If you visit Mike Raicht's twitter account you'll see that he describes himself as a, "Dad and Idiot Husband." After that, in its own sentence, he calls himself a writer. Mike is a very talented and prolific writer currently working on a new series for IDW Publishing called Wild Blue Yonder as well as The Stuff Of Legends, Dark Shadows and he even has time for a Batman, Inc. story. I got a chance to chat with Mike about WBY, parallel's between it and TSOL and what his thing is about dogs.
BLEEDING COOL: Your new series, Wild Blue Yonder is a collaboration with Zach Howard and Austin Harrison. How did the three of you get together on this story? And how did the concept of a dystopian society in the sky come about?
MIKE RAICHT: About 7 or 8 years ago I was in the process of pitching a bunch of ideas to Th3rd World Studios and Wild Blue Yonder was in that pack of ideas. I guess, like all ideas, it was a mix of your life thrown in with things that you love and want to write about. This will probably sound strange but the title came to me first. My grandmother used to sing me the Air Force song before bedtime when I was really young and Off we go into the Wild Blue Yonder always stuck with me. She'd tell me stories about my great uncles who had been pilots in WW II and my grandfather, who joined up when he was 17. He wanted to be a pilot but his math skills were not good, a lot of the guys trying out for the program were in college already, enough so he became a naval gunner. It all sounded pretty cool to my young mind. So exotic. Giant ships and planes and a world at war. I romanticized it quite a bit as a kid. I was probably 6 or 7 when I heard those stories.
As I grew up I became a big fan of post-apocalyptic stories. I can't get enough stories about the world crumbling and people gathering together to survive. Becoming a community in the wreckage of what used to be their world.With Wild Blue, when it first came to me, I had visions of jets escorting jet-pack warriors into horrific sky battles. Each warrior battling thousands of feet in the sky with crowbars and axes for the right to control huge air barges that had become small tribes doing everything they could to survive.
How that all connects into dystopian society in the sky, I'm not sure, but I know I liked the pitch so much I wrote a lot of what makes up the first issue in one sitting at a Laundromat around the same time.
Zach and I met while doing a Exiles one shot from about 6 years back. We hit it off and started talking a bit about stories we wanted to tell. So, I pitched Wild Blue Yonder to him, he dug it and we started working on it. Life kind of got in the way though because artists can't just put paying work on the back burner in order to take on a long term story. We pushed it back as Zach did paying work, not sure if we'd get back to it. We hoped we would but we just didn't know for sure.
So a few years later, we decided to try to get backing for it.After pitching it around a bit and getting nowhere, we decided to Kickstart it which worked amazingly. At this same time, Zach had been working with Austin Harrison, an amazing story guy who worked in Hollywood on a bunch of different properties. Zach and Austin were developing their amazing Dread of Bete Noir concept together. Zach and I both wanted to shape Wild Blue like a movie and try to maximize our ability to develop Wild Blue as an amazing comic and then something more, so Austin came in to help with the characters and structure and we were off.
Zach showed Chris Ryall from IDW, who he worked with on Shaun of the Dead, The Cape, and a ton of amazing covers, some of what we had been working on during the Kickstarter phase and they offered to print the book which was a great opportunity for us.
Since working on Wild Blue Yonder has gone so well, Zach, Austin and I decided to form a company if our own called Noble Transmission. (www.nobletransmission.com) We are in the process right now of working on the Wild Blue Yonder screenplay as well as developing more ideas for the three of us to work together on. We are really excited to be working together on stuff and believe Wild Blue is just the beginning.
BC: Having read this new series and The Stuff Of Legend, I can see some similarities running between the two. Strong female characters, Machiavellian antagonists commanding superior forces and the looming threat of betrayal… and dogs. You seem to have a thing for dogs. What is it about these elements that makes them reoccur in your work?
RAICHT: My focus is always to write real characters that people can relate to regardless of whether they are men, women, bears, pigs, toy soldiers, Boogeymen or whatever the case may be. I'm just as likely to write an extremely weak man as I am a weak woman. I try to approach them each individually based on their lives. In my head most of these characters have lived a full life which shaped them and are making choices accordingly. I think the strong women come from my impression of what I've seen of moments of crisis in my life. Women more often than not come through as well as, if not a bit better than, men so that would naturally shine through in my stories as well. But both Brian, Charles, and I, and Austin, Zach and I, are fully into creating stories for everyone to dig into, whether you're a guy, gal, toy, or pet. We're hoping everyone finds someone to relate to in our stories.
I also try to give my antagonists a real core. Most people would not think of themselves as evil. Well, in the case of The Boogeyman, he probably might admit he's a bit evil, but my guess is if you asked him he'd give you a reason for everything he's done. He'd justify it. Brian, my co-writer on Stuff of Legend, Charles Paul Wilson III, the guys at Th3rd World and I were focused on creating a villain with some depth that would surprise the reader from time to time. I hope readers feel we've done that.
