Tell us a bit about yourself. How’d you get involved with comics and the arts in general?
NP: Comics have always been a part of my life and after the delights of managing a comic book store here in the UK, I got my artwork noticed by the editors at 2000AD. This led to me painting a lot of Judge Dredd and Slaine material for them as well as numerous other stuff, covers, posters, stuff for Marvel, trading cards, etc. Alongside the comic book work, I also moved more into concept and production artwork for videogames and Film which got me into computer graphics and high-end CG animation. I worked as a CGI animation director for a number of years but was always busy developing my own projects alongside all this which ultimately led to creating Legends: The Enchanted.
NP: Legends is set in a damaged, violent and sinister post-industrial world surrounded with bizarre technology, twisted nature and dark magic — a very dangerous place. The story revolves around a fragmented and conflicted group of powerful characters known as the Enchanted — rogue, adult versions of the classic characters from folklore and fairytales that in this universe have always existed, some in secret, others in plain sight.
Many of them operate as vigilantes, outlaws, bounty hunters and so on — trying to find a place and purpose in a land that is hostile towards them. Armed with a hard attitude, unique abilities and cool customized weaponry, the Enchanted’s world is shattered when they discover that some unknown enemy has found a way to break through their mystic immortality and begins to slaughter them one by one starting with the killing of the half bionic/half wooden warrior, Pinocchio.
These events force the Enchanted to band together for the first time and confront this deadly threat, putting aside past conflicts and disputes in order to survive what awaits all of them.
AR: What inspired this concept?
NP: I’ve always been very interested in classic folklore and the characters from traditional fairytales but also wanted to create a unique, gritty world where I could incorporate some of these characters and take some of the elements from their stories but twist them, pump them up and re-establish them in a new way. I had a very clear idea from the beginning of how I wanted to approach this book visually, hopefully developing an art style that’s not often seen in interior work in comics.
AR: As an artist who have been your biggest influences?
NP: I’m a big fan of the old EC horror comics and the atmosphere they created, especially the artist Graham Ingels who did some great spooky work. Also Bernie Wrightson has always been a big influence. For fully painted work, I always like the darker stuff, Frazetta and old masters such as Caravaggio who are really the kings of form and lighting. A lot of my influences also come from film (especially noir movies and the old Universal horror pictures). Since all the art in Legends is fully painted, I’ve been trying to give it a cinematic feel with textures and strong lighting but still taking advantage of all the cool things that are unique to comics as a storytelling medium.
AR: How did you decide which classic characters would meld best in the world you’ve created?
NP: For the graphic novel story of Legends: The Enchanted, I wanted to start with using the characters that people would be most familiar with such as new versions of Red Riding Hood, Jack the Giantkiller, Hansel & Gretel , Pinocchio, Rapunzel and so on. But each character has been given the “Legends twist” to fit in with the story and world they inhabit. So for instance, Red Hood hunts wolf-creatures and lives in a bio-mechanical forest called the Bionic Woodlands, Hansel & Gretel are Paranormal Exterminators, Goldilox is a professional thief aided by “Bear”, her nine-foot, hard as nails half-man/half-bear boyfriend, Rapunzel is a soldier who controls her wild hair that can strangle enemies, etc. — it’s all very f**ked up but in a good way!
There are many cameos by others such as Rumpelsiltskin (a cyborg type goblin), Pied Piper, Jack and Jill (twin warriors); Humpty Dumpty (a vicious crime boss) so at this stage it was focusing on the familiar and twisting it rather than starting with more obscure characters people wouldn’t know.
I have a lot of versions of the texts that the Brothers Grimm collected and love some of the less well known stuff and intend to implement that down the line in future stories but at this stage it made sense to play to the strengths of the classics and then have fun exaggerating elements of their myths into the world of Legends.
AR: Which character did you find most challenging to mold to your world?
NP: I think because of lot of people’s familiarity with some of these characters comes from the Disney films and cute children’s books, it actually made me want to go even further and more extreme in my interpretation of these characters. I’ve spent a lot of time in making sure that everything and everyone looks like they belong in this strange world in terms of their visual style. So with someone like Pinocchio for example, I made the decision to really play on the fact he was actually “made” by Gepetto who in my world is a mad s
cientist type. So in Legends, Pinocchio is this violent amalgam of flesh, wood and advanced bionics — a huge warrior type figure and one of the most powerful of the Enchanted.
AR: Which character is your favorite?
NP: Well, visually, Pinocchio was great to do even though he doesn’t last long in the story before he’s dramatically killed. Red Hood is a good strong female lead who kicks ass protecting her daughter but Jack was the most fun to write. He’s a Giantkiller for hire, eats “magic beans” to gain super-powers, likes his booze and his pride and joy is a souped up motorcycle that uses giant’s blood for fuel. He’s not used to being hurt and when, along with the other Enchanted, he realizes that he’s now vulnerable and can be killed, it really shakes him up and forces him to think a bit further than the next trip to the pub.
AR: Which, and be brutally honest, do you identify with the most?
NP: I’d like to think I’d go to the lengths Red Hood does by fighting all manner of creatures to save her daughter although I might be caught in the bar like Jack with a pint or three….
AR: Anything you can tell us about the movie adaptation of Legends?
NP: Radical has spent a lot of time getting a very cool looking package together for the movie version of Legends, using artwork from the graphic novel and new stuff that I created especially for presentations. I know they’re busy doing their thing speaking to certain directors and what not, so I feel it’s in safe hands and I know they’re really committed to it, so when there’s more to tell, I’m sure they’ll make the various announcements and so on. It’d be great if it all comes together but at this stage I’m putting everything I can into the graphic novel and treating that as my movie, so to speak.
AR: Give us the “Elevator Pitch.” Why should everyone run out and buy Legends?
NP: I guess if the Brothers Grimm had created the X-Men it might have been something like Legends. If you’re into eye-bleeding detailed fully painted artwork with a tense, action packed storyline set in a world you’ve never seen before inhabited by strange but cool characters, Legends is for you. In a steroid injected nutshell, it’s a gritty hard-edged story overflowing with bizarre science, warped magic, big guns, cool motorcycles, super-powered magic beans, trolls, love, violence, tragedy, chainsaws, wild nature, booze, horror, telepathy, wolfcreatures, seedy nightclubs, beanstalks, cyber-witches, dumb monsters, dark humor and bio-mechanical killer fairies. I wish I had this as a fairytale when I was a kid….
AR: The book sounds awesome! I can’t wait to pick up a copy. Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us…