With the Judge in Wild Blue, Zach, Austin and I, always approach him as a leader of men first. Since our tale is from the point of view of Cola and her crew, they are the heroes, but I do think we could tell just as interesting of a story from the other point of view. The Judge wants his people to survive and is trying to will them to that invisible finish line. He is a driven man willing to sacrifice himself and his people to make sure his group goes on. We've all read that story before and appreciated men and women like that. Who is the true hero? It all depends on which side of the conflict you are on. The Judge is the leader who sees the big picture, sees extinction coming for his way of life, and is trying to rally his people against it. The Judge in his mind is just hunting down survival. The Dawn is the key to his fleets survival. Who lives or dies securing this goal does not matter. I think we've always seen him as a pragmatic leader. If you were a member of his fleet, and your family was under his protection, he is exactly who you would want to be in charge of keeping you alive.
And I do dig the uncertainty of a looming betrayal. I find characters who have to choose a side in a conflict, who are conflicted, to be extremely compelling to write. There is nothing better than letting the reader see that there may be other thoughts on the same choice. Whether you love or hate those characters, if it elicits a response that is what I want. A choice that may seem black and white to our heroes is generally much more layered, especially if we are doing our jobs correctly as creators. Hopefully, through the looming threat of betrayal or indecision on the part of a character, we give the reader a chance to see both sides and make themselves actually ask themselves, "What would I do?"
As for my affinity for dogs, they love us, we love them. Both Zach and Charles draw the cutest pups. It's just that simple.
BC: The character of Cola is in an interesting dynamic as she is in the middle of a war, yet her commanding officer is her mother and her father appears to be the ship cook. Who is Cola and how did she get into this?
RAICHT: Cola is a teenager on the verge of young adulthood trying to live the only life she knows in the best way she can. No different than any girl you know, except that instead of high school she gets up in the morning and flies into battle to protect her family. We always tried to approach her as a normal teenage girl first. One who wants to fall in love, have fun, and be happy, who also happens to be a jet fighter pilot in the middle of a war for survival. She was raised to fight for her family and be a warrior, but under the guise of love for one another instead of as a soldier in an army. To me it might be no different than being raised to be a blacksmith or a knight during the middle ages. You become what you were raised to be. You might question it but in this world you don't have much of a choice.
Cola's life has only recently become more confusing as she watches those she cares about die around her in the name of sacrifice. The bigger concept of war and acceptable losses is a difficult pill for her to swallow, especially when given to her by her mother who she feels has never been in real combat.
BC: The best science fiction tends to come from a base of reality and possibilities and often plays on our worst fears. In this case the fear of using up all of our natural resources and polluting the planet. Is it a coincidence that the protagonist appear to be using solar power or at least not fueling and the antagonists are stripping mining areas showing little to no concern for the land or the workers?
RAICHT: It's not a coincidence. We approached this as a doomsday scenario for our world. The world's been ruined, polluted beyond being inhabitable, and even after it was destroyed people are forced to destroy it further in order to stay alive. It just made sense in the world we were building.
The people mining aren't bad people. Those using them aren't trying to be evil. This is all they've known and the only way they have to survive. However, with fuel dwindling and mines drying up, they need to find a different way to stay aloft or they will die. The Dawn, and its renewable and everlasting energy source gives everyone hope of a better way. But with no ability to build ships like this anymore, the Dawn is only a safe haven for the chosen few. We are past the point of no return in this world and there is no going back.
BC: When starting a new project, most writers either have a specific and finite story to tell or they have a concept that can be used as a vehicle to tell many stories. Is Wild Blue Yonder the former or the latter? What do you see as the future of the series?
RAICHT: Our goal was always to focus on telling this first story about Cola, The Dawn and the Judge and making it great. To surprise people with how hard we're working (especially Zach who is doing some of the most beautiful work I've ever seen in a comic) to give them a complete world and experience. If that worked, and people asked for more stories in this world, we would be happy to provide it. I just hope they accept what's left over of the cast when we're through with it.
RAICHT: Right now, our amazingly talented Stuff of Legend artist, Charles Paul Wilson III, is working on Joe Hill's Wraith. I can't wait to check it out. I'm a huge fan of both of them.
Once he's done with that he will bounce back onto the last two volumes of Stuff of Legend with us. Volume 5 is A Call to Arms and Volume 6 is The War. We (Brian Smith, Charles, Mike Devito, Jon Conkling and I) are really excited to wrap up the adventures of Max, Jester, Scout and the rest and find out whether they can defeat the Boogeyman and bring their boy home.
I've been working with Dynamite on Dark Shadows for close to 18 issues now and it has been a lot of fun. Our artist, Nacho Tenorio, has been getting better with every issue, and #19, his most recent, is easily his best to date. We have also been fortunate to have covers by the amazing Francesco Francavilla. We are currently dealing with a case of split personalities and a vampire war. The good portion of Barnabas' soul has been separated from his body, leaving his evil self to run amok. I love working on the series. We're trying to deliver a gritty, 70s horror comic, with a large splash of soap opera thrown in.
And finally, for DC, artist John Stanisci and I have a story in the upcoming Batman Incorporated Special detailing a night on the town that Batman Inc. members El Gaucho, Dark Ranger and Nightrunner will never forget. I love working with editor Mike Marts, he is a good friend and one of the best in the business. His work on the Batman line has been phenomenal. I'm excited he asked me to tell a tale in his universe and I hope people dig what we have in store for them